ABBY GINZBERG: BARBARA LEE: SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER (2020)


BARBARA LEE: IN SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER

Barbara Lee speaks for me!

Those words are a rhyming chant heard in the first few minutes of this documentary, which is officially entitled simply Truth to Power.. It is blurbed as "an intimate, inspiring, and timely portrait of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a true pioneer of American civil rights who was the lone voice in opposition to the authorization of military force after the September 11th attacks." She is also, "the highest-ranking Black woman in the US Congress. " She is from a district where I spend a lot of my time. It was at that moment were she stood alone after 9/11 and the American insanity began that I first heard of her. This seems to be the first time, twenty years later, that I've seen what she looks like, but she seems like an old friend. This film was runner up for the audience award at DOC NYC in 2020. It is coming to the Roxie Theater in San Francisco for a theatrical run August 20, 2021, and its release has been delayed until now.

Singkegabded opposition to the act giving the president unlimited power to declare war after 9/11. Every year she has staged a vote to repeal it. In 2018 finally the House voted yes to her repeal. This action defines her: she acts for what she believes in, not what enhances her stagus.

She had two uneusuccessful marriages and the second was abusive. In escaping it she had to be virtually homeless for a while, and she was a welfare mother. She bought a house and attended Mills College through government assistance.

She wound up as an aid for Ron Dellums, Rep. from Alameda Co., and Oakland, for ten years. She was inspired by the presidential campaign of Shirley Chisholm and she worked with Chisholm on it after meeting her when Chisholm came to Mills College when she as a student there. She was in the Cal. State Assembly 1990-96, then the Cal. State Senate, 1996-98. She was elected to take Ron Dellums' position in the US House of Representatives in 1998 and has been reelected nine times.

She opposes children separated from their parents at the border. She remarks that was done to slaves, they were separated from their children.

She is shocked by the rise of homelessness of which there is a lot in her district - Oakland, CA. (The Bay Area has the most homelessness in the country. . California and Oregon are the top two highest states with unsheltered homeless people). She thinks in the world's richest country no one should be homeless. She started a committee for this in Congress and headed it.

She was a major force behind Bush's raising aid funds to fight AIDS in Africa to $15 billion.

She goes back to her district every week.

She revisits sites of the civil rights movement of the sixties - Birmingham, Selma - and affirms its inspiration for all the work she and her sympathetic colleagues in Congress do today.

She loves her work and is on the Hill 14 hours a day. But the film lets us hear from her siblings and her two sons throughout as well as various friends, admirers, and colleagues - including the late, great Rep. John Lewis as well as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cory Booker, Alice Walker, and Van Jone. RIn 2019 after 36 years as a divorcee she married Rev. Dr. Clyde Oden; the film shows footage of the wedding ceeremony. she met Oden at Berkeley while getting her M.S.W. 52 years before. He is retired as a pastor. The film ends here. Nothing about her future plans; but while learning to sauté sweet potatoes with her sister, she says she won't quit till her constituents want someone else. Perhaps Barbara Lee's charm is how simple she is. She cares about her work. She loves it. She would seem to have no other thoughts, till we see she lately found time to get married.

Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth to Power, 82 mins., premiered at DOC NYC Nov. 11, 2020; also showed at Harlem International Festival May 7, 2021. Opens Aug. 20, 2021 at the Roxie Theater, San Francisco and at Landmark Theaters nationwide.