Bennie G. Thompson

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Bennie Thompson


Bennie G. Thompson is a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives, representing the 2nd district of Mississippi.

Background

As a young man growing up in rural Bolton, Mississippi, Thompson was well aware of the realities that plagued the South. The experiences that his family endured made him determined to be an advocate for those of who were oftentimes underserved.

While earning his Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science degrees from Tougaloo College and Jackson State University, respectively, Thompson began to develop his grassroots political activism. He joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee , and helped to organize voter registration drives for African-Americans in the Mississippi Delta. As a product of the Civil Rights Movement, Thompson has remained committed to ensuring that all people are allowed to exercise their fundamental rights.

After graduating from college, Thompson followed in the footsteps of his mother and worked as a schoolteacher. It was during this time that he began to aggressively pursue a career in politics.

Congressman Thompson is a lifelong member of the Asbury United Methodist Church in Bolton, Mississippi. He has been married to his college sweetheart, London Johnson of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, for 42 years. [1]

Local politics

From 1968 to 1972, Thompson served as alderman, and he went on to serve as mayor from 1973 to 1980 in Bolton, Mississippi. As mayor of Bolton, Mississippi and founding member and President of the Mississippi Association of Black Mayors, he initiated policies and provided services that benefited the underserved citizens of his hometown.

In 1975, having firsthand knowledge of the disparity between funding, equipment, and supplies provided to historically black universities and those provided to white colleges, Thompson filed a lawsuit to increase funding at Mississippi’s historically black universities. With Thompson as lead plaintiff, the case was subsequently settled for an unprecedented $503 million.

From 1980 to 1993, Thompson served as County Supervisor for Hinds County and was the founding member and President of the state’s Association of Black Supervisors. His reputation of being a pragmatic local public servant afforded him an opportunity to be the vocal champion for his constituents.[2]

National politics

In 1993, Thompson was elected the Democratic Congressman for Mississippi’s Second District. Congressman Thompson’s Second District is comprised of 23 counties – Attala, Bolivar, Carroll, Claiborne, Coahoma, Copiah, Hinds, Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena, Jefferson, Leake, Leflore, Madison, Montgomery, Quitman, Sharkey, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tunica, Warren, Washington, and Yazoo.

In 2000, Thompson authored legislation creating the National Center for Minority Health and Health Care Disparities, which subsequently became law. He received a Presidential appointment to serve on the National Council on Health Planning and Development.

In 2006, during the 109th Congress, Thompson’s Washington colleagues "expressed their overwhelming confidence in his abilities", as they promoted him to serve as the first Democratic Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. As Chairman, Congressman Thompson introduced and engineered House passage of the most comprehensive homeland security package since September 11, 2001 - H.R. 1, the “9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007”. Congressman Thompson’s reputation as a no-nonsense visionary has provided him an opportunity to serve his third term as Chairman.[3]

Democratic Agenda

More than 1,200 people attended the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee initiated Democratic Agenda Conference held November 16-18, 1979, at the International Inn and Metropolitan AM Church in Washington 1 DC. The conference focused on "corporate power'; as the key barrier to "economic and political democracy," concepts many Democratic Agenda participants defined as "socialism.'

The Democratic Agenda meetings attempted to develop anti-corporate alternatives" through influencing the direction of the Democratic Party during the period leading to the July 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York.

Workshops included "Relating Local Issues to the Democratic Party" - Michael Bleicher, moderator; Reba Brown, Ruth Messinger, Mary Sansone, Bennie Thompson.[4]

DSA endorsement

In July 1996, the Democratic Socialists of America Political Action Committee endorsed Bennie Thompson, Mississippi 2, in that year's Congressional elections.[5]

Supported Communist Party front

Campaign-to-free-mayor-carthan.jpg
1982 National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression pamphlet

In 1982 Bennie Thompson served on the National Coordinating Committee of a Communist Party USA front the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, which was led by leading Party members Angela Davis and Charlene Mitchell.

Congressional Black Caucus

Bobby Rush is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus for the 113th Congress:[6]

Martinez Jobs Bill

In 1994, the Communist Party USA backed Martinez Jobs Bill (HR-4708), was co-sponsored by Democratic Party California Reps Howard Berman, Xavier Becerra, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Robert Scott (Va), Tom Foglietta (Pa), Bennie Thompson (Miss), John Lewis (Ga) and Ed Pastor (Az). Maxine Waters of California was a principal co-sponsor. [7]

Congressional Progressive Caucus

In 1998 Bennie Thompson Democrat was listed as a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.[8]

As of February 20 2009 Bennie Thompson was listed as a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.[9]

Staffer's 2000 trip to Cuba

In February 2000, Marsha McCraven from the office of Congressman Bennie Thompson spent five days in Havana, Cuba, for the purpose of "information gathering". The trip cost $1,778.47 and was paid for by the Christopher Reynolds Foundation.[10]

Promoting medical training in Cuba

The invitation for U.S. students to earn a free medical education in Cuba dates to June 2000, when a group from the Congressional Black Caucus visited Cuban president Fidel Castro. It was presided over by the then Caucus President James Clyburn, from North Carolina, and was made up of Bennie Thompson from Mississippi and Gregory Meeks from New York. Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) described huge areas in his district where there were no doctors, and Castro responded with an offer of full scholarships for U.S. citizens to study at ELAM. Later that year, Castro spoke at the Riverside Church in New York, reiterating the offer and committing 500 slots to U.S. students who would pledge to practice in poor U.S. communities. Castro opened the doors of the program to 500 U.S. students who began enrolling two years later.[11]

"The advantage is that you graduate a bilingual doctor and there are so many communities in the United States where this is such an important (asset)," said Ellen Bernstein, associate director of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, the New York-based group that helps screen applicants for the program.

Nine U.S. students have graduated and 105 are enrolled in the six-year program now. None is from Mississippi, where the state Health Department's Policy and Planning Office says every county in the state is medically underserved to some degree.

Hoping to entice a few students from the Magnolia State, Thompson will be in Itta Bena Saturday hosting A Dream of A Lifetime Conference, which will educate high school and college students about going to the Latin American School of Medical Sciences in Cuba. Previous recruiting efforts in Mississippi consisted of sending mailings to schools, Thompson said.

The U.S. maintains a trade embargo that prevents selling certain products to Cuba, and relations between the two governments remain icy, but the free medical education is unaffected by the countries' political relations, Thompson said.

The Association of American Medical Colleges earlier this year estimated the medical class of 2007 has an average student loan debt of more than $139,000, including undergraduate years. That student loan payment equates to more than $2,000 a month with a 6.8 percent interest rate.

"Here's an opportunity to get a degree and start off not owing anyone," Thompson said.

At Saturday's program, potential students will hear from two U.S. students enrolled at the Cuban medical school: Keasha Guerrier, a 23-year-old from Long Island, New York, and Akua Brown, a 32-year-old from San Francisco. The women, who just completed their third year of medical school, are working with Dr. Luke Lampton, a Magnolia family practice physician who also is chairman of the state Board of Health.

"Their clinical knowledge is comparable to the United States' medical students at this stage," Lampton said. "What impresses me most about these students is their courage and their boldness in trying to study medicine in a foreign language. Medical school is hard enough if you don't have to take classes in Spanish."

Brown and Guerrier speak very highly of the program they learned about on National Public Radio, but they've had to make some adjustments. Both natives of metropolitan areas, they were not used to life without plentiful public transportation, stores that don't have extended hours and not being able to buy fruits and vegetables outside their natural growing seasons.[12]

Congressman Thompson’s visit to Cuba in June 2000, paved the way to exploring the possibility of trading agricultural and medical products with the communist state. In addition, he has sought to explore medical education and training opportunities that may exist for Second District students in Cuba.[13]

Castro's version

Writing in Granma April 7 2009, Fidel Castro gave his version of the Clyburn, Thompson, Meeks visit;[14]

In May 2000, another Caucus delegation visited us. It was presided over by the then Caucus President James Clyburn, from North Carolina, and was made up of Bennie Thompson from Mississippi and Gregory Meeks from New York. These congressmen were the first to learn from me of Cuba’s disposition to grant a number of scholarships to low-income youths, to be selected by the Congressional Black Caucus, so that they could come to Cuba and study medicine. We made a similar offer to the "Pastors for Peace" NGO, which is presided over by Reverend Lucius Walker, who sent the first students to the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM).
When the anti-Cuban pressures and activities of the Bush administration were intensified with respect to travel and the presence in Cuba of persons under U.S. jurisdiction, Black Caucus legislators addressed Secretary of State Colin Powell and managed to secure a license that legally allowed American youths to continue their medical studies – which they had already begun – in Cuba.

Why Cuba?

“Of 23 counties that I represent, 22 of them are medically underserved…. One of the reasons the Congressional Black Caucus wanted to go to Cuba is that as we traveled around the world, in some of the most remote places we would always run up on Cuban doctors. So we went to Cuba.”

Hon. Bennie Thompson, U.S. House of Representatives, Mississippi.[15]

Health Care Access resolution

John Conyers promoted House Concurrent Resolution 99 (H. Con Res. 99) Directing Congress to enact legislation by October 2004 that provides access to comprehensive health care for all Americans. IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES April 4, 2001.

Sponsors:John Conyers (for himself), Jan Schakowsky, John Tierney, Barbara Lee, Donna Christensen, David Bonior, Dennis Kucinich, Earl Hilliard, Maurice Hinchey, Jerry Nadler, Donald Payne Chaka Fattah, Peter DeFazio, John Lewis Tammy Baldwin, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Barney Frank, Henry Waxman, Cynthia McKinney, Jim Langevin, George Miller Alcee Hastings, Patsy Mink, John Olver , Bennie Thompson, Pete Stark, Julia Carson, and Mike Capuano submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce;[16]

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), that the Congress shall enact legislation by October 2004 to guarantee that every person in the United States, regardless of income, age, or employment or health status, has access to health care..

2005 trip to Cuba

In May 2005, Congressman Bennie G. Thompson and two of his staff members, Timla Washington and Steve Gavin spent four days in Havana, Cuba, for the purpose of "Cuba business, fact finding". The trip cost $1,298.26 and was paid for by the Christopher Reynolds Foundation.[17]

Talking to the "World"

The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists held their 34th annual CBTU convention in Tuscon, May 26 2005.

At a “town hall meeting” on African American, Native American, Asian American and Latino relations, including leaders from these communities, panels pointed out the importance of united action to defeat the ultra-right attacks on labor and the poor. After addressing the meeting, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told the Communist Party USA paper Peoples World, “The issue for people of color in the labor movement is that they have to stay together. As organizations change sometimes people of color are overlooked. And if they don’t stick together they lose out. And one of the things I want to share with them is if you don’t stick together then you come in on the short end of the stick.”[18]

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists 2008 conference

From May 22-25, 2008, the Communist Party USA founded Coalition of Black Trade Unionists held their 37th International Convention in St. Louis, Missouri.

Rep. Bennie Thompson was one of the speakers from the May 22 opening session. He was introduced by Tony Hill of Florida, a Communist Party supporter.[19]

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists 2013 conference

The 2013 CBTU convention "will feature several outstanding panels and presentations on the racial wealth gap, immigration reform, the drop-out crisis in the black community, and the pending implementation of Obamacare".

Guest speakers include Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and Larry Rousseau, executive vice president, Public Service Alliance of Canada. CBTU President Emeritus William Lucy will be the special keynote speaker at CBTU’s Awards Banquet.[20]

Endorsing Lumumba

Lumumba, Thompson

In mid May 2013 Rep. Bennie Thompson spent a day campaigning with Jackson Mississippi mayoral candidate Chokwe Lumumba around the city. He was also joined by former candidate Regina Quinn, Sen. Sollie Norwood (D- Jackson), Supervisor Kenny Stokes and Councilwomaman Larita Cooper-Stokes.

In the past week, we’ve seen a slew of endorsements between both Jackson mayoral candidates Councilman Chokwe Lumumba and Jonathan Lee. There is no question that the most prized endorsement belonged to Second District Congressman Bennie Thompson of Bolton.

In this 1 minute radio ad that features the congressman’s very familiar hook “He’s the one we need”, Rep. Thompson skewers Lee by tying him to Rankin and Madison County Republicans and referring to Councilman Lumumba as “the real Democrat” in the race.

I’m certain that all of the candidates sought the endorsement of Congressman Thompson but now that he has thrown his support behind Chokwe Lumumba, it will be interesting to see if it will close the gap and and change the trajectory of the race.

Lumumba Transition Executive Committee

Circa June 18, Jackson Mayor-elect Chokwe Lumumba announced the members of an advisory committee that will help ease his transition into the mayor’s office in July.

Lifting travel ban on Cuba

A May 03, 2013 Press release from the radical controlled and Institute for Policy Studies affiliated Latin America Working Group's Cuba Team stated:

Due to your action/emails/phone calls we have 59 signatures from House representatives urging President Obama to support travel to Cuba by granting general licenses for ALL current categories of travel.
By eliminating the laborious license application process, especially for people-to-people groups, that is managed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the majority of the bureaucratic red tape that holds up licensable travel to Cuba would disappear and actually facilitate what the President wanted to see in 2011, liberalized travel regulations.

Signatories included Rep. Bennie Thompson.[22]

Staff

The following are past and present staff:[23]

External links

References

  1. official Congressional bio, accessed August 15, 2011
  2. official Congressional bio, accessed August 15, 2011
  3. official Congressional bio, accessed August 15, 2011
  4. Information Digest, December 14, 1979, page 370/371
  5. Democratic Left, July/August 1996, page 21
  6. Congressional Black Caucus: Members (accessed on Feb. 24, 2011)
  7. PWW Support for jobs bill grows, Evelina Alarcon, Oct. 1 1994, page 3
  8. DSA website: Members of the Progressive Caucus (archived on the Web Archive website)
  9. Congressional Progressive Caucus website: Caucus Member List
  10. American Radio Works website: Trips sponsored by the Christopher Reynolds Foundation
  11. [http://academic.udayton.edu/health/02organ/providers01.htm Fitzhugh Mullan, M.D Affirmative Action, Cuban Style, New England Journal of Medicine Volume 351:2680-2682 December 23, 2004 Number 26]
  12. http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=405x6433
  13. Ee-elect Bennie G Thompson for congress, accessed jan. 10, 2010
  14. Reflections of Fidel, The seven Congress members who are visiting us, Havana. April 7, 2009
  15. Advertizing page for film Salud!, accessed Jan. 10, 2011
  16. Dem. Left, Summer 2002
  17. American Radio Works website: Trips sponsored by the Christopher Reynolds Foundation
  18. Peoples World, Black trade unionists urge labor unity, by: Martin Frazier June 3 2005
  19. Broadcast Urban: 37th International Convention - May 24 Opening Session" (accessed on Dec. 19, 2011)
  20. [Special to Orlando Times May 2013 NEW BLACK LABOR LEADER SAYS IT’S TIME TO “RE-BOOT’’ FOR GROWTH & ACTIVISM]
  21. [http://www.blackmountainnews.com/article/D0/20130618/NEWS01/306180048/Lumumba-transition-Morale-major-weakness-, BlackMountain News, Lumumba on transition: Morale is 'major weakness' Jun. 18, 2013]
  22. Update on Cuba Travel: We Gathered 59 Signatures, The LAWG Cuba Team: Mavis, Emily and Karina on May 03, 2013
  23. http://www.legistorm.com/member/504/Rep_Bennie_Thompson_MS.html. Accessed 12/12/2011