Feb 15, 2022 - Axios Events

Rep. Espaillat pushing to join Congressional Black Caucus

Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) told Axios at an event Tuesday that he "will continue to knock on the door" of the Congressional Black Caucus, which has previously denied his membership into the organization.

Why it matters: The caucus has historically been limited to Black membership. Espaillat, who in 2016 became the first Dominican American and first formerly undocumented immigrant elected to Congress, identifies as Black and Latino, and has previously described himself as a "Latino of African descent."

What he's saying: "I am persistent and I will continue to knock on the door because I don't think someone else has the right to define my Blackness or to determine whether I am a Black man or not," Espaillat said Tuesday at an Axios event on the Afro-Latino experience.

  • "I mean — I don't have to take a DNA test or go to Ancestry.com to tell someone. Someone should not hold me to that standard, so I will continue to knock on the door."

Espaillat, who represents Harlem, replaced longtime Rep. Charlie Rangel (D), a founding member of the CBC and one of the longest-serving members in House history.

  • "Maybe it's a political thing because I replaced a giant person, Charlie Rangel," Espaillat said about his denial to the caucus, "but I am now the representative of Harlem for the last six years, and I deserve to be a member of the Black Caucus and I will continue to push for battle."
  • Espaillat's district, which includes part of Manhattan and the Bronx, is about half Latino and 30% Black, according to U.S. Census data.

What to watch: Espaillat told Axios Tuesday he will be asking the committee to vote on his membership.

  • "I have a lot of friends in the Congressional Black Caucus who encourage me to continue to knock on the door that they share with me ... that there is a growing sentiment to to let me in," Espaillat said.
  • "So I don't know if anybody has the right to say to me who I am — I know who I am. My identity should not be defined by a political situation or a regional situation. It is what it is."

A spokesperson for the CBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Editor's note: This post has been corrected to note that Rep. Espaillat replaced former Rep. Charlie Rangel, who retired in 2017.

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