- Karen Bass was re-elected to her fourth term representing the 37th Congressional District in November 2016. She serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs where she is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Africa as well as the House Judiciary Committee.
Karen Bass grew up with three brothers in the Venice/Fairfax area of Los Angeles and is the only daughter of DeWitt and Wilhelmina Bass. Watching the Civil Rights Movement with her father initially sparked Karen’s interest in community activism. It was at that time that she made a lifetime commitment to impacting social change in her community and abroad. She worked for nearly a decade as a physician assistant and served as a clinical instructor at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program.
In 1990, in response to the crisis that was gripping inner city America, which in Los Angeles was crack-cocaine and gang violence, Karen started and ran Community Coalition, a community-based social justice organization in South Los Angeles that empowers residents to become involved in making a difference. Through her leadership at the Community Coalition, Karen worked to engage community residents in addressing the root causes of injustice.
- Prior to serving in Congress, Karen made history when the California Assembly elected her to be its 67th Speaker, catapulting her to become the first African American woman in U.S. history to serve in this powerful state legislative role. Karen also served as speaker during California’s greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Under her leadership, the Assembly fast-tracked federal economic stimulus legislation that aided Californians who have been affected by the national economic crisis as well as jumpstarted billions of dollars of infrastructure projects. In addition to helping to navigate the state through a very difficult time, she championed efforts to improve foster care and quality health care for Californians.
For her leadership in California, Karen received the prestigious John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.
Karen is now building on her leadership experience and community focus now in Congress.Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi selected Karen to serve on the prestigious Steering and Policy Committee, which sets the policy direction of the Democratic Caucus. Karen is also playing a leadership role in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), where she serves as Secretary for the 114th Congress.
Throughout her career, Karen has maintained a focus on the nation’s foster care system. In her first term, she created the bipartisan Congressional Foster Youth Caucus along with co-chair U.S. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), which aims to transform the foster care system in America.
Karen had one daughter, Emilia Bass-Lechuga and son-in-law Michael Wright. Karen continues to be inspired by Emilia and Michael’s passion for life. Emilia planned to follow in her mother’s footsteps working for social change. Karen also has four step children and two grandchildren.