Rep. Meeks elected first Black Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee

Exclusive: Rep. Gregory Meeks defeated Rep. Joaquin Castro in a 148-78 vote and spoke with theGrio after his historic win

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Rep. Gregory Meeks etched his name in history as was elected the first Black Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman Meeks, who has represented New York’s 5th congressional district since 1998, defeated Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro in a vote of 148-78. Rep. Brad Sherman of California dropped out of the race on Tuesday prior to the secret ballot cast by the Democratic caucus on Thursday.

Rep. Gregory Meeks thegriocom
(Credit: U.S. House of Represenatives)

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“I feel very good. I thanked my colleagues for the confidence they have in me to chair this important committee at this important time in America’s history and being the first African American just makes me reflect upon the shoulders that I stand on,” Rep. Meeks exclusively tells theGrio in an interview after his decisive win.

“I stand on the shoulders of three men that were all groundbreakers. The first, my predecessor and pastor, the Rev. Dr. Floyd H. Blake , then the individual that was mentoring me when I first came into Congress, and that’s the legendary Charles D. Rangel and then one that inspired me to get on the Foreign Affairs Committee, to look at countries in places in the world that are not getting a lot of attention, is Donald Payne Sr.”

Meeks, presently the third-ranking member of the committee, is well aware of the enormity of this moment and prepared to act upon it.

“I know of the broad shoulders that I stand on and to think of the history of this committee and this Congress and to now serve as chair,” the 22-year Washington veteran says.

“I’m just so grateful and understand the responsibility that it places on me to make sure we have a new and different foreign policy than we’ve had over the past four years and make sure that we elevate places in the world, particularly where there are folks from Africa or of African descent.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks thegriocom
(Credit: Rep. Gregory Meeks)

Rep. Meeks assumes the gavel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee at the start of the 117th Congress. He is looking forward to working with President-elect Joe Biden and reassuring allies of the United States that they once again have a willing partner.

“One of the things we have to make sure is that we have to restore our State Department, get the morale back up, make sure that it’s a diverse state department both ethically and otherwise; bringing our diplomats back,” he declares.

“That’s really important. It’s getting us back at the table. America has been missing from the table in foreign affairs in the last four years, working with and restoring the confidence and relationships that we have with our allies who have been quite frankly neglected, and quite frankly abused, by this current administration.”

Meek also issues a warning to adversaries of America and makes it clear that certain behaviors will no longer be tolerated as they seemingly have been under President Donald Trump’s leadership.

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“In a manner of addressing and holding them accountable for their lack of democracy and/or their human rights violations and setting rules that will level the playing fields,” he says of his plans for dealing with countries with dubious human rights practices.

Castro extended his congratulations to Meek on his victory.

Meeks returned the kind words, saying the race for the chairmanship made him even more ready.

“It was a family competition and once it’s over, you work together,” he says.

“I believe that both Mr. Sherman and Mr. Joaquin [Castro] made this a vigorous process. It’s good,” he continues. “I got to talk to a lot of members and I had to work very hard. I respect them and look forward to working them.”

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