“I see myself more as a public servant, not necessarily a politician,” Congresswoman Barbara Lee tells us in the trailer for “Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth to Power.” From director Abby Ginzberg (“Waging Change”), the doc sees Lee, the highest-ranking Black woman in Congress, reflecting on everything from making her way through college as a young mother on welfare, to working with Shirley Chisholm, to casting the sole vote opposing military force in the wake of 9/11.
Lee drew much ire and criticism for the latter, but history has shown that she made the correct decision. “She is going to be that consistent voice for what’s right,” news anchor Van Jones says in the spot. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez takes inspiration from Lee when she makes her own tough choices. “When I feel like I’m under fire, I think about her example,” AOC explains. “She paved the way.”
“Speaking Truth to Power” also explores the network of mentorship and support women politicians of color have built thanks to Lee and her foremothers. “I felt mentored by her example before I ever had the blessing of being mentored as a colleague,” Representative Ayanna Pressley says. Lee herself sees a direct line from Chisholm, the first woman to run for President on the Democratic ticket, to Kamala Harris, the first woman Vice President. “Because of Shirley Chisholm I am, and because of Shirley Chisholm Kamala Harris is,” Lee stresses.
Lee began serving in the House in 1998 and is currently in her 12th term. She represents California’s 13th district, which includes Oakland and most of northern Alameda County. Prior to her political career, Lee worked on Chisholm’s historic presidential campaign and served as her delegate at the 1972 Democratic National Convention.
“And Then They Came for Us” and “Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa” are also among Ginzberg’s docs. The latter won a Peabody in 2014.
“Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth to Power” will be in theaters and available on VOD August 20.