One Year Later: Retiring Brenda Lawrence Reflects on US Capitol Attack

DETROIT – One year after the violent January 6th attacks on the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., President Joe Biden stood inside the halls of the institution to give remarks, Thursday morning.

“For the first time in our history, a president had nor just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol,” said President Biden. “But they failed. They failed. And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such attack never, never happens again.”

Vice President Kamala Harris also reflected on the “dual nature of democracy – its fragility and its strength”. She gave a warning to the American people, cautioning “if we do not defend it, democracy simply will not stand.”

On January 6, 2021, Congressmembers were attempted to certify results of the November 2020 election when they were met with thousands of Donald Trump supporters. Thousands of Trump supporters marched toward the Capitol from a previous campaign-style rally where many stormed into the Capitol building and interrupted proceedings.


One of those congress members on the Capitol floor at the time was Representative Brenda Lawrence, (D-MI 14th District).
In an interview with Michigan Chronicle, she recounts that day as a moment in her life she will never forget.

“It went from confusing to, I can’t believe this is happening to, just anger that I had to go through something like that while doing my constitutional duties.”

Congresswoman Lawrence described being raised by her southern grandmother who took Lawrence with her every election day and taught her the important of voting. She used every opportunity to educate her granddaughter on real-life experiences. Lawrence’s grandmother grew up during the Civil Rights era and under Jim Craw laws. This perspective guided the congresswoman on being duty-bound to not to allow anyone or anything to deter her from exercising her right to participate in democracy and protect it.
“When I sat on the floor that day and ushered out with guns pulls, people telling me to run for my life …at the time I was on the floor as they were having a debate on whether or not to accept Michigan’s votes.” After the violent mob breached the Capitol, Lawrence recalls the lessons instilled by her grandmother on how significant her vote meant to the freedoms and rights she has and that many Black people fought and died to gain.

“Here I am a Black woman, a little Black girl from the eastside from Detroit and someone is going to tell me I can’t confirm the votes that people had given and using violence to intimidate and threaten us?”
It was a thought that was all too familiar of the past that she would not stand for and neither did congressional members from both political parties as they would return from safe shelter and return to order of business late into the night and confirm the election results.

As Representative Lawrence reflected on the one-year remembrance, she has had time to reflect on her time of public service over 30 years. The week of Tuesday, January 4th, she announced she would be retiring her congressional seat, amid a moment of state and congressional redistricting in Michigan which has redrawn the district maps of and impact some constituents would no longer represent moving forward. But Lawrence who stand as the only Black elected-official representing Michigan in Congress, describes he decision to retire, has several reasons behind it.

“It was a million little cuts. January 6th played into it, the dysfunction in COVID, losing two sisters in twelve months and being the only sibling left, celebrating my 50th wedding anniversary and 30 years of that, I was an elected official.”

Lawrence who served a Mayor of Southfield, City Council, and its school board prior to her role in Washington, D.C., says “when you’re an elected official your family comes second, your constituents come first and that’s your oath of office”.
And after 30 years of public service she believes she has given her all and best and understands for everything “there is a time and a season. She is ready to turn the page excited new and younger faces will carry the torch.

“My husband asked the question, ‘when is our time?’ And I had to answer that question”.
She adds, “I feel really good about being able to be at the top of my game and be able to turn the page to another part of my life. I am confident that we will find another African American, that next generation, to give the baton to and carry on our fight.”

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