A Glamour magazine survey called her “one of eleven women who will change the world.” Bold initiatives have become her trademark. And not only is she a champion of her people, she’s also a fierce soldier in the battle against AIDS.
Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald may represent the citizens of California’s 37th congressional district, but her contributions to society extend far beyond her district’s boundaries. The year 2005 marks the 9th year of the congresswoman’s Southern California Regional AIDS Walk for Minority Women and Children. The event is sponsored by the League of African American Women, a consortium of professional women organizations founded by Millender-McDonald, and has raised over $2.5 million for various AIDS service organizations. In addition, the Millender-McDonald was the first member of congress to ask for money for HIV/AIDS and the first African American woman to go before the appropriations committee seeking an increase in AIDS funding.
“I have been a strong advocate of preventing and reducing mother-to-child HIV/AIDS transmission since I got to Congress and I will continue to advocate on that issue,” says Millender-McDonald, who is particularly concerned with the unusually high transmission rates in Africa, India and China.
Her meteoric rise to the U.S. House of Representatives began in 1990 when she served as a City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Carson. In 1992 she was elected to the California State Assembly. Upon reaching Congress in 1996, her colleagues elected her to key positions as Democratic Region One Whip, Vice-Chair of the Congressional Women’s Caucus and Vice Chair of the International Task Force on HIV/AIDS. For the last five years, Congresswoman Millender-McDonald has served as a Democratic Whip and is currently a Senior Democratic Whip. As the Democratic Chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, Congresswoman Millender-McDonald led women members of the House of Representatives during the 107th Congress, where she continued her string of “firsts.”
In 2002, she convened the first Congressional/Ambassadorial Dialogue on Women Leaders Making A Difference in International Affairs, in which she brought together women ambassadors, members of congress and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to discuss how women leaders can work together to solve global issues that impact women. Other initiatives that the Congresswoman has introduced include legislation to allow AIDS prevention education and training by Peace Corps volunteers; the requiring of Child Safety Locks on firearms; and increased funding for Diabetes Research in minority populations.
As a leading voice in the preservation of African American history, the congresswoman sponsored the “Freedmen’s Bureau Preservation Act of 2000,” which was subsequently signed into law. Records of the Freedmen’s Bureau, held by Historically Black Colleges and Universities, have become a lasting legacy to the nation’s African American history. The legislation directs the National Archivist to preserve the records of African Americans by using microfilm and other indexing technologies to make the records easily accessible to historians, genealogists, and the public at large.
The congresswoman was also integral in securing $15 million for the maintenance of the Women’ s Memorial in Arlington Cemetery and established an annual tribute to women in the military that is attended by members of congress and senior military officials including the Secretary of the Army, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and Secretary of the Air Force.
Most recently Millender-McDonald, the only Los Angeles area member of the House Transportation Committee, was a key figure in the drafting and ultimate passage by the House of the six-year TEA-LU Transportation Reauthorization Act. As a result, Congresswoman Millender-McDonald secured over $87.5 million for highway projects in the 37th District and surrounding counties, with the final bill including her landmark legislation, “Projects of National and Regional Significance” which allocates $6.6 billion to major transportation projects across the country.
Millender-McDonald is a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She serves on the Harbor College Foundation, the Los Angeles Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Board of Directors, and the Board of Trustees of Second Baptist Church, Los Angeles. She is Founder and Executive Director of the League of African-American Women, an organization of 40 African-American women’s groups, and the founder of the Young Advocates, a political leadership-training program for African-Americans between the ages of 18-35.