Well, it's finally here! I can hardly believe it myself - but it's true! I'm officially celebrating my 30th year of covering the Congressional Black Caucus!! I'm waiting for the confetti to fall from the ceiling somewhere, or Black journalists to pop up out of nowhere and ask me how it feels to have covered the Congressional Black Caucus for 30 years. Or for someone to pop out of a cake, or fireworks, or something spectacular, stupendous, amazing!
|Gloria Dulan-Wilson Celebrating 30 years of Covering the Congressional Black Caucus|
But, so far, not happening. Oh well. I'm stoked anyway. I'm happy and proud and pleased - and as David did in the Bible, I will continue to encourage myself.
From September 1985, when I first went to Washington DC with the New York based Political Action Committee (PAC) spearheaded by Andy Gill, Delano Steward, Goldie Watkins, John Kearse, Leroy Carmichael - through September 2015, I've covered events, issues, forums and concerns impacting the Congressional Black Caucus - the African American men and women who are elected by their constituencies to represent them in DC, as well as conducting countless interviews with key figures at the time, who were center stage on matters that the Caucus was trying to either resolve or have passed - often before a hostile, Republican-dominated Congress.
|Rev. Jesse Jackson and Congresswoman Maxine Waters, LA|
The Caucus hotel headquarters used to at the Washington Hilton on Constitution Ave.; but Congressman Edolphus Towns had it transferred to the Grand Hyatt, which at the time was directly across the street from the former Convention Center. Prior to the 90's, Caucus members had access to the Rayburn Building and the official quarters for members of Congress. Most of the meetings and forums would take place in their chambers. After the Repuglycons voted them out of the chambers, and as a result of negative treatment on the part of the staff at the Hilton, it became clear that it was going to require more community effort and more strategy in obtaining space to continue holding the Caucus. It was apparent they had hoped the CBC would fall flat with no place large enough to accommodate the thousands that converged on DC every year for the caucus. However, instead, it made the caucus even better run, better subscribed than ever. As it became more inclusive, more people were lending their expertise to come up with creative ways, land marks; etc. for the CBC, as well as entertainment and celebrities as it befitted an organization of this magnitude.
Now being held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which is adjacent to the Marriott Marquis, making it easier to commute back and forth.
As 2015 approached, I actually toyed with the idea of writing a book about my 30 years - or at least a memoir. But I admit it is a daunting task and one that really requires that I set aside the time to really focus on getting it done. And, while it's not in the realm of impossibility, and I'm certainly not encumbered with a 9 to 5 daily like I used to be, it still requires focus.
Not the focus of what to include - but of what not to include. What not to tell - how much is too much; would be of relevance and interest to 21st Century readers who want instantaneous information and gratification.
The Congressional Black Caucus's footprint on history is enormous!! But most African Americans don't realize the extent to which they have been the Proverbial "David" standing up to behemoth "Goliaths" in Congress for 45 years - yes, this is the 45th Anniversary of the Congressional Black Caucus - so we've much to celebrate in that regard as well.
When you consider how the repuglycons (those are the non-Lincoln Republicans)
have been using their systematic program of trickery, lies and deceit to level trumped up charges against them, keep them off point and off balanced, fighting specious lawsuits and bogus criminal charges, while they are simultaneously also working in behalf of their constituents, you'd have a lot more respect for what they do manage to get passed in Congress. It always looks easier from the outside to the casual observer who alleges that his or her Black congressional figure is ineffective, or isn't doing his or her job - but you're only sitting on the rim of the "frying pan." Try standing in the middle of the burner, turned up to high heat, while they try to hold the line on budget cuts, overturning programs that benefit families - Black families - Affordable Housing, educational benefits, healthcare (we won that one), Social Security, VOTING RIGHTS (OURS!!!- WHITE'S VOTING RIGHTS ARE NOT UNDER THREAT OR IN QUESTION - BUT SOMEHOW OURS ARE), and a zillion more issues that come across their desks practically every second of every day, and you'll understand why you are looking at walking giant slayers when it comes to Congress.
The Congressional Black Caucus is the only real time they come together collectively or a few days to strategize for the next year, outside of the Congressional chambers. It when they open their doors collectively to their constituents, find out what's going on, update them about concerns; set plans and a course for the coming year; pat themselves and each other on their backs for jobs well done; commiserate with each other for problems that threaten our security; interface with constituents, business owners, activists, and other elected officials, either from their district, their home state, or from around the world - Africa, the Caribbean, South and Central America - the Diaspora.
The forums, panels, presentations are all formulated to inform stake holders - and we are ALL STAKE HOLDERS, make no mistake about it - about what's really behind a specific bill Boehner is trying to push through; what's really going on with education; why it is that a business protocol does not exist in one state but does in another - and what we can to do help.
|L-R Fattima Gamble, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, CA and Developer Kenny Gamble|
The prodigious amount of work they do, the information they provide during the Caucus - the first two years I covered them, I would get material from every Black congressional member's workshop. It turned out to be a mini library - from Major Owens, NY (the "Education" Congressman), Edolphus Towns, NY; the late Mickey Leland, and the late Donald Payne, NJ (Committee on Africa - my favorite panel - I always attend that one); Diane Watson, CA (who launched an investigation into the Cherokee Nation trying to oust Blacks from their tribes in Oklahoma and other areas); Maxine Waters, CA (Young Gifted and Black Workshop - always packed and information rich); Coretta Scott-King (for years she did a workshop on SCLC and the Martin Luther King Legacy); Yvette Clarke, NY (Homeland Security and small business/entrepreneurship); John Lewis, GA, Ron Dellums, CA; Cynthia McKinney, GA; Carol Moseley Braun, IL; Chaka Fattah, PA; Jesse Jackson, Jr., IL; Bobby Rush, IL, Mel Watt, NC, Walter Fauntroy, DC; the late Marion Barry former mayor of DC; Greg Meeks, NY; Floyd Flake, NY; Charles Rangel, NY - this is only a partial list - not even an eighth of the people I've met and interviewed in the 30 years of covering the Caucus.
|L-R: Congressman James Clyburn, S.C & Ed Lewis, co-Founder of Essence Magazine at Book Signing hosted by Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc|
The Congressional Black Caucus has drawn activists, artists, athletes, artisans from all over the map. Either there to do business, learn first hand what's really happening with their community; bring an issue or problem to the attention of their representative - or just to hang out and soak up the atmosphere of being in the company of perhaps the largest grouping of African Americans who have come together for a positive reason. There's no profanity, very little in the way of hostility; we all disagree without being disagreeable; positive, empowered, conversant on issues in a ways that might not happen again during the course of the year when they're dealing with their caucasian counterparts - most of whom are repuglycons, and most of whom are doing everything in their power to decimate their numbers by using trumped up bogus criminal charges to force them to step down (did I mention that already?)
|Ms. Lesley McSadden (L) and Michael Brown Sr. (R) Parents of Michael Brown|
|Congresswoman Clarke & NY Assembly woman Latrice Walker|
|Dr. Ben Chavis CEO NNPA|
|Some of the DC students from President Obama's My Brothers; Keeper Program|
I am, and have always been the "Partisan Press" - I reserved the right to have an opinion and be as concerned and involved as any of the constituents I was writing for or about. It was a policy I started after I realized that the meanstream (read white or majority) media was definitely not "objective," and that their articles went under the guise of being objective while taking jabs and snipes at particular congressmen/women, with the view towards sullying their reputation or undermining their effectiveness. Talk about propaganda. Some (most) was downright blatant. It occurred to me that we, as the Black media, weren't doing all we could to back our own up and tell their side of the story - thus began my move away from a proscribed formulation - which only worked for those who devised the formula - to one that left no uncertain impression as to What and Who and Where and When - and when possible even, How!
Generally, the only press that consistently covers the Congressional Black Caucus is the Black press. The only time the meanstream media shows up is when President Clinton would attend the Phoenix Award Dinners; and now when President Obama does so. They're as scarce as hen's teeth for other important matters - that is unless a riot has either happened, or may be about to happen; or a specific celebrity is involved. Radio One and the Washington Informer (a DC-based Black Newspaper are consistently there). Radio One and Al Sharpton consistently broadcast live from the Convention Center.
|First Lady and President Obama and Congressman Chaka Fattah at Phoenix Award Dinner 2013|
President Clinton, by the way, attended every Phoenix Award Dinner for eight years while he was President; President Obama has attended all but one, as President. The First Lady attended one of the dinners in his behalf when he was involved with issues that took him out of the country.
(Neither of the Bushes ever attended - I doubt seriously whether they would have had they been invited - I remember vaguely someone telling me they had been, but made some lame excuse.)
|The Late Mayor Marion Barry and Former President Bill Clinton|
One of my personal periods of angst was when a JC Watt was elected as Senator from Oklahoma City, on the repuglycon ticket. It was clear from the moment I met him that he was clueless about who he was and what he need to be/do for Black people. My absolute favorite forum is the Africa Summit that was initiated by the late Mickey Leland and carried forward by Donald Payne, and now being expanded by Karen Bass, CA. Keeping our ties and relationships with Africa alive and expanding is of paramount importance to me.
I have always wanted to bring busloads of students from New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Maryland down to a Caucus Weekend so they could see and hear their elected officials speak first hand. Also so they could be around mature adults and observe what it's like to see them an a positive, friendly, empowered environment. I doubt seriously if many of our youth have had that opportunity - and possibly the only time they've seen a Black man or woman in a business suit, has been on a TV series such as Empire, or some of the many others, where we look good, but sound like the hood. When my youngest daughter was in Middle School in NYC, I took her to the Caucus with me. She had an opportunity to learn the inner workings first hand, as well as meet elected officials she had only heard about in school.
Marion Barry, Mayor of DC, made it mandatory that a portion of the programs and events be held in the Black Community, so that the Black people and local businesses in DC would likewise benefit from the monies that flowed through the District during the 5-day event. Additionally, Howard University's Blackburn Center hosted a Sunday brunch - with live entertainment. Somehow neither of those two activities have happened for at least 10 years.
Each member of the CBC and the CBCF is a walking bit of history. Each person has come through some challenges that need to chronicled. And each of them brings that to the table with them. In addition to their being walking historical figures, they attracted greats in history as well. Dr. Dorothy Height, Rosa Parks, Min. Louis Farrakhan, Ambassador Andrew Young, African diplomats and ambassadors, including the late John Garang from the Sudan, Kofi Awonoor from Ghana, Steve Harvey, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Arsenio Hall, MC Lyte, Russell Simmons, B. Smith, Rev. Jesse Jackson, the late Maynard Jackson, among others.
|Congressman Chaka Fattah, PA and Kenny Gamble|
When the Caucus was first started 45 years ago, the great actor/activist, Ossie Davis gave his famous speech, which stated, in part: "It's not the man, it's the plan; if not now, when; if not us, who?" It was exhortation to founding members of the Caucus to remember, as they moved forward, that it was not just about fame, but about getting the job done.
And I'm proud to say that I have had the great good fortune to be on hand to watch them do it for 30 years. They're finally beginning to open the archives to Social Media and present some of the forums online so that others will have the opportunity to be eyewitnesses to history as well.
While I frankly think I should get some sort of reward or recognition for consistency and continuity in 30 years of covering the Caucus; and those of us who have been veterans for 20 or 30 years should be accorded some sort of seniority, it doesn't seem to dawn on those in charge of media/press credentials to make it happen. Somehow or other, the Black Press has still not received the appreciation it deserves. And when I say that, I'm not talking about those who have had the great good fortune to rise to the level of being on TV - They're necessary, but not sufficient. They're subject to a ratings' game which could cause the networks to pull the plug at any given moment, without so much as a by your leave. Ask my brother/friend Rev. Al Sharpton, or the Rev. Jesse Jackson. They've both had it happen.
No, I'm talking about those of us who still work with the locally based Black newspapers; without whom half of any relevant news to Black people would never see the light of day. We're the ones who generally have to pay our own way to be there, but do it because it is important to us and to our people. It's as much a labor of love as it is anything else. It's making sure that our history is straight; that the issues are not distorted, or buried under bogus sidetracked conversations. It's about putting the news before the sports page, and making sure our readers know what's at stake - even if they don't follow suit by getting up and taking appropriate action.
|30 years of Covering the Congressional Black Caucus - I can't tell you how many camera's I've worn out! Lol!|
The symbol for a 30th Anniversary is the Pearl - and the symbol for the 45th is the Sapphire. Hmmmm....!!!! Make a nice pendant, wouldn't it?
This year's Caucus will be no less pivotal. And I'm proud to be a part of it.
I encourage you to become involved, whether you travel to DC to participate, or you do your part to help your representatives from your own homebase. We have to make sure that the Congressional Black Caucus becomes even more effective and relevant in the future years to come.
Stay Blessed &
www.gloriadulanwilson.blogspot.com/ECLECTICALLY BLACK NEWS