A scant three days ago, the 46th Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference (CBC/ALC) came to an end - it was an amazing, historical moment - one I shall never forget, because President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton were all in attendance.
|President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama|
The entire atmosphere was charged with energy and love (yes, love) as we watched and listened to the last speech that Obama would make at the Phoenix Awards dinner as President. There were those who, though sophisticated, and elegantly dressed, dared to shout out - "We Love You Mr. President!" and "Four more years!" There were those who had tears rolling down their cheeks as he made his last speech.
|Hillary Clinton Received the Phoenix Award Trailblazer Award from Congress member Jim Clyburn|
But, I'll get to that later. I feel the need to do more than just report on the events of the Congressional Black Caucus - which I stated in my post prior to the event, was packed with information-rich seminars and Brain Trusts. And which, in the evenings, had a myriad of wonderful receptions and events to attend.
This marks my 31st year covering the Congressional Black Caucus as a photo journalist - from the time it was held at the Hilton Hotel, until it was moved by then Congressman Edolphus Towns (D/Brooklyn, NY Ret'd) to more friendlier environs at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and the former Convention Center, through it's current locale at the relatively new Walter E. Washington Convention Center. There have been ups and downs - particularly when the shift from Democratic to repuglycon majority circumvented the effectiveness of their efforts to make a difference for their constituencies.
But, I think, given how high the stakes are in the upcoming Presidential, local and national elections, and some of the acrimony I'm hearing and witnessing as of late, I need to deal with the seriousness of this organization, and how what they do impacts us as Black people in so many important and significant ways. I have heard so many disparaging remarks made about our Black elected congressional representatives, that I think some reality checks need to be made to drive the point home as to just what we really are dealing with.
Most people have the erroneous opinion that our Black Congressmembers do nothing for their constituents. That they are in DC just hanging out. So let's take a look at some of the harsh realities of how skewed this perception is:
1. Currently there are a total of 435 members of Congress, of which 46 are Black! You do the math:
435:45 = 9.4 - WHICH MEANS THAT LESS THAN 10% OF THE MEMBERS OF CONGRESS ARE BLACK
Factor in the fact that currently the majority of the Congress is Repuglycon - and you already see how the deck is stacked. IT MEANS THAT NOT ONLY ARE THEY IN THE MINORITY; THEY ARE A MINORITY OF THE MINORITY. Without a Democratic Majority in Congress, it's difficult to get even the simplest legislation passed - let alone legislation that is important to BLACK people. Especially with a rapacious congressional majority of rednecks bent on thwarting the President and the Congress.
2. Next, let's look at where these Black Congressmembers are from. Note that out of 50 States in the US, only 23 currently have one or more Black Congressmember - and one is a non-voting member, which narrows it down to 22 (Washington DC's Rep, Eleanor Holmes Norton, is a non-voting member because DC is not considered a state - talk about disenfranchisement!! Also note that New York lost Charles Rangel's seat to a Hispanic Representative, and Philadelphia's seat was vacated by Chaka Fattah after he was found guilty of bogus charges). Narrows it down quite a bit doesn't it? Also note that we have one Black Senator - Cory Booker. Factor in 2 repuglycons in the House of Representatives, and that further reduces the number of Black Congressmembers fighting on our behalf. And note that the Senator from South Carolina is a member of the Repuglycon party, so he does not count in our favor either.
African Americans in the 114th CongressA list of the African-Americans currently serving in the 114th Congress. There are 46 black members in the House of Representatives and 2 in the Senate.
1. Non-voting delegate.
Sources: www.house.gov and www.senate.gov
(CONTINUED AFTER THE BREAK)
All-New Echo Dot (2nd Generation) - Black
The Congressional Black Caucus, which was founded in 1970, came about as an effort to bring the Black Congressmembers, together with their constituents and other elected officials, to focus on issues that directly affected Black people; and devise plans for targeting those issues by leveraging whatever power they had among them in the halls of Congress.
It has grown considerably since that time; so much so, that perhaps there are those who don't understand why they spend so much time researching and bringing together expertise from all over the country to educate and inform the participants about the myriad of serious issues that assail us - known and unknown - not just in their districts, but across the US. They are not just concerned about their own states, but about those Black people in states like Oklahoma, Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Washington State, Oregon, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia - who have no representation in Congress, and have to catch as catch can.
Now that I've gotten your attention - I hope you understand also how seriously important this upcoming election truly is. Not only do we have to hold the seats we have, and make sure that HILLARY CLINTON becomes the next president of the US; but we also must be about helping those Black candidates, and well meaning white Democrats, win their seats as well. We need both a clear majority in Congress and the Senate, and we need to increase the number of members of the CBC so that they have greater leverage in passing legislation beneficial to us across the board.
And we are literally talking 49 days before the November 8th election. If you have not registered - if you have not made sure that your 18 year old at home or in college - as well as your other college aged children - have registered and are preparing to vote - GET ON IT NOW!!! No birthday card for that 18 year old; get them a voter registration card, and make sure you deliver it to your local campaign headquarters, don't rely on them to do it. We all have to do our part.
Many of our associates have bought into the propaganda spewed out by T-Rump and the meanstream media. Subconsciously we have begun to be swayed - not by his garbage, but by the fear that the rest of white America will follow him. We have begun to acquiesce to the "inevitable" rather than rallying to the fight. Some of us are like deer in the headlamps, making gallows humor about a T-Rump "presidency." STOP IT! I heard far too many acrimonious statements, under the guise of being "objective" about President Obama and his administration. We have bought into this, and the insipid tendency to cast aspersions on each other - which is what I call the politics of the powerless- where we are turning on each other instead of turning to each other. STOP IT!!
AND MAKE SURE YOU ARE NOT PART OF THE PROBLEM - GET UP OF YOUR COMPLAINTS AND FEARS AND VOTE - and don't let some fool fool you into wasting your vote under the guise of some sort of idiotic protest - we have too much at stake for those kinds of divide and conquer tactics. VOTE HILLARY CLINTON - period! (By the way, for those of you who are not familiar with her work and accomplishments, I will be posting a comprehensive overview on her in the next week - look for it.)
From Wednesday, September 14, through Saturday September 17, there was a total of 120 workshops and BrainTrusts at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
High on the list of concern was the criminal justice system and police brutality. Case in point: Friday, September 16, out of 50 workshops, 9 were devoted to Criminal justice, police brutality, and "Decriminalizing the Black Community;" with many of them running concurrently, making it difficult to cover them all effectively. Decriminalizing the Black Community, presided over by NOBLE (NATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT EXECUTIVES), focused on the biased and often flawed legislation that have targeted Blacks while giving non-blacks a pass; as wel as the "persistent and pervasive racial and systemic inequities in the US criminal justice system.
And, as an aside - if you think that the Caucus ended on Saturday, September 17, guess again. The following press release was forwarded to my attention from Congressman bobby Scott's office, while I was writing this post - so I'm folding it in for your attention and information:
Congressional Black Caucus to Hold Press Conference at U.S. Department of Justice to Address Systematic Surveillance and Targeting of Blacks by Law Enforcement Resulting in Their Death
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, September 22, 2016 at approximately 12:30 p.m. EDT, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) will take a bus to 7th Street, NW and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, depart the bus, and walk to the U.S. Department of Justice at 9th Street, NW and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. A letter will be given to Attorney General Lynch expressing the deep concerns regarding the killing of Black men, women and children and to implore the Attorney General to use the power of her office to bring about prosecutions for the targeting and profiling of Black men, women and children. ###
If you are in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area, it would be a good idea to be there as back up to show solidarity as constituents concerned about the egregious atrocities being leveled against Black men and women across the nation.
Additionally, prior to the CBC, John Lewis led a sit-in in on the house floor of congress for gun control legislation. Now the repuglycons are trying to sanction him. I maintain that our Black congressional caucus members are heroes who have taken on the herculean tasks of trying to represent us in a swill of swine who are bent on undermining the President (aka treason), and depriving us of our rights as well. We need to be more in tune with what's going on, and begin to make our voices heard with theirs.
As compelling and important the workshops on Criminal Justice were, my focus was on education - specifically higher education. Being a graduate of Lincoln University (PA), the first Black Degree Granting University in the US (162 years and counting); and as a former Director of Student Activities and Counselor at City University's CCNY and Brooklyn College, respectively, I am particularly concerned about maintaining and sustaining our HBCUs for all of our Black students. So I spent the bulk of my time between the HBCU and the Financial Services Brain Trust. This, however, will not be an exhaustive overview - just highlights of issues that we must begin to wrap our minds around now, if we want to make sure that our children and their children have these valuable, historical resources available to them in the future.
As many know, our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been taking direct hits from the repuglycon congress, with contributions and funds being directed toward them challenged at every turn. Had it not been for President Obama's efforts to bridge the gap in financial assistance, many would have had to close their doors. The unfortunate situation is that, as a result of the abusive, often deceptive lending protocols under the Bush administration, the truth in lending legislation activated by President Obama left parents with out an avenue for private sources for financing their children's education. In an effort to stem the tide of students left out of the equation of obtaining higher education and skills, many of the HBCUs have come together to formulate options for them and their parents.
One of the most notable was Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd, President of Alabama State University, stated during the HBCU Panel, that she had had an opportunity to speak with some of the young people at the Caucus - one of whom wanted to attend college, but did not have the funds. When she asked about her GPA, which turned out to be a 4.0, she offered her a full scholarship on the spot - rather than putting her through the agony of a "wait and see" period. The young lady started to cry and said "I didn't know how I was going to college. I said grab it! This is a full ride for you. When you see talent, grab it!!" Dr. Boyd further stated: "We as presidents must be able to do this for our youth. Not necessarily for all of them, but we must have a heart for the situation our young people find themselves in." (I have to add that when Dr. Boyd enters a room, so does the energy and the light - Delta Proud)
Dr. Julianne Malveaux also spoke of how important and essential it was for the Alumni to have an ongoing giving strategy for their Alma Maters. "When I am asked about how to increase the financial status and stability of my college (former president of Bennett College), I explain that I went over every sector of the finances and expenditures; I was able to refinance some of the debt that was at 9% interest and reduce it to 2% interest, saving millions that could be used for other necessities.
But when I asked them about their Alumni giving, many of them tried to fudge the numbers - if your Alumni giving is below 30%, they are not doing their job. If the Board of Trustees is not actively raising funds for your school, they are not doing their job. And if even if you did not have the privilege of attending an HBCU, you need to adopt one and help be a resource for funds and programs for them." (Delta Proud)
Gwen Boyd's enthusiasm so excited the panel and the audience, that actor Terrance Jenkins, who was seated next to her on the panel, stated, enthusiastically, "Wow! I did have the privilege of attending an HBCU! But you've made me want to now - I think I've missed something major!" To which the entire audience laughed and applauded. Dr. Malveaux however chimed in and stated, "No we need you to make more movies so that you can profit and send some of those funds to help HBCUs."
During the Q and A session, I asked about the challenges of dealing with a Board of Trustees when it appears that they can't be trusted; as well as the efficacy of HBCUs beginning Co-OP programs to provide more hands on experience for students in their chosen fields. The board of trustee issue is indeed a hot potato, since in many instances they are politically appointed, and don't necessarily have the best interest of the school at heart. If they are not focused on raising funds for the school, they are a blockage - stated Dr. Malveaux, who also stated the President of the college can also make or break the school. Her closing statement was that a strong alumni association is the best ally a college can have; and that it would do well to cultivate the relationship. Most of the panelists concurred that one of the biggest problems is that HBCUs don't tell their own stories well; as well as the fact that sustainability is a major factor in the future of HBCUs.
In addition to the concerns about the future of our education, economic crises looms very large as one of the top three issues during the 2016 Caucus, with a total of nine different workshops focused on the different factors - from Black banks, to Black and Caribbean correspondent banking relationships; to Trade and development of business relationships in Africa (African Brain Trust); to Creating and sustaining Afican American small businesses that thrive n a 21st century economy; to providing meet and match opportunities for small businesses with the public and private sector.
The financial services brain trust dealt with the disparities of obtaining loans to underwrite businesses for start ups as well as those who have a track record. Senator Cory Booker, who served as one of the panelists on this forum spoke of his efforts to more than level the playing field where the decks are stacked against Black business owners. One of the biggest factors was that people of color (i.e. Black people) were not getting to those who hold the reins on venture capital - primarily because they don't "swim in the same pond" (my words, not theirs). It takes networking - as always - and you have to know somebody who knows somebody who can make that all important introduction - or as one person put it, "who can carry your water for you." And while the concept of friends and family being available to assist is not a new one, very few, if any, of our fledgling entrepreneurs have friends and family who have sufficient access to capital to help get their businesses off the ground.
Options include crowd funding (a concept first started by the Black United Fund of New York, who used meagre resources through ongoing donations to build funding sources for Black businesses, homes and other necessities when mean stream sources would not); micro loans, SBA Links, and other "minority" oriented business funding sources.
Call me jaundiced, but I didn't really see that the workshop offered any real viable solutions that the participants could wrap their minds around. I happen to subscribe to the Marcus Garvey school of thought, where you consolidate your efforts, pool your resources, begin to solidify your specialties, and expand from there. It's amazing how we tend to over look the obvious and discount those who have gone before us and blazed trails that have proven more than successful. Garvey taught how to build businesses, employ each other, teach each other so that we could build more businesses, purchase homes, develop schools and educational/vocational training centers - with a lot less technological resources than we have today. I think much more work should be devoted to decoding and adapting his methodology and really giving our businesses and youth the foundation for success they need.
Many of the workshop highlights are currently posted on YouTube - for those who are interested - and you should be - in keeping abreast and involved in these issues. We can no longer afford to sit back and be Monday morning quarterbacks on issues that affect us all - individually and collectively. It's incumbent on ALL OF US to know what's up and play our part. Our, and our children's futures are dependent on what we do to provide the back up needed - voting is just a part of it. Involvement after the votes have been cast and our candidates have won is the main thing. And it's where we fall short the most.
In addition to the workshops, there were several receptions and events throughout the CBC - including the Chairman's reception - presided over by G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, which was held at the Renaissance Hotel.
The guests were greeted by Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Obama, A. Shaunise Washington, CEO and President of the CBCF, R. Donahue Peeples of the Peeples Corporation, and, of course Congressman Butterfield himself. Entertainment was provided by Regina Bell, who held the audience captive as she performed their favorite songs.
But the creme de la creme of events was the Phoenix Awards, held in the ballroom of the Washington Convention Center. It was nearly standing room only, as all came to be in the room with President Obama as he made his last speech as president. And this is pretty much where I came in. Of course, on hand for the President were members of the Congressional Black Caucus - and spotted throughout the room were: SusanTaylor and hubby Kephra Burns, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Congresswoman Diane Watson (retired/CA), among others. The event was hosted by Comedy Central Comedian and political satirist, Trevor Noah from South Africa, and Kelly Rowland. Ms. Alma Rangel, wife of the retiring Congressman, Charles "Charlie" Rangel, of New York City. https://youtu.be/uY2hU8bgdTw
Among the Phoenix Award Recipients were Robert F. Smith, founder of Vista Equity Partners; The Emanuel Nine (survivors) of the victims who were gunned down by a depraved maniac as they worshipped in their church in Charleston, SC (CBC Chair Award); the Hon. Marcia L. Fudge (Barbara Jordan Award - Delta Proud); the Hon. Charles B. Rangel (Founders Award); and Hillary Clinton Democratic Nominee for the President of the United States (Trailblazer Award - https://youtu.be/ddMn_JgTt8s )
R. Donahue Peeples, head of Peeples Corporation, opened the Phoenix Awards dinner with the statement that Black America is in crisis. "Let our voices be heard," he implored the audicence, as he related the incarceration of Black people for minor drug offenses in proportion to those whites who have committed far more offenses bt get a slap on the wrist. His analysis of the need for Blacks to get out and make their voices heard in reference to the needs that directly impact Black communities.
As Peebles introduced President Barack Obama, he stated, "PRESIDENT OBAMA PRESIDED AS THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF OVER THE CBC FOR THE VERY LAST TIME. " Chills went across the room as the reality of this truth sunk in. The greatest leader of our generation, the President of the US and the First Lady of the US.
"Hello CBC!!" The President greeted the more than 1000 guests at the Phoenix Awards Dinner: Click on the link below to watch his speech in its entirety.
The President made it plain that he expected Black people to turn out for Hillary Clinton in the same numbers and with same enthusiasm as they had done for him in 2008 and 2012. Stating, "I will consider it an insult to my legacy and all the hard work I and others have done over these past 10 years to bring Black people forward. "
This is perhaps one of the most important Congressional Black Caucuses ever in modern history. Take nothing for granted. There is so much at stake. And it is up to us all to make it happen.
Take the time to volunteer to register voters, man the phone banks and reach out to your elected officials and offer to help. This is no joke.
NOW THAT YOU KNOW - WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? GET UP, GET OUT THE VOTE, AND VOTE!!!
Stay Blessed &