In the early 21st Century, the African American community continues to face challenges on several fronts. Among them are in the areas of: education, crime, lack of employment, health and wealth disparities, and finally negative images of African Americans in the media. Every year, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation hosts its Annual Legislative Conference to address the community’s current issues in addition to discussing solutions and strategies for correcting these problems on the legislative and grassroots levels.
From Sep. 16-20, the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference took place in Washington, DC at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, and featured a distinguished list guests from varying sectors of the African American community including: politicians, entertainers, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, media and professional athletes. The conference represents the Democratic/Progressive perspective of the African American community, and as such regularly garners participation from elected officials typically on the front lines of Civil Rights issues including: Representatives John Lewis, Elijah Cummings, and Eleanor Holmes Norton to name a few. Also making appearances were Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and Susan Taylor, regulars at the conference. This year also featured rising stars such as Columbia University’s Dr. Christopher Emdin, and socially conscious entertainers such as Black Girls Rock Founder DJ Beverly Bond, and actress Joy Bryant.
The theme of this year’s Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference was “Liberty and Justice for All?” It was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and theafore mentioned struggles in the African American community. Points of emphasis at the conference were:
• Increasing access STEM education and jobs
• Closing the school to prison pipeline in urban areas
• Fighting threats to voting rights
• Changing the perceptions of African Americans in the media
• Wealth building and retention and fair access to housing
• Health and wellness
These topics were discussed in depth by numerous panels, after which conference attendees were able to meet and talk with the panelists. During these discussions, a wealth of information and ideas were disseminated, too much to be covered in one article. Thus some of these key discussions and ideas will be revisited and discussed in follow up retrospective pieces.
In addition to the many panels and discussions, the conference featured an Exhibition Hall for vendors of all kinds and a book pavilion where African American writers of all genres presented their works and spoke on their own specialized panels. The conference’s two signature events, the Prayer Breakfast and the Phoenix Awards Gala, both took place on Saturday, Sep. 19. This year’s keynote speaker for the Prayer Breakfast was the Reverend Otis Moss III of the Chicago’s Trinity Church of Christ. This year’s keynote speaker for the Phoenix Awards Gala was none other than President Barack Obama. Lastly, there were numerous concerts, receptions and social gatherings in and around the conference.
During election years, the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference ideally takes place just before mid-November, so that constituencies are well educated on the issues and motivated to vote. 2016 will be an election year for both the Presidency and key seats in Congress, in addition to lower offices. A lot can happen between now and then, and thus it will be interesting to see which issues will be at the forefront at next year’s conference.