Monday, September 13, 2010

Congressional Black Caucus at Forty

Congressional Black Caucus at Forty
By Gary L. Flowers
Executive Director & CEO
Black Leadership Forum, Inc.
September 12-19, 2010

“I recently wrote about the attempt of the Congressional Black Caucus to get legislation out of the House of Representatives that targets job creation to local areas through direct funding. This legislation is being held up in the House and Senate by politicians who care more about posturing in and election over how frugal they have been with money by supporting deficit reduction over the pain people are suffering.”

Dr. Ronald Walters
June 24, 2010

“Political players who are on the field get their uniform dirty. The loudest voices from players tend to be by those on the sidelines with clean uniforms.”

Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr.

In 1971, members of Congress visualized a caucus within the United States House of Representatives to legislatively advocate for the political and policy interests of African Americans. At that time—recently after Chairman Adam Clayton Powell was pushed out of Congress, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, followed by destructive riots—there were only 13 Black members of the House and zero members of the U.S. Senate. Predictably, meaningfully influencing federal legislation by individual Representatives was arduous, to say the least, for the most skilled legislators.

Consequently, Representatives Shirley Chisholm (NY), John Conyers (MI), Charles Rangel (NY), William Clay (MO), George Collins (IL), Ronald Dellums (CA), Charles Diggs (MI), Augustus Hawkins (CA), Ralph Metcalfe (IL), Parren Mitchell (MD), Robert Nix (PA), Louis Stokes (OH), and Walter Fauntroy (DC) founded the first ethnically based body in Congress and named it the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). And for forty-years the CBC has served as the “conscience of the Congress.”

Separate from the CBC, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) this week (Wednesday, September 15-18, 2010) will host the Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) will assemble the best and brightest political minds in the world to advance the interests of Black Americans.

Now some decry that the CBC’Fs Annual Legislative Week is frivolously filled with epicurean events that only focus attendee’s attention to “eat, drink, and be merry.” Those who believe such have either never attended the ALC or are inclined to seek parties and playtime wherever they go. After all, most people find what they seek. That said, for those who seek a better understanding of public policy priorities in the Black community and political strategies for people of color spending time with the Congressional Black Caucus is immensely enriching.

For example, the 2010 ALC will feature 90 “Brain trusts” on the most salient issues impacting the Black community at the federal, states, county, and municipal level. Proceeds from the weeklong Conference help fund CBCF Internships for students interested in public service.

Regrettably, perhaps our brightest political light for the past forty years has been extinguished in the death of Dr. Ronald Walters. Dr. Walters was the engine of a plethora of political campaigns, most notably the 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns of Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. If Reverend Jackson was the “conscience of the nation” Dr. Walters kept the “political pulse of the nation.”

Whether 1971 or 2010, if the words of Reverend Jesse Jackson and Dr. Ronald Walters and the example of the Congressional Black Caucus direct America, particularly Black America, they do so to increase civic participation and political awareness. In other words, either join those of us on the battlefield of justice or surrender your right to criticize. Please join us!

In linking leadership,

Gary L. Flowers
Executive Director & CEO
Black Leadership Forum, Inc.

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