By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]

Just a day before the bustling streets of downtown D.C. becomes a hub and homecoming for Black politicians, businessmen and go-getters, The Delegate rooftop restaurant was filled with African American professionals excited to party with a purpose, prior to the official kickoff of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) Annual Legislative Conference 2019.  One of the Black politicians who made his way to The Delegate was civil rights hero, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA).

Blu Tuesday, an event that happens every other month at posh spots in the D.C. area, is a networking opportunity for Black professionals to mingle after five, while building their brands and expanding their contacts.  September’s Blu Tuesday was the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) edition, tactfully held at a venue located at the Courtyard Marriot/ Residence Inn Washington Convention Center, a hotel right in the heart of what was sure to be buzzing with CBC excitement 12 hours later.  

Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) spoke to the {AFRO} at the Blu Tuesday Congressional Black Caucus Edition event on Sept. 10 at The Delegate in Northwest, D.C. (AP News)

“So with the Congressional Black Caucus occurring this week, it was imperative that we would host a Blu Tuesday, bringing together urban and suburban professionals for the sole purpose of networking– building that empire one person at a time, increasing that network and that’s why we’re here tonight,” said Dexter Greene, an insurance agent and host of Blu Tuesday.

Rep. Lewis served as the evening’s honored guest and speaker.

“Congressman Lewis is a civil rights icon.  He stood at the mall [at the March] on Washington when Martin Luther King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.  And he talked about freedom and about where we can be in the future, and while we have a struggle there’s a lot that we have accomplished.  And for me he was the perfect Congressman to represent how far we’ve come,” Greene told the AFRO.

Lewis sat down with the AFRO for an exclusive interview to discuss the goals of the 2019 CBCF Annual Legislative Conference (ALC).

“More than anything, we are focused on getting people ready and prepared for the election of 2020.  We want people to turn out and vote like they never voted before. And encourage as many people who would like to get involved in American politics to work and campaign, to run for office and to be determined now more than ever before,” Lewis told the AFRO.  “As I’ve said before there are forces of people that want to take us back. We’ve come too far. We’ve made too much progress to go back. We want to go forward.”

In addition to gearing up for the election of 2020, Lewis said this year’s ALC would recognize the 400th anniversary of Africans forced journey and arrival to America as slaves.

“Many members of the Caucus returned from spending time in Accra, Ghana. We cried like babies.  We went in the dungeon, went through the doors of no return. And to know that our forefathers and foremothers came in those ships, and some people never made it.  They never made it; they were thrown overboard,” Lewis said with passion. “But despite everything, we are survivors and today we see lawyers, and doctors, teachers, scientists, successful businessmen and businesswomen. We see brave and bold people serving in the military, flying airplanes, working on ships, working as doctors and scientists, so we have a bright future, I think as a people and as a nation.”

Despite challenges and division in the United States, the Congressman remains confident that change will come.

“So I see unbelievable changes, and I say to young people all the time, ‘Never become bitter.  Keep the faith and keep your eyes on the prize. “We all shall overcome,” Lewis told the AFRO

The Congressman and Presidential Medal of Freedom awardee considered teachings from his friend and close colleague in the fight for justice, as he closed his conversation with the AFRO.

“I think we all have to be hopeful and be optimistic and never, ever get down or become hostile.  And never hate, for hate is too heavy a burden to bear. That’s what Dr. King taught us.”