Using the theme “And Still I Rise,” which notes that despite racial inequalities Blacks continue to advance in the United States and around the world, thousands are expected to attend the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 47th Annual Legislative Conference, which runs until Sept. 24 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest D.C.

Political analyst Angela Rye interviewed Sen. Corey Booker on stage (D-NJ) at the start of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 47th Annual Legislative Conference. (Courtesy photo)

At one time there were only a few Blacks among the 435 members of Congress and for many years there were only about two dozen. But On Jan. 2, 2017, 49 Black lawmakers, which include three United States Senators, were sworn into the 115th Congress, marking a political milestone for the descendants of slaves who occupy seats in the Senate and the House as Democrats and Republicans.

“ALC ‘17 will be provocative, instructive, and inspiring for all of those who participate in the many legislative sessions and brain trusts,” Chair of the CBCF Board of Directors Rep Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said in a statement. “It will increase your knowledge regarding the challenging issues facing the African American community; and as well, motivate you to take action.” She called the conference “a call to action,” that comes during a critical time.

Indeed, the politicians who represent Black America will be among the more than 10,000 people who are in the nation’s capitol for numerous issue forums, gatherings and parties, including the conference’s annual prayer breakfast and Phoenix Awards Dinner on Sept. 23.

“We recognize the importance of economic, social, cultural and environmental determinants and the potentially deleterious effects on African American communities nationwide,” said CBCF president and CEO A. Shuanise Washington in a statement. “The ALC is a central platform which aims to address the challenging realities facing African Americans by fostering debate, innovative thinking and forging consensus on ways forward for those who historically have not been well served in our communities.”

And after eight years with President Barack Obama, the first Black president in the United States, leading the helm, the event this year offers the first opportunity for Black leaders to take time out to think, talk and plan strategies in working with a Republican House, Senate and White House.

Rep. Robin Kelly (D) of Illinois and Rep. Marc Veasey (D) of Texas will serve as honorary co-chairs of this year’s conference.

They said now more than ever there is the need for members and their constituents to come together and grapple with major issues impacting the Black community.

“ALC has been a pillar for the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the CBCF to engage today’s African American policy makers, activists, and community leaders on overcoming racial inequities and economic challenges,” said Kelly in a statement.

CBC members say the goal of annual conference is to bring together celebrated personalities, faith leaders and industry executives to talk about what is needed for Blacks to rise above their disparities.

“It is critical that we come together to address the systematic issues plaguing our community,” Veasey said in a statement. “ALC provides the platform for civically engaged citizens to gain the tools needed to increase economic opportunities, safeguard voting rights and alleviate poverty in our communities.”

The caucus is well known for being a time to network, party and learn. Special events include the Exhibit Showcase with an on-site employment fair and free health screenings, the prayer breakfast, the Phoenix Awards Dinner, the National Town Hall, the Gospel Extravaganza, and the Annual Celebration of Leadership in the Fine Arts, which honors the contributions of individuals in the performing and visual arts who have influenced history and inspired generations.