By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
The who’s who of Black politics and – well – politics in general – were in attendance at the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Swearing In Ceremony, and bolstered by a rallying cry of course correction by it’s new chair-elect.
There was plenty to celebrate on the morning of Jan. 3 at the Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. N.W., as the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation held their event to welcome old and new members into the class of the CBC of the 11th Congress.
“It’s a moment in history,” U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said. “A significant moment. For this class now stands at 55 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, some 22 percent of the Congress.”
The CBCF is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy, research and educational institue that seeks to advance the global Black community, according to the website. The first CBC was established in 1971. Five years later the first Annual Legislative Conference was held. In 1976 the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) was officially founded as a non profit. Since that time the CBCF has been at the forefront of many legislative efforts to push equity and growth of the Black community.
“We are excited about the four decades of labor of the CBC of whose shoulders we stand,” Jackson Lee said, adding. “This foundation continues to be the conscience of the Congress.”
Angela Rye, political commentator and analyst, served as master of ceremony during the event.
Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker of the House, highlighted some agenda items both the CBC and the Congress will be engaging in the future.
“We will be introducing and passing the Voting Rights Act in this Congress,” Pelosi said to applause, adding that “we will be passing and having legislation to get voting rights for the people of the District of Columbia.”
“We have important work to do in this Congress,” Pelosi said. “We have to address the disparity of income in this country. We have to address climate crisis and what that means in terms of environmental justice in our country. We have to recognize that one in five children lives in poverty and that is intolerable to us.
“We have to do so in a way that treats everyone with dignity whether we agree with them or not on issues. And we want every member of Congress to respect the truth.”
Pelosi took time to honor the 9 new members of the CBC joining Congress. They include Jahana Hayes (CT), Lauren Underwood (IL), Steven Horsford (NV), Joseph D. Neguse (CO), Colin Allred (TX), Ilhan Omar (MN), Lucy McBath (GA), Ayanna Pressley (MA) and Antonio Delgado (NY).
Pelosi also recognized some of the CBC members who will be holding committee chair positions in this Congress including: Eddie Bernice Johnson, who will chair “Science, Space and Technology,” Bobby Scott who will chair “Education and The Workforce Committee,” Elijah Cummings who will chair “Government Oversight Committee,” Bennie Thompson who will chair “Homeland Security” and Maxine Waters who will chair the “House Financial Services Committee.”
Karen Bass, the California representative who replaces Cedric L. Richmond (LA) in this session, brought the Caucus’ mission into sharp focus.
“Today is a glorious day,” Bass said during her address. “Not just for the CBC, but today is a glorious day for our country. Today marks the beginning of a course correction.”
“Correcting the trauma we have all experienced on a daily basis for the last two years.”
Bass broke down the Black diaspora and its place in the nation’s capital’s history as well as the county at large.
“The year marks the 400th anniversary of when our ancestors arrived on this land. Some came here as free men and women, most were enslaved and many of those that were free were later captured and placed into slavery. Our ancestors built the US Capitol, they built the White House and many of the historic buildings in D.C.
“The wealth and advancement of our nation is because of over 200 years of free labor from our ancestors.”
Bass pointed to the resilience of Black folks nodding to gubernatorial nominations of Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum in southern states, and other key successes like the election of President Barack Obama.
She pushed the crowd to come to grips with the shape shifting of a nation reimaging itself with a broader more diverse palette.
“America is becoming more diverse, and that diversity is leading to the browning of our nation,” Bass said. “Instead of a celebration the reaction has essentially unleashed a dragon.
“A dragon that is gasping his last breath, so he is dangerous as he lashes out. The dragon is hate, the dragon is White supremacy – and they have a leader,” Bass said, jabbing at President Trump.
After the ceremony, the CBC members went on to be sworn in with the other members of Congress.