U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings speaks at the Sixth Annual Tin Cup Awards held on July 15. (Photo by Rob Roberts )

The Washington Government Relations Group (WGRG), whose membership consists of Blacks who work for firms that lobby Capitol Hill and federal government agencies, in conjunction with the embassy of Canada, held its Sixth Annual Tin Cup Awards on July 15. The event at the Canadian embassy honored U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.); U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.); Federal Housing Agency Finance Director Melvin L. Watt; Jackie Ellis, chief of staff to Rep. Al Green (D-Texas); MSNBC’s Joy Reid; and lobbyists Tiffany M. Moore and Linda Banton. They each received a trophy and recognition for their works.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be here,” Cummings said. “I really appreciate this Tin Cup Award because this is God’s way of reminding you that you are on the right track.”

The organization was formally founded in 1997 as a means to promote career opportunities and advancement for Blacks working in government relations, lobbying, and public affairs. Its forerunner, the Second Wednesday Group, was a professional networking group of Blacks formed in the 1960s for former staffers with members of the Congressional Black Caucus who either were interested in lobbying careers or were lobbyists.

Presently, Blacks lobby for corporations, non-profits, civil and human rights groups, foreign countries, and work on K Street N.W., which is known internationally as where government relations firms are headquartered.

“The Congressional Black Caucus is the conscience of the Congress and the WGRG is the conscience of K Street,” Angela Rye, a co-chair of the event, said.

Cummings said that the award made him think of his father. He talked about how his father moved his family from South Carolina to Baltimore in the 1940s for a better life. The representative recalled his father’s advice when he dropped off him off at Howard University’s Carver Hall in 1969.

“He told me ‘Boy, you are here to get an education,’” Cummings said. “He told me not to get a girl pregnant, fall in love, and take over any buildings. He said that he was turning me over to those ‘Negro professors over there’ and he said to me, ‘Go in those walls and get blessed so you can bless’.”

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker

Booker, elected to the Senate in 2013, said he appreciated the award given to him by the organization but that his generation has a lot of work to do when it comes to economic empowerment.

“African Americans, Latinos, and women need to have a seat at the table of power,” the senator said. “We need to create a community of folks that can expand opportunities for people further.”

A sustained standing-ovation took place when Jacqueline Ellis, a Hill staffer for the late Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.), Major Owens (D-N.Y.), and chief of staff for Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), stood at the podium to speak. In addition to her duties for members of Congress, Ellis has mentored scores of Black aides on Capitol Hill and is the founding member of the Organization of African American Administrative Assistants for Chiefs of Staff in the House.

Ellis is battling an undisclosed illness and asked the audience for their prayers.

Watt, who Cummings referred to as a “role model,” was praised as a boss and a mentor by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. He said his work as a North Carolina representative in the House and at his agency “is about cultivating those who are following you.”

“We want those of you in this organization to think bigger and perform better than those of us before you,” Watt said.

Reid was cited by the lobbyist group for her work in trying to tell unbiased, accurate stories of African Americans at MSNBC while Moore, who works for female-owned lobbying firm TwinLogic Strategies, and Banton, an executive at Lockheed Martin Corporation, were recognized for being trailblazing Black female lobbyists.

Anthony Collier of Texas Southern University and Khaleeq Everett of Marymount University were recognized as recipients of the Terri Grier Memorial Scholarship Fund.

The organization’s President Marcus Sebastian Mason said that his organization will never forget its true purpose. “You can keep doing good, while doing well,” Mason said.