The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 44th Annual Legislative Conference (ALC), one of Black America’s most signature events, will offer thousands of attendees a wide range of subjects and social and networking events designed to stimulate minds and encourage action. It takes place from Sept. 24-27 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the District and its theme is “It Starts with You.”
“The ALC is the place where we challenge people and ourselves to engage in the difficult conversations about social justice and economic empowerment, among many issues, and begin the hard work of creating sustainable solutions to the issues Black people face every day,” A. Shuanise Washington, the president and CEO of the CBCF, said.
Washington said a new communications program will be announced at the conference. “We will be launching the Permanence Project,” she said. “It is a digital platform on public policy issues that are important to African Americans. The Permanence Project will engage African Americans at the conference and eventually people across the country and around the world.”
Technology will be an important aspect of the conference, Washington said. She said that issue forums and braintrusts will focus on the country’s racial digital divide and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s (D-Texas) annual forum on science and technology will be a highlight.
Washington said Radio One, TV One and Interactive One have joined in a partnership with the CBCF to broadcast certain events live, such as the prayer breakfast on Sept. 27 at the convention center.
Radio One will be involved in the conference at another level as its founder, Cathy Hughes, will be honored at the Phoenix Awards Dinner on Sept. 27 at the convention center along with Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Washington said that President Obama has been invited to attend the dinner. Obama and his wife, Michelle have attended and spoken at the dinner in the past few years.
The Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York, will lead the prayer breakfast. The CBCF and the Congressional Black Caucus Spouses will recognize the contributions of three leading Blacks in the arts, actress Phylicia Rashad, singer-songwriter Bill Withers, and Dr. Alvin Poussaint at the Celebration of Leadership in the Fine Arts, Sept. 24 at the Newseum in Northwest D.C.
The unrest in Ferguson, Mo., will be an underpinning of discussion at the conference, Washington said. “On Sept. 26, we will hold a braintrust on ‘Our Brother’s Keeper’ and will address the opportunity gap that exists for young Black males,” she said. “On that day also, there will be another braintrust on racial profiling. While there is no specific forum for Ferguson at this time, our other forums and braintrusts will deal with the lack of Black male teachers and the problems of Black youth in the juvenile justice system.”
The annual legislative conference grew out of the first Congressional Black Caucus Dinner that took place in 1971. The CBCF was founded in 1976 and the conference grew from several forums on the day of the dinner to a nearly week-long activity that it is today.
The conference’s co-chairs are U.S. Reps. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) and Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio). Bishop is proud of the way the conference has grown since he joined the Congress in 1993.
“Over the years, the conference has evolved from a modest number of issue-based brain trusts meetings held in House Office Buildings to a full swath of legislative and social events covering four full days in Washington,” Bishop said. “As the CBC membership has grown in number and seniority, so has the conference grown in scope and depth.”
When the Republicans took control of Congress in 1995, they made it difficult for the Congressional Black Caucus and other advocacy caucuses to have conference-like activities in House Office Buildings. In response, the CBCF started having its activities in hotels and at the District’s convention center.
Beatty, a freshman member of Congress, said she is proud to be a leader of this year’s conference and hopes participants take advantage of its opportunities. “This is particularly so when we have our first African-American president and our first African-American attorney general,” Beatty said. “The connections made at the ALC have moved the African-American community to action in past conferences. I hope that people would leverage their new connections and use them to promote a more just and fair society for all Americans.”