Monday, September 29, 2014

Congressional Black Caucus 2014 Annual Legislative Conference - Recap!

Each year the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) hosts their Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) in DC, which brings together community and political leaders across the nation to discuss issues that impact black communities world-wide.  The four day policy conference hosts a plethora of policy sessions correlated to a variety of tracks, a job fair, Prayer Breakfast, National Town Hall, Phoenix Awards dinner, and much more!

Since completing the Minority Political Leadership program in 2012, I have made it a point to attend the annual ALC, and participate in the sessions in hopes of making new connections, learning more about policy issues that impact my community, engaging in invigorating conversation with elected officials across the nation, and most important of all, to find solutions to problems in my community and take the new information home to begin a dialogue that I hope will lead to a resolution.

Last week, the CBC hosted their "44th Annual Legislative Conference" at the Washington Convention Center, and I attended several sessions and special events.  My mind is overloaded with all of the new information and resources that I have to share with my fellow social advocates.  Below, are some highlights I'd like to share with you reading this post right now.  Please feel free to share, and comment.  

SESSION: Civil Rights: A Transformative Fight for Justice

Synopsis: "The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation that transformed the lives of all Americans, but especially those of African Americans and women.  The Civil Rights Act outlawed unequal application of voter registration requirements.  It also prohibited discrimination in the workplace, school systems, and all other public facilities.  Although our country has made great progress in the fight for civil rights and equality, we have also suffered recent setbacks.  Increasing inequality in our public schools, mass incarceration, and limited protection of voting rights challenge us to strategize new ways we can work for equal opportunity in the 21st century.  How can our community - young and old - continue the fight for justice for all?"

"We've got to get back to the idea that voting is something we need to exercise, to protect, and at the end of the day, let other people know: Don't mess with my vote!"~Rep. John Lewis

How much progress has our nation made to achieve the dream that inspired the Civil Rights Act?  Michelle Alexander, author of "The New Jim Crow" asks the rhetorical question, "How do you measure this progress?" We live in a capitalistic society that is measured in stuff, materialistic gains.  How many cars do you have?  How many degrees have you earned?  What kind of house do you live in?  Mrs. Alexander explains, "Any society must be judged by how it treats it's most vulnerable members, and prisoners.  We live in a society that has criminalized poverty and legalized discrimination in employment, housing, and public assistance.  We live in a caste-like system; a system that locks millions of citizens into second class status."

We have plenty of work to do, but so long as we "Keep tilling the soil, eventually, something beautiful will blossom!  It may not be on our time, but the future generation will reap the harvest."~Michelle Alexander.

SESSION: Black America and the War on Poverty: 50 Years Later

Synopsis: "Fifty years after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared an unconditional "War on Poverty," the debate on the success of the War on Poverty and the roles of the federal government and communities in combating this issue continues to dominate the national conversation.  Panelists will discuss the intersection of race and poverty, including the institutional barriers to opportunity faced by many racial and ethnic minority communities and strategies for overcoming them."

The national poverty rate is 14.5%

"Blacks are twice as likely, to be unemployed."~Lisa Hamilton, The Kasey Foundation

Of the workers laid off in the past five years, 20% are still unemployed.  It takes 3-5 years, if ever, to financially recover from unemployment.

Learn more about the Workforce Innovation Act here.

SESSION:  Not for Sistahs Only

Synopsis: Join a lively discussion on the valuable and integral role that women's issues play in the political landscape.  Experts will examine efforts to suppress the vote, legislation designed to overturn reproductive rights and prevent access to birth control and strategies to increase voter turnout in the November elections.  This session will also address the importance of progressive women in elected office.

The dialogue during the "Not for Sistahs Only" discussion answered the question: What can we do in our communities, to stop voter apathy?

Donna Brazile speaks on the importance of voting during mid-term elections.  She also stresses that blacks need to get involved and keep one another informed in unconventional ways.  Representative Gwen S. Moore (Wisconsin) added, "You have the stewardship of your vote.  Reach out and find those votes!  All of the people who were at the victory parties need to get to work."  Running a successful campaign is only the beginning.  Once you are seated at the table, that's where the real work begins.

"I want young people to get involved, because it's your turn."~Donna Brazile  She encourages more seasoned leaders to mentor youth, and support them in their civic involvement in their communities.  

"Ferguson is a prime example of what happens [if people don't exercise their right to vote].  If they don't participate, they are consenting to be abused."~Rep. Gwen S. Moore.

"Elected officials make many decisions that effect your life, from birth to death.  They even sign both certificates!"~Rep. Gwen S. Moore speaking on the importance of getting involved in elections and the importance of voting.  She also stressed the importance of being involved in the process and understanding policy.  "If you're here at the CBC, you are political!"

What do we tell our sons, nephews, male cousins, etc. after Ferguson?  Donna Brazile speaks on the issue, and why Michael Brown's unlawful murder is what motivates her to inspire others to get involved.

*Black women vote at a higher rate than black men.  This is partially due to the number of men that have been incarcerated and need to restore their right to vote.  If our people exercised their right to vote, we could control the elections.

It's also important to note that the majority of minimum wage jobs are no longer held by teenagers; but rather by women who work multiple jobs to take care of their families.

PHOENIX Awards Dinner:  President Obama gives remarks at the Phoenix Awards Dinner, hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus.  He touches on issues such as Ferguson, racial inequalities, and midterm elections.


*Article discussed during the "Legacy of Slavery" Panel discussion:

*The NAACP is working hard in our communities to protect our civil rights, and advocate for issues in our communities.  Join your local chapter!  Stay in the know, get involved!

*Higher Heights for America is encouraging civic engagement #BlackWomenLead

 "We need a radical shift in what we call policing.  The system is working quite well according to what they were established to perform. Research the history of the establishment of police departments."~Phillip Agnew, Dream Defenders

 "The police in Ferguson aren't wearing badges, they are wearing wrist bands that say "I am Darren Wilson."~Barbara Armine Esq.
 Hip Hop Panel

"Sex, Politics, and Black Women" Panel, hosted by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

NAACP President, Cornell Williams Brooks, with Michael Brown's Family during the NAACP Reception.

To see other photos from my personal experience at this year's #CBCFALC2014, click here!

If you caught a session I missed, please share the information below.

We'll follow up with the dates for next year's conference!  Until then, what will you do to improve your community?  Don't sit on the sidelines, get involved!

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