The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) kicked off its 2008 Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) on Wednesday, the 38th edition of the meeting of the nation’s Black Members of Congress. The four day event is expected to attract close to 20,000 attendees for a series of issues forums, “braintrusts” led by Members and special events, a highlight being the Saturday night Black tie gala during which presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) will be among the honorees.
In a morning press conference at the Washington Convention Center, site of the ALC, Dr. Elsie Scott, Ph.D., president and CEO of the CBCF, spoke about the significance of the Caucus against the backdrop of “America’s Promise” stating that the group of Black lawmakers are “embracing the promise of America’s promise” in being a significant part of the agenda setting on Capitol Hill. Dr. Scott also noted the significance of this year’s ALC against the backdrop of the presidential election and the fact that for the first time in history a member of the Caucus is the presidential nominee for one of the major political parties.
Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL), chairman of the CBCF, also harped upon the historic nature of this year’s conference as well as the significance of the Congressional Black Caucus on Capitol Hill. Meek, who is a second generation member of the Caucus having succeeded his mother, said “The key to politics is timing and the CBC is on the cutting edge of what’s going on in this country.” Rep. Meek detailed some of the workshops and town hall meetings that will take place over the course of the ALC and noted that there is “something for everyone” as the Caucus connects to its many constituents.
The two co-chairs for the 2008 are Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY). Rep. Brown pointed out that the first major session of the ALC will be a National Town Hall Meeting on the mortgage crisis. The Florida lawmaker announced that there will be representatives of financial institutions on-site to help assist homeowners who are expiring financial difficulties. She also pointed out the importance of the Annual Legislative Conference to the fortunes of Black America, noting that her participation in the event predates her service in Congress.
Rep. Gregory Meeks also made reference to why this year’s meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus was different than those held in the past given the looming presidential election on November 4. Meeks noted the Saturday black-tie dinner would recognize Senator Barack Obama and New York Governor David Paterson among others. The Queens, New York congressman also said the Caucus was being proactive in playing a leadership role in the current financial crisis and that Members are still at work this week while the ALC takes place. Meeks, whose wife Simone is heading the CBC spouses activities during the conference, introduced the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Michigan.
Rep. Kilpatrick welcomed the audience to the 2008 ALC and, following the historic theme laid out by her colleagues, noted one of the highlights of the conference will be the black-tie gala on Saturday when the Caucus will honor four Black elected officials who have made history. They are Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), Governor David Paterson of New York, Governor Duval Patrick of Massachusetts and the Speaker of the California State Assembly Karen Bass.
She also took time to reference the deaths of several past members of the Caucus as well as current Members of Congress, including Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio, Rep. Julia Carson of Indiana, and Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald of California. Kilpatrick also recognized some of her fellow Caucus members who were in the audience, including Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Danny Davis (D-IL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-CA), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Donald Payne (D-NJ), and Donna Christensen (D-VI).
The press conference closed out with the presentation of a check for $500,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation from the premier sponsor of this year’s Annual Legislative Conference, Eli Lilly and Company. It marked the first time in the ALC’s history a company has committed the funding required to be designated the premier sponsor of the conference. Mr. Jessie Price represented Lilly and presented the check to the CBCF. In a written statement, Lilly senior vice president and chief financial officer, Derica W. Rice, stated, “The 2008 ALC wills serve as a capstone to another banner year for the CBCF and we are honored to support the Foundation’s efforts around public health, education, leadership development and many other roles that they play in improving the lives of African Americans.”
Lilly is also prominent on the ALC’s exhibit floor, with a new “Working Together for Better Health” booth that will provide information to conference attendees, including the company’s 148 page pocket-sized guide to a healthy lifestyle, “A Healthy You! America’s Guide to Healthy Living.”
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation was established in 1976 as the nonpartisan, not-for-profit public policy research arm of the Congressional Black Caucus, charged with helping to improve the socio-economic conditions of African Americans and other under served communities.