In what has become a Washington, DC tradition, the nation’s Black members of Congress, will convene their Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) this week but this year against the backdrop of the nation’s first Black President serving in the White House. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), the research and policy arm of the Congressional Black Caucus, will host a four-day conference at the Washington Convention Center that will feature some of the nation’s leading Black political leaders and figures from the entertainment, sports and cultural arenas. This year’s conference is the 39th gathering of the nation’s Black lawmakers.
Kicking off this year’s will be an event that has historical roots for the Congressional Black Caucus dating back to when its conference took place on the grounds of the Capitol. On Wednesday, the CBCF will host a “Hill Day Summit” that will include panels on career and professional development, and government procurement opportunities. The centerpiece of the day will be an “Opportunities for All – Pathways Out of Poverty Summit” that is scheduled from 9:30 am until 2:00 pm in the new Capitol Visitors Center Auditorium in the Capitol.
In announcing the summit, Dr. Elsie Scott, president and chief executive officer of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, said, “With this Summit, we hope to discuss the question of an intersection of race and poverty, redefine poverty as it currently impacts today’s communities and discuss federal solutions for disrupting the poverty pipeline.” The summit comes just one week after new poverty data was released by the Bureau of the Census that shows nearly one-quarter of all Blacks are living in poverty, and that Blacks trail on most economic indicators. Combined with Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly data over the last year that revealed exceptionally high rates of unemployment for Black men and youth, the effect of poverty on Black households is tremendous. It leads to many negative trends in the African-American community, from high dropout rates for high school students to high rates of incarceration among Black youth. The CBCF’s decision to launch this year’s ALC on the topic of poverty is an indication of the degree to which economic disparities are limiting opportunities for Black Americans.
The poverty summit has a stellar lineup of panelists, starting with the first panel on re-defining poverty that will feature Angele Glover Blackwell of PolicyLink, Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, noted political scientist Dr. Ron Walters of the University of Maryland, and Robin Talbert from the AARP Foundation.
Coming behind the first panel is one that features four members of President Obama’s cabinet, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. This panel will speak from their perspectives as heads of federal government agencies and look at federal solutions to poverty.
Rounding out the summit will be a panel that will look at the Congressional Black Caucus’ “Opportunities for All –Pathways out of Poverty Agenda.” It will include Marc Morial, the CEO of the National Urban League, Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs, Majora Carter of the Majora Carter Group, Ben Jealous, CEO of the NAACP, and Malaak Compton Rock of the Angel Rock Project. Following this panel, Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) will host a forum on “Exploring Minority Business Opportunities within the Federal Government” in Room S-208 in the Visitors Room of the Capitol Visitors Center. The last forum of the day “Working on Capitol Hill – Information Session & Resume Drop-Off will take place in Room 1100 in the Longworth House Office Building.