The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), the public policy arm of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), kicks off its Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) today in the nation’s capital. The ALC is the largest annual gathering of Black elected officials, public policy analysts and academicians in the nation, and attracts tens of thousands of citizens from across the country to engage in a wide range of policy discussions. This year marks the ALC’s 40th annual gathering and the chairperson of the conference is Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ). This year’s conference takes place against the backdrop of an upcoming midterm election forecast as difficult for incumbent Democrats in the House of Representatives and a number of House investigations of Black members of Congress.
The conference kicks off this morning with a National Town Hall Meeting on the theme “Educating Our Way to Prosperity” in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. CBC member Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) will moderate the forum along with Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, president of Global Policy Solutions. The forum will feature two panels, with several CBC members on each, along with such luminaries as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Dr. James P. Comer of Yale University, National Urban League CEO Marc Morial, and Jane Oates, the Assistant Secretary of Labor in the Employment and Training Department. The focus of the two panels is Education and the Future Job Outlook.
Later today Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI) will host a forum on wellness titled, “Food Deserts: Growing Healthy Choices in Urban America” at 2:00 pm in Room 146A in the Washington Convention Center. The focus of the forum is to provide participants with ideas and information to increase access to nutritious food choices in traditionally underserved areas. Panelists include Dr. Oran B. Hesterman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Fair Food Network; Dr. Jeremy Nowak, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Reinvestment Fund; Ms. Taja Sevelle, Executive Director, Urban Farming; Ms. Makani Themba-Nixon, Executive Director of The Praxis Project and Director of Communities Creating Healthy Environments; and Ms. Mildred Thompson, Senior Director, PolicyLink. Dr. Terrence Fullum, Director of Minimally Invasive General Surgery and Bariatric Surgery at Howard University Hospital and Associate Professor of Surgery at Howard University College of Medicine, will serve as moderator. In announcing the forum, Rep. Kilpatrick said, “Increasing the availability of healthy, locally-grown foods in urban communities is a critical step toward building healthy families, vibrant neighborhoods, and a stronger economy.”
Today’s conference schedule also features a book signing of the 40th anniversary edition of the late Rep. Shirley Chisholm’s autobiography, Unbought and Unbossed, with editor Scott Simpson and political consultant Donna Brazile and Shona Lynch in the Author’s Pavilion in the Washington Convention Center. The book chronicles the rise of Ms. Chisholm from her Brooklyn, New York roots to her trailblazing role as the nation’s first Black woman in Congress and a candidate for President of the United States in 1972. The book-signing event will feature a question and answer session, beginning at 2 pm.
The ALC is a three-day event that brings together Black Members of Congress, their constituents and a wide range of intellectuals in workshops and panels focused on some of the pressing issues facing the Black community. As economic statistics paint a grim reality for Black Americans, this year’s conference takes on added importance with Black lawmakers struggling to advance a progressive agenda on Capitol Hill. President Barack Obama will appear at the black tie gala on Saturday night, as he has the last two years, to deliver largely partisan remarks before a mostly Democratic audience. The President will aim to fire up party loyalists this year with some polls indicating the Democratic Party may be at risk of losing their majority in Congress. President Obama will bring his message to the conference at a time when some CBC members have been critical of the administration’s lack of focus on a targeted economic recovery program for Blacks who are experiencing long-term joblessness.
In the backdrop of the 2010 ALC are the House investigations of several high profile and senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA). The House trial of Rep. Rangel, who just beat back his most serious primary challenge in his tenure in Congress, will bring unwanted attention on Democrats as the party tries to fend off a Republican takeover in November. Rangel, who has already surrendered his position as chairperson of the powerful Committee on Ways and Means, has resisted efforts to settle the ethics charges, related to New York rental property and a vacation residence. Likewise, Rep. Maxine Waters indicated she is prepared to wage a vigorous defense. With two of the CBC’s most vocal members under investigation there has been some suggestion that the inquiries are politically motivated although that allegation is harder to legitimize with a Democratic presidential administration and a Democratic majority in Congress.
All of the workshops and forums for this year’s ALC will take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center at 801 Mount Vernon Place, NW.