LOS ANGELES – On Tuesday, the Congressional Black Caucus took its “For the People” Jobs Initiative to Los Angeles, California, hosting the last of five town halls at a church in the Crenshaw neighborhood.
The event stretched well past its two hour time limit, with members of Congress and Rev. Jesse Jackson spending more than an hour and a half giving opening statements, followed by remarks and a rendition of the National Anthem by R&B singer/actor Tyrese Gibson.
Several CBC members lavished praise on Rep. Maxine Waters, who represents the district, and who has garnered national attention for her criticism of President Obama and what she has called the White House’s failure to focus on the higher rates of black unemployment.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) called Waters “the real deal,” and CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) renamed Los Angeles as “the City of Maxlangeles.”
Other members spoke at length about Waters, the CBC’s history and goals, and their own concerns about high rates of joblessness in African-American communities, including New Orleans area Rep. Cedric Richmond, California Reps Laura Richardson and Karen Bass, Rep. Al Green of Texas and Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson.
For her part, Waters used the evening to reiterate the priorities she wants to see Washington, and the White House specifically, focus on: “targeted” jobs programs aimed at struggling black communities, infrastructure programs that will produce jobs, a “national housing trust fund” to shore up homeowners and protect low income housing, and “going after the banks” on Wall Street who she said are to blame for the financial collapse of 2007.
Referring to the CBC’s main opponents on Capitol Hill, Waters said, “they don’t want me to say this word tonight, but I’m gonna say it anyway, The tea party … are opposed” to the CBC’s proposals. At the mention of the words “tea party,” the crowd inside the Crenshaw Christian Center erupted in loud boos.
“We can’t sit back and say ‘we can’t get it done’ because they are opposed,” Waters continued. “Many of these people represent districts that are rural and mining communities that are as poor as some of our districts. But they keep [their voters] distracted with who’s burning the flag and other issues.”
Waters pointed to what she deemed the hypocrisy of those rural districts benefiting from ideas their conservative congresspeople, and sometimes they themselves, oppose. “A lot of people get the advantages [of government spending] without making their representatives do anything.”
She exhorted the crowd to stand up to the tea party Republicans and press for a comprehensive jobs program out of Washington.
“We’ve got to be about the fight,” she said. “We’ve got to stand up and we’ve got to look them in the eye and we’ve got to back them down!”
On Wednesday, the CBC’s “For the People” jobs initiative concludes with a daylong job fair at the same venue.
The Los Angeles events are the last stop in the caucus’ five-city tour, which launched last week in Cleveland, Ohio August 8th, followed by stops in Detroit, Atlanta and Miami.
The tour is intended to promote a CBC-sponsored jobs resolution (H. Res 348) calling for a comprehensive national initiative to create jobs in struggling communities. The resolution was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in July. The resolution has yet to come to the floor.
When it was his turn to speak Tuesday, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan called on the crowd to march with CBC members to the White House next month.
“We want the president on our side,” Conyers said. “So we’re meeting at a jobs rally at the White House .. on September 20th, to let him know that we want him with us on a jobs program.”
The CBC holds its annual legislative conference September 21-24, and the president is slated to speak at the event’s closing banquet on September 24th,
President Obama is expected to announce his own jobs plan in a speech to the nation next week.