Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s ‘CBC Week’ returns to D.C. after two years of COVID-19
Thousands are attending the week-long conference in Washington, D.C. which includes panels and receptions hosted by CBC members, businesses and various organizations.
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference is officially underway for in-person events for the first time in two years. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the annual conference, also known as CBC Week, from taking place.
Thousands of participants from across the country are attending the week-long conference in Washington, D.C. which includes panels and receptions hosted by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, businesses and various organizations. CBCF Week, where policy discussions focus on various issues impacting Black communities, is considered one of the most important and most attended policy events in the nation’s capital.
Darren Peters, a former staffer for both of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns and the founder of the lobbying firm, the Peter Damon Group, told theGrio this is his 20th year participating in CBC Week. Peters, who also worked for the Clinton administration, said he finds it “inspiring” each year to see Black people from the “powerful elite” to “everyday folks” come together across the city for CBCF’s conference events.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to experience CBC in a number of capacities,” said Peters. “To come to this place as a young Black man and see all this Black power and influence and elegance — it was just a critical driver in making me feel like I need to be here.”
After two years of not having in-person events, he sees this year’s conference as an opportunity to address a number of critical issues, including the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 in Black communities, voting rights, social justice, and financial literacy, particularly the rise of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. While many are excited about CBC Week returning to in-person activity, Peters also noted that there are also virtual events for those who aren’t able to attend.
“I’m really excited about the fellowship and the human connection that the annual legislative conference can bring after so many years away,” said Cameron Trimble, former director of digital engagement at the Biden-Harris White House.
Trimble, who is now an executive vice president at Precision, a political strategy and marketing agency, said he is looking forward to some of the forums, including the annual hip-hop and politics panel hosted by U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., that features hip-hop mogul Damon Dash. He’s also looking forward to attending this year’s Phoenix Awards, where President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver remarks.
While CBC Week is primarily about facilitating substantive policy discussions, it’s also a week of several parties and mixers. Trimble recalled attending the annual Alabama Power Party, where he was able to meet his “hip-hop hero” Big Boi of Outkast. He recalled another time meeting Lonnie Johnson, the inventor of the Super Soaker, and getting a chance to “pick his brain for a little bit” – something he said was “very cool” having played with Super Soakers as a kid in Cleveland, Ohio.
This year, Trimble attended a mixer toasting Black journalists hosted by Crooked Media’s Shaniqua McClendon, HIT Strategies founder Terrance Woodbury and political commentator Richard Fowler. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was a special guest and CBC members Reps. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., and Shontel Brown, D-Ohio.
“Getting to see so many different people and see Black excellence at the highest level, not just in politics, but in business and social and entertainment, all kind of mix and mingle, it kind of just fills me with joy every time I think about it,” said Trimble.
This year’s CBC Week comes as the Congressional Black Caucus celebrates its highest membership since its founding (58), several of whom currently chair House committees on Capitol Hill.
“They represent so many people, not just Black folks, but they represent the entire country as the conscience of the Congress,” said Trimble. “And with such a strong and large delegation in the CBC this year, they have that much more influence on shaping policy, shaping laws, but also offering a guiding light for Congress as a whole to continue to keep America on its moral center.”
U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., who celebrated her first annual CBCF conference this year as a member of Congress, hosted a panel on Wednesday that focused on the impact of police violence on Black mental health. One of its participants included Lezley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shot and killed by Ferguson, Missouri police in 2014.
On Tuesday ahead of her panel, Congresswoman Bush introduced a House bill, the Helping Families Heal Act, which is considered first-of-its-kind legislation to fund mental health resources, including family and school services, to support those who have encountered police violence. Bush, who collaborated on the bill with McSpadden, said the bill has been in the works for years.
Last year broke the record for the number of police-involved killings with 1,055 deaths in the United States. Congresswoman Bush’s office noted in a press release staggering data that claims that the mental health impact of police violence contributes to “50 million additional days of poor mental health per year among Black Americans.”
Bush said this year’s conference is important for members of Congress to be able to “meet face to face with people” and tackle crucial policy concerns that directly affect Black Americans. She also believes the week’s events can aid in expanding the circle of “up and coming Black political leaders.”
Mary Francis Berry, the former head of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, noted that CBC Week comes just a few weeks before the Nov. 8 midterm elections, giving candidates an opportunity to have face time with voters. “They should come and speak,” said Berry, who noted polling that finds that the top issues for the Black community are the economy and crime.
She also said the economic challenges for Black farmers should be high on the priority list of topics for CBC Week after a lawsuit halted plans to provide debt relief for them through funding from last year’s Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act.
After participating in a CBC panel on Thursday hosted by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., famed music executive and activist Kevin Liles said these final weeks ahead of the midterms are crucial in energizing Black voters to show up at the polls. “I will be out there fighting every single day,” he said. “It’s do or die.”
Congressman Jeffries, standing alongside Liles, said “everything is on the ballot.”
TheGrio’s Gerren Keith Gaynor contributed to this report.
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