All the joints in D.C. jump when tens of thousands of Black elected officials, professionals, business and industry leaders, celebrities, and media operators and owners come to town. Black America's "Leadership" recently converged in the nation's capital for rites associated with the Congressional Black Caucus' 42nd Annual Legislative Conference [ALC].
"Black Caucus Weekend" is an annual African-American power confab. The ALC is the nation's premier Black political gathering. For more than four decades, the four-day weekend in September has been a time when Black men and women put their race's political interests "front and center" in the nation's seat of political power. In addition to its lofty political and legislative goals around "Black issues", the ALC Weekend is a "series of top-shelf parties." An open bar guarantees standing room only at events major corporations and government agencies sponsor and pick up the tab for guests' food and drink. As a result, over the years, the legislative weekend has taken on a highly social character with parties, fashion shows and networking.
Back in the 1970s, "Black Caucus Weekend's" lore was formed. The four-day bash continued again this year when the nation's Black Intelligentsia gathered for the 42nd rite of ALC issue forums and brain trusts. "Black Caucus Weekend" is actually designed to highlight the mission and accomplishments of the Congressional Black Caucus [CBC] and its 42 members. Coined "the conscious of the Congress" the Congressional Black Caucus was formed in 1971. The current 42 members are comprised of 40 Democrats and two Republicans, all in the House of Representatives.
The engine behind the ALC events is the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which was formed in 1976. First Lady Michelle Obama was there to deliver the Phoenix Awards Dinner's keynote address. The theme was "Inspiring Leaders/Building Generations." U.S. Reps. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin and Andre Carson of Indiana were honorary co-chairs. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. [CBCF] is a public policy, research and educational off-shoot of the CBC that aims to help the socioeconomic circumstances of African Americans. The CBCF bills ALC events as "one of the most important gatherings of African-American leaders." ALC events bring diverse organizations together to collectively discuss common issues and concerns. Programs included workshops, seminars and information forums on relevant topics that capture and portray the concerns of African Americans.
There's no question that the ALCs are "celebrations" of, and for, Black leadership. This year, "Black Caucus Weekend" again had people that you often see on the pages of Ebony and Jet in attendance at the numerous policy forums, general sessions, exhibit showcase, job fair and book signings. The "Prayer Breakfast" is a major ALC staple. The event honored gospel artist Kim Burrell. Throughout the weekend, over 10,000 urban, political leaders and corporate leaders attended scores of functions across the city. The CBCF recognized Trayvon Martin case litigants; while guests boogied at the Roland Martin "Ascot Affair and CBC Dinner Afterparty"; Black Press Party; Maxine Waters' Gala; and the Black Republicans' reception at the Heritage Foundation to welcome former Democratic Alabama Rep. Aurtur Davis to their fold.
Some say that Black Caucus celebrants are lost in purpose and mission. To bring some perspective to the hoot and hollering that's done about "Blacks' Importance" at ALCs, Jewish-Americans who comprise less than six percent of the nation's population have 10 more seats in the halls of Congress than do Black Americans. There is little question that while Blacks strut about the capital's party scene, Jewish issues still get far more attention and priority status "on the Hill."
"Black Caucus Weekend" is evolving. The legendary parties have been toned down. The ALC now features less glitz, more gravitas. Corporations that once competed for the most lavish fete have scaled back. And the "over-the-top" fashion show has completely disappeared.
Under Dr. Elsie L. Scott, the CBCF expanded community outreach, continued to educate youth and fund scholarships. Scott announced during the ALC that she is stepping down as president and CEO.
(William Reed is publisher of Who's Who in Black Corporate America and available for projects via the Bailey Group.org)