CBCF's New Leader Plans for 'Flawless Execution'

Denise Rolark-Barnes | 9/11/2013, 3 p.m.
A. Shuanise Washington’s first impression of the Congressional Black Caucus came when she was a teenager.
A. Shuanise Washington, President and CEO, CBCF (Courtesy photo)

A. Shuanise Washington’s first impression of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) came when she was a teenager. On a visit to the District with her dad, who was an educator, she met Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy, D.C.’s first non-voting member of Congress and a founding member of the CBC. “I didn’t fully appreciate it then, but it was a special encounter,” she said. Fauntroy gave her his autograph, which she still keeps in a safe place in her home in Mitchellville, Md.

The Columbia, S.C., native would go on to attend the University of South Carolina and establish a successful career as a corporate executive at Altria Corporate Services, Inc. (the parent company of Philip Morris USA). While there, she not only followed the progress of the CBC but also helped to establish a vital partnership between the organization’s non-profit arm, the CBC Foundation and Altria.

Washington successfully climbed the corporate ladder to become vice president of external affairs at Altria before retiring after 22 years. Her commitment to the CBCF continued as she helped steer significant financial support to the organization resulting in Altria becoming its first major corporate sponsor. Altria’s philanthropy propelled Washington on the CBCF Board of Directors, first as treasurer and later as vice president.

The relationship she built spanning more than two decades is one which Washington is extremely proud. Receiving corporate donations -- and sizeable ones at that -- is the pursuit of nearly every non-profit organization. For Washington, who believed in the CBCF’s mission, “it was also a pleasure to work for a company [Altria] that understood its commitment to the community and shared my passion for the CBCF mission,” which is to advance the global black community by developing leaders, informing policy and educating the public.

Founded in 1976, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy, research and educational institute that aims to help improve the socioeconomic circumstances of African Americans and other underserved communities. With the support of the African American members of Congress, which today total 46, the CBCF develops programs and research to address public health concerns, economic empowerment and health disparities.

Fellowship and internship programs expose African American students and professionals to public policy and public service opportunities on Capitol and in state and federal governments.

Yet, it was still a surprise when Washington retired in 2008, at age 45, to pursue a career as an entrepreneur – so much so that the CBCF came knocking on her door following the resignation of Dr. Elsie Scott, who served as CBCF’s president and CEO from 2006-2012. Scott left to assume leadership of the newly established Ron W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center at Howard University and Washington was nominated for the vacant post at CBCF.

She had started Washington Solutions, LLC, a consulting firm that provided management and development services to small, medium and large businesses, governments and non-profit organizations. “I wasn’t looking for a job, but I prayed on it,” Washington said. “I’m prayerful about every decision.”