Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson and her North Carolina colleague G.K. Butterfield formally kicked off the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference Wednesday with a media briefing at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in northwest D.C.
The two Democrats, who are co-chairs of this year’s event, touted the theme of the annual conference, “400 Years, Our Legacy, Our Possibilities.”
The five-day gathering counts as the CBCF’s leading policy conference on issues impacting African Americans and the global black community.
From Sept. 11-15, thought leaders, legislators, grassroots organizers, influencers and celebrities, will participate in various forums and discussions.
Some of the anticipated highlights include a Sojourner Truth town hall, an Emerging Leaders power luncheon, a student workshop, a Commission on Black Men and Boys, a gospel extravaganza; the Sojourner Truth Women’s Leadership Reception and the annual Phoenix Awards presentation and celebration.
“You will see the fruits of the [CBCF’s] labor as this week goes on,” Butterfield said during the opening press conference.
The congressman said the theme of the conference is crucial because it reminds African Americans of their history.
“In 1619, the first Africans landed … 12.5 million African citizens were shipped across the seas, and some 600,000 ended up on southern plantations,” Butterfield said. “This was before the U.S. Constitution. On March 4, 1789, at that very moment, there were 700,000 slaves in the south. There was a provision in the Constitution that protected slave trades for at least 20 years.
“The original Constitution said the trans-shipment of slaves could exist at least another 20 years and no amendment could change that,” he said. “1808 was the first date Congress could address the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
“Slavery did not end — only the trans-Atlantic trade ended in 1808,” Butterfield said. “The number of slaves residing in the U.S. continued to increase. In 1865, there were 4 million slaves. After the Civil War, the 13th Amendment was passed and that, not the Emancipation Proclamation, officially ended slavery in America. So we’re going not to celebrate, not commemorate, but observe the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of Africans in America.”
Meanwhile, Wilson said she was particularly excited about the Phoenix Awards and the prayer breakfast that will include a concert by world-renowned gospel artist Yolanda Adams.
On Saturday, a prayer breakfast featuring Yolanda Adams and the annual Phoenix Awards Dinner stand out as highlights.
The conference concludes on Sunday with a Donald M. Payne Fellowship Cruise.
“We will have different workshops that talk about the future, like the one on technology and jobs of the future for our emerging leaders,” Wilson said. “There are a lot of disparities in health and wellness, and we’ll be talking about that. I’m proud to say that we’re be honoring our exonerated five – the Central Park Five with the Phoenix Award.
“And, for me as chair, it’s a privilege to honor the Rev. Al Sharpton, our overall winner for the entire Congressional Black Caucus,” she said. “He’ll receive a Phoenix award, too. The conference will be exciting.”