The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation welcomed thousands to the nation’s capital for the 45th Annual Legislative Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. For five days the ALC 15 featured a bevy of speakers from the worlds of politics, entertainment, and journalism discussing a myriad of topics.
With this year’s theme — With Liberty and Justice for All? — the rhetorical question hung in the air due to the recent tensions between African-Americans and the police. That, combined with the tense political climate created by the rapidly approaching end to President Barack Obama’s second term and an increasingly hostile GOP, Congressional Black Caucus members have elevated their role in representing the legislative concerns of their constituents.
The event began with CBC members serving as honorary hosts across several panels and roundtable discussions for the day. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL, 20th District), Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX, 18th District), Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA, 2nd District), Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY, 8th District), Rep. Terri Swell (D-AL, 7th District), Rep. Keith Ellison (MN, 5th District), and Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI, 14th District) all served as hosts on the opening day.
A common set of themes from throughout the conference focused on jobs, growing the economy, the representation of black voices in the media, women’s rights, and the spate of violent incidents involving young black people and their treatment by police.
On Thursday, Sept. 17, in the packed WCC Ballroom, NewsOne Now’s Roland Martin served as moderator for the National Town Hall entitled “Black Lives Matter: Ending Racial Profiling, Police Brutality, and Mass Incarceration.” As expected, it was one of the most well-attended talks of the conference and Martin kept the panelists and attendees on task.
Another robust discussion took place for Diversity in Tech Hub’s “The Missing Link: African American Including in the Technology Sector”. Hosted by CBC Chair Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC, 1st District), the discussion also featured moderator and Rebuild The Dream President Van Jones, with an address from Rep. Butterfield and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson.
Rev. Jackson’s speech to attendees was especially candid as the longtime activist spoke of his Rainbow PUSH Coalition efforts to obtain data from Google, Facebook, and Twitter to confront their record on diversity hiring and lack of black representation in its boardrooms. Rev. Jackson stated that considering the robust numbers involving people of color using the tools presented by technology giants should also provide a bridge of deeper collaboration.
Another riveting conversation was the “Where Are The Jobs For African Americans: A Discussion on Infrastructure, Workforce Development and Opportunity” panel. Hosted by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL, 24th District), the panelists hailed from several levels of business, all of them stressing that growth in the workforce comes largely from prospective employees obtaining the skills needed for the impending jobs, and hiring agencies looking to express what their needs are so that young people can tailor their academic path to meet demand.