CBC Week Tackles Social-Justice Reform

Lauren Victoria Burke
Signage at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation 44th Annual Legislative Conference at the Washington Convention Center Sept. 24, 2014, in Washington, D.C.
Nicole L. Cvetnic/The Root

If you've never been to CBC Week before, you need to know, first off, that you better have your planning game tight.

Every year in Washington, D.C., at the Washington Convention Center, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation hosts its Annual Legislative Conference, four days of what is, beautifully, way too much important discussion to handle. If you want to understand the federal, state and local policies that affect black communities and discuss solutions to meet those challenges, CBC Week is invaluable. And at what other event can you run into your member of Congress, Power actor Omari Hardwick, the Rev. Al Sharpton and maybe even your mayor, along with the grand basileus of your sorority, all in the same four-day period? 


One of the challenges of the week is that good discussions often happen at the same time, but the good news is, there is usually overlap in the discussions. The better news: Ninety percent of what happens during CBC Week is free. 

This year's theme is justice reform, but the 45th CBC Foundation's ALF, which takes place Sept. 16-20, promises conversations not just about policy and reforming our police departments but also around tech, education, health care, entrepreneurship and more.

It's a lot to digest. So to assist that planning game, here are three key steps to follow: 1) Get the schedule of events; 2) Focus on what is important to you; and 3) Wear comfortable shoes. 

The week will feature a Historically Black College and University Career Fair, hosted by longtime educator and now Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.); a discussion hosted by Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) on increasing diversity in the tech sector; and a discussion on police brutality, hosted by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), that will include Campaign Zero planning-team member Brittany Packnett. 


The first unofficial CBC-related event of the week will kick off 2 p.m. Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol as Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) moderates a discussion with the leaders of all the "Divine Nine" black fraternities and sororities. Every president, grand polaris, grand basileus and grand polemarch will be in attendance for a two-hour discussion on how African Americans are portrayed in the media. 

A panel that has been known to pack the house for CBC Week is hosted by one of the youngest members of the Black Caucus, Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.). "Hip Hop and Politics" focuses on the future of black political activism and new strategies. This year's discussion will take place at 3 p.m. Friday. It will be moderated by NewsOne Now's Roland Martin, and the participants will be Brooklyn, N.Y.-based justice activist Linda Sarsour; Newark, N.J., Mayor Ras Baraka; the Rev. Jamal Bryant; the Rev. Lennox Yearwood; and singer and producer Aziza Lisa. 


This Saturday at 10:30 a.m., there will be a discussion of faith leaders hosted by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who is also a pastor, called "Removing the Confederate Flag Is Simply Not Enough." This session is typically one of the best of the week, and the discussion will focus on the role of the black church in civic activism.

CBC Week ends with an annual gala, and this year's honorees include Juanita Abernathy, organizer of the Montgomery bus boycott; civil rights attorney Fred Gray; North Carolina NAACP President the Rev. William Barber; "Bloody Sunday" organizer Amelia Boynton Robinson, who recently passed; and members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, which organized the building of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, are all expected to attend the dinner on the last night of CBC Week. Follow the events on Twitter at #CBCFALK15.


Lauren Victoria Burke is a Washington, D.C.-based political reporter who writes the Crew of 42 blog. She appears regularly on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin on TV One. Follow her on Twitter

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