For the first time since the Obama administration left office and subsequently moved most of the chocolate and reasonable, left-brain thinking out of the White House, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 47th Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., is upon us. It all starts Wednesday.
In the past, CBC annual events were a time of black celebration—and education. They were essentially a gathering of black excellence; workshops and serious policy talk in the front, and bougie, black line-dancing in the back. For every panel on “The Danger of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Era of the Trump Administration” is a raised glass of Remy in tribute to the fact that Cardi B no longer dances but can make money move.
The CBCs of the past have essentially been the grown-up cotillions for Jack and Jill parents, policy wonks and politicos. Oh, how we all long for the free-flowing Obama years in which the tradition of trying to find the popping party was all to be worried about. But, my, how times have changed.
In the depressing Republican Trumpian movie that has become our now, the clouds have rolled in, the thunder has cracked and the ominous sounds of a broken cello play off in the distance. This year’s CBC conference is the first under a would-be dictator’s regime that’s changed the unspoken mantra of “the party with a purpose” feel of CBCs past into a “purpose, and maybe a few parties” of the present.
C.J. Epps, vice president of marketing and communications for the CBCF, assures me that the foundation’s mission hasn’t changed despite the gloomy darkness surrounding the Trump administration.
“The mission of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Inc. is to advance the global black community by developing leaders, informing policy and educating the public,” Epps told The Root. “Actually, our position and commitment to our mission hasn’t changed at all. We are dedicated to it now more than ever. If anything, we are more vigilant in our efforts. This is why this year’s Annual Legislative Conference is so important. The 47th ALC comes at a pivotal time for us all.”
This is a unique time for a gathering of black elite. Currently, America is seemingly teetering on the edge of a race war. Unarmed black bodies are still falling in the streets, and cops are still walking free with their pensions intact. Protests are currently raging in St. Louis after a white cop was found not guilty in the death of an unarmed black man. And, at the time of this post, President Donald Trump has yet to even acknowledge that any of this is happening.
Congress passed legislation demanding that he speak out against racist hate groups. While Trump has been apt to vomit all over Twitter, he’s had trouble calling white male hate by its name. This might arguably be the most divisive, xenophobic, hate-filled administration for which there’s an actual fact-filled argument that the president of the United States not only emboldens white supremacy but actually abides by white supremacist beliefs.
So the assembly of some of black America’s finest in the nation’s capital isn’t just a moment to show up and show out; it’s a chance to capture some of the concrete thinking on how to handle a bumbling administration that has made at least this one point clear: It doesn’t care about us. Not even a lil bit.
“This year we have to come together as a community, and as a country, to work together,” Epps said. “Our forums and sessions will focus on civic engagement, civil rights, foreign affairs, national security, and our core pillars—education, health and wellness, economic empowerment and the environment.
“Additionally, this year at the ALC, we will bring attention to the continued need for social and economic sustainability in the African-American community,” Epps added. “Given the recent events in Charlottesville, St. Louis and other events, the time is now to discuss these issues and come up with effective policy solutions.”
Epps continued: “While we all enjoy having a good time, while we are all gathered, and we will have a number of notable[s] in attendance, this year’s theme, ‘And Still I Rise,’ recognizes the impact and legacy of resilience needed to rise above continued racial inequalities faced by African-American communities. This year, we certainly have a lot to critically examine, and to celebrate, with that in mind.”
So, maybe this year, we collectively agree to drink a little less, dance a little softer and attend more than one panel so that we can get back to the business of tearing down the administration that racism built.
“I do believe that this year, more than any other year, we will have critical discussions on a myriad of social, economic and policy issues, all happening simultaneously, and all real and relevant to African Americans and the global black Diaspora,” Epps said. “The conference is absolutely needed, this year and beyond. Our focus goes beyond one individual or one leader.”