Ask U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, what’s on his mind for 2018 and he’ll get directly to the point: 218 seats. That’s the number of seats the Democrats need to really throw its weight around to do the things its members want to achieve over the next two years.
“We’ve always been the conscience of the Congress,” he said. “But, more than anything, we have our heads down working to make sure we get the House back. You can’t govern, you can’t do minimum wage, you can’t do equal pay, you can’t do criminal justice reform, you can’t do anything if you don’t have 218 votes.”
As the CBC begins its 48th Annual Legislative Conference on Wednesday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the theme will be “Courage, Resilience, Leadership and Legislation.” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) will be this year’s headliners. U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) is chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation board of directors. This week’s schedule features some of up-and-coming black political stars. Three African Americans—Stacey Abrams of Georgia, Florida’s Andrew Gillum and Ben Jealous of Maryland—who have real shots at becoming the first black governors of their states, are expected to be in D.C.
(The Root is the official media sponsor of the CBCF’s Annual Legislative Conference).
Many of the panels will focus on attaining political power, strengthening already-powerful coalitions and brainstorming on how to better capitalize on political gains made over the years. Not all of the sessions will be purely political. Several include discussions on tech-related issues like blockchain and many more address health issues in the black community, like challenging stigmas around HIV/AIDS. Also, look out for panels off-site, including one Wednesday on combating voter suppression that will be moderated by Women’s March co-president Tamika D. Mallory at 12 p.m. at New Bethel Baptist Church, in Washington, D.C.
Given how Donald Trump’s xenophobic presidency has waged serious attacks against undocumented immigrants, environmental and criminal justice and voting rights—all things that deal with black Americans’ humanity—there will be no shortage of panels addressing any of the aforementioned issues. California U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters is leading a panel on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ dangerous criminal justice policies.
U.S. Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) has arguable been one of Trump’s most fierce opponent. Green, who has filed articles of impeachment against Trump, told The Root that the CBC needs to drive home legislation that takes on racial injustice.
“I’m going to focus on the racism and the bigotry that still exists in this country,” he said. “And we have to talk about it. We cannot assume that if we fight poverty, unemployment and healthcare that in and of itself will address bigotry. You’ve got to have a bigotry agenda.”