This week I plan to drink more than normal, stay out later than I should, put on more makeup than I’d normally bother with and wear dresses that I only wear around this time of the year.
If you’re not from D.C., you might not get it, but once a year, bougie black people and aspiring bougie black people from all over the nation converge on the now Not-So-Chocolate City to socialize among their own kind, reveling in their own self-appointed gloriousness of having degrees while tossing back free alcohol at parties they most certainly were not invited to.
These are black America’s “best and brightest,” now dressed in their finest, dropping down and hitting that “nae nae.” Which is just dandy, because everyone knows that when you drop that nae nae with your graduate degrees, it looks more sophisticated. And degrees also improve twerking—twerking while having papers is pretty much the Bavarian waltz. Those degrees and elaborate job titles class everything up, no matter how low you plan to go with your CBCF debauchery.
Of course, getting bougie-black-day-party wasted wasn’t the original purpose of the CBC’s legislative conference. It’s supposed to be about the free exchange of ideas to figure out how we can move forward as a people on an economic, political and policy level.
In theory: In other words, it’s about black progress.
And in some respects—if you actually go to the workshops and meetings—it still is. Big things are supposed to happen. Important strategies are to be discussed. But for quite a few people—who don’t bother to purchase tickets to the convention center and just sneak in to the book fair so they can stalk author-actor Hill Harper (or so I’ve heard), CBCF ALC week is about seeing people and being seen, preferably at the parties everyone wants desperately to get into.
Like Essence’s annual Evening of Excellence—a party I’ve both been legitimately invited to and legitimately talked my way into in various years. And lying your way into this party is pretty much the running of the bulls of party crashing—only, all the people crushing into each other at the gate are wearing three-piece suits, pretending like they’re on some kind of list and were all accidentally left off via “computer error.”
But while you’ll always find critics for the CBC week’s slippery slide into “Old People Reliving College,” you likely won’t find the city of D.C. complaining. According to Destination DC, the annual legislative conference and all that partying have an estimated direct economic impact of $10.9 million, generating $2.2 million in local taxes. Also, more than 18,500 hotel rooms get booked all over the city.
All those bougie black dollars make sense—and cents—so the city is more than happy to play host to your entrepreneurial Uncle Rodney, who came all the way to D.C. to attend one solitary workshop on black business ownership before attending eleventy-billion cocktail hours.
So even if you wind up with myriad people partying with no purpose whatsoever while swearing that they’re partying for a higher purpose than free food and alcohol, someone actually does get something out of all of it. Just don’t try to fool yourself into thinking there’s a greater cause to any party sponsored by (insert brand name of) second-rate fruit-flavor-infused vodka. You can say it’s about encouraging legislative policies that further black entrepreneurship, but no one’s going to remember all that over the sound of liquor flowing.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, to your mission, they’ll mutter when you briefly turn off the music to do your 30-second race-man spiel. Now pass the cup.
(Editor's note: In response to this article Shrita D. Sterlin-Hernandez, Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation sent this letter to the editor of The Root:
I am writing to raise strong objections and concerns over your outlet’s attempt to trivialize the purpose of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Incorporated 44th Annual Legislative Conference (ALC).
It is true that the mood is celebratory when a diverse group of entrepreneurs, professionals, academics, lawmakers, students and faith leaders gather together for ALC every year. But the work of our organization and its annual conference is serious. With more than 70 issue forums, panels, a National Town Hall, and an Emerging Leaders Town Hall, ALC is where we share ideas, experiences and best practices to empower individuals to become positive agents for change in their home communities. And contrary to your suggestion, there is only one official ALC “party”, The Black Party, and even that event serves as a way to recognize our emerging leaders, and provide them with the opportunity to network in a relaxed environment.
We are aware, however, that several organizations, The Root included, take advantage of the ALC audience by planning their own parties, which are in no way affiliated with the CBCF. Finally, ALC enables us to fulfill our mission: to advance the global black community by developing leaders, informing policy, and educating the public. To learn more about the CBCF mission and programs as well as our positive impact on black communities, view our 2013 annual report online.)