Congressional Black Caucus celebrates 43rd year

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By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

To state that 2013 is a pivotal year in Black history is an understatement.  We are celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation; the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, the 100th Anniversary of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; and the 43rd year of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Converging on Washington, DC this weekend are elected officials, community activists, businessmen and women, as well as artists, activists, rank and file community members – all there for one main purpose:  setting the agenda for African-Americans (and people of African heritage) for the next year.

New Yorkers in the Borough of Brooklyn were fortunate to have free buses provided to bring down those interested in attending workshops, sponsored by congressional members Yvette Clarke, Hakeem Jeffries and Assemblyman Walter Moseley, so they could learn firsthand about what the caucus is about and participate in the many events that centered around the programs.

For those who think the Congressional Black Caucus is about partying, has never attended the Brain Trusts, workshops and forums their congressional members have diligently assembled to provide participants with cutting-edge information.  Prodigious research goes into the selection of topic, speakers, experts, as well as reading material and collaterals that will be distributed to their audiences.

This year is no different.  With over 80 workshops being presented in an atmosphere where African-Americans’ voting rights are under siege by the Supreme Court; our education, employment and health under siege by the Republicans; where economic downturn and foreclosure/housing crises still plague the Black community, the CBC attempts to address and resolve those issues, or at least to provide a means by which solutions can be established.

This is also the beginning of registration and implementation for Health Care Reform, also called ObamaCare.  The increased opportunity for those who have been deprived of health insurance was very much on the agenda of the caucus, as more than seventeen (17) workshops are devoted to every aspect of health challenges as well as wellness options.

Also, uppermost on the mind of the caucus is the future of Africa – our Motherland – and developing alliances with African leaders as well as African communities throughout the continent.  Congresswoman Karen Bass’ blue-ribbon panel comprised of participants from Africa and the US, was empaneled  to  focus on what  continues to drive the problems in the Congo, Sudan and other areas, as well as what works and what needs to be done to expand the opportunities and options for future growth and development.

Co-conveners of the Health and Wellness Workshops were  Congressman Gregory Meeks, Donna F. Edwards, Barbara Lee, Marcia L. Fudge (DST), Elijah E. Cummings, James Clyburn, among others.  With the advent of ObamaCare, challenges like diabetes, kidney problems, arthritis, cancer and access to cutting-edge medical interventions may soon be a thing of the past.  Preventative measures – myths and realities – were also part of the focus of the health forums.

Housing and homeownership were also uppermost on the mind of the caucus, as so many African-Americans suffered the loss of their homes through an economic downturn that would have been turned around had it not been for the rapacious behavior and antagonistic actions of a Republican Congress that apparently has little, to no, respect for our lives, education or existence.  NACA – the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America – provided a forum for first-time homebuyers as well as those who are facing foreclosure – with more than 400 people crowding into a room that was designed to accommodate 300.

Education and employment addressed the future of college graduates, the challenges families face in affording education, the need for more relevant educational programs for high school students, as well as the danger HBCU’s face with the dual crisis of underfunding forcing our colleges into bankruptcy, as well as the trend toward newly appointed presidents (also known as “trojan horses”) deliberately being hired to systematically dismantle them (Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, NY just emerged from such a challenge).  There are several other colleges facing the same problems, including Lincoln University, PA, and Morris Brown University, Atlanta, GA  – necessitating the focus of the caucus as well as constituents, whether they attended those schools or not, to focus on the protection and preservation of  these historical legacies which provided higher education at a time when Black people were refused admission to mainstream educational centers.

Challenges to our voting rights and the resolution of a stalemated Congress, with Republicans holding the rest of Congress hostage with their co-called sequestration and blockage of funding for essential programs, should give you a pretty good idea of what the CBC are up against as they negotiate and legislate in our best interest.

It goes to the reason why it’s of the utmost importance that we not only vote, but take an active interest in what is going on and provide support to our elected officials.  The theme of the caucus – “It All Begins With You”- signifies that it is more important than ever that we, among the rank and file, become even more involved than ever with helping our elected officials in ensuring that our rights are restored, and that we help them in garnering the required support prevent them from depriving us of our rights.