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It's Time Again For The Congressional Black Caucus's Foundation Conference


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DONNA M. OWENS, ESSENCE, September 11, 2019 | comments

Black pride, policy, and purpose will converge when the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) hosts its 49th Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) in the nation’s capital.

Organizers said the event draws upwards of 30,000 people—elected officials, celebrities, advocates, clergy, college students, etc.—from across the country and world. The five-day confab is scheduled for September 11-15, 2019, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

There will be nearly 100 public policy forums on health, education, economic empowerment, the environment, and more. Besides `signature events’ such as a National Town Hall, Celebration of Leadership in Fine Arts, Prayer Breakfast and Health Fair, CBCF has made updates including a new Speaker Series to highlight subject matter experts in the Exhibit Hall; the creation of a professional development series that affords some professionals the opportunity to earn continuing education credits during the conference; and three new session tracks — Women & Culture; Sports, Media and Entertainment; and Beauty, Fashion & Lifestyle — to engage newer and younger professionals.  

 Also this year, CBCF is introducing a second town hall, ‘The Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys’, which will focus on collective efforts around justice and equality. There will also be conversations about the importance of being counted in the 2020 Census; as well as having the African American vote count in the fall 2020 election.

The schedule also includes a Gospel Extravaganza, Black Party, Community Breakfast, Exhibit Showcase, and the black-tie Phoenix Awards Dinner. This year, the exonerated men known as the `Central Park Five,’ and the Rev. Al Sharpton will be honored during the gala. “Every step of the way, [CBCF] has been a reliable and influential partner in our work to fight injustice, protect our communities, and helping us further the dream and vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said Sharpton, President and Founder of NAN, a civil rights organization. “There is no higher distinction for a civil rights activist than recognition from the CBCF and I am humbled to accept the Harold Washington award as we prepare for the most crucial election of our generation.”

Lawmakers told ESSENCE that for some five decades, ALC has provided a hub for Black leadership to share their experiences, knowledge, and opinions with each other, as part of a broader, national dialogue. There will be plenty of star-power. Special guests will include several 2020 presidential contenders, Maxwell, Misty Copeland, Yolanda Adams, Larenz Tate, Anthony Hamilton, Damon Dash, and Malik Yoba, to name a few.  

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) chair, CBCF Board of Directors described the conference as a “special time” for the Black community.

“This is the only time of year where [various] leaders nationwide convene in Washington to find policy solutions that impact the African diaspora in order to advance our socioeconomic agenda and overall well-being,” he said. “It serves as the catalyst for inspiration, growth, and connectivity we need to thrive in America today.” 

Established in 1976, CBCF is a non-partisan and nonprofit, public policy institute. Led by new President/CEO, David A. Hinson, its mission involves advancing the global Black community by developing leaders, informing policy and educating the public. Historically, ALC honorary co-chairs have been Congressional Black Caucus members. This year, Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL), and Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-NC) will do the honors.

Karen Bass (D-CA), Chairwoman of the 55-member CBC noted that this year’s ALC theme is “400 years, Our Legacy, Our Possibilities.” It honors the commemoration of the “20 and odd” Africans who landed in the Virginia Colony in 1619. These men, women, children and their descendants survived 246 years of chattel slavery to shape, influence and literally build what would become the United States of America.

Bass, who made an official Congressional trip to Ghana, West Africa, this summer with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and fellow CBC members, looks forward to a conference that builds on the foundation of the ancestors.

“That legacy continues with the vital discussions around economic prosperity, civil and social justice, public health and education, while shining a bright light on present-day champions in the fight for racial equality, justice and freedom,” she said. “It is my hope that our community will not only learn about how they can meet the demands of today but invoke true change through passion, action, and dedication.”

Congressional colleagues such as Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL) agreed. Kelly, a Chicago Congresswoman who chairs the CBC’s Health Braintrust, will host a panel series at the conference focused on addressing health disparities impacting Black America, including high Black maternal mortality rates.

“It’s an important opportunity to bring together the best and brightest in our community, to solve local, national and international challenges,” she said. “In an age when division defines our national politics, ALC remains focused on community, common cause and real solutions.”

The conference, whose many sponsors and partners include Wells Fargo, Coca Cola, Bank of America, General Motors, and Toyota, melds policy discussions by day, parties and socializing by night. The dizzying array of events run the gamut from an Emerging Leaders Power luncheon and Legacy Reception, to a Creative Careers Panel and Fellowship Cruise. The NAACP will host a town hall moderated by political strategist & CNN political commentator Angela Rye. Guests will include Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN, Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI)—collectively known as “The Squad”— in a conversation around the 2020 census, voting rights, and the upcoming presidential election.

ESSENCE is an official CBCF media partner. Events include the Sojourner Truth Legacy Project Town Hall, and The Sojourner Truth Women’s Leadership Reception, which ESSENCE will be co-hosting.

That’s not all. The 2019 Black Women’s Roundtable (BWR) Policy Forum will present the 5th Annual BWR/ESSENCE Power of the Sister Vote (POSV) Poll results on what Black women identify as the most important issues impacting Black America; which 2020 presidential candidates they would vote for if the election were held today; and share what they believe is most threatening to U.S. democracy.

An expert panel of Black women leaders will serve as respondents to the poll and share their insight and expertise on the importance of centering a justice agenda for Black women, families and communities to live their best lives including racial, gender, economic, criminal, health, environmental & reproductive justice, civil rights, educational equity and more. A second session of panelists will share the role, power & influence of Black women’s leadership in philanthropy, civic engagement and political power building.

Panelists will also share key strategies they are deploying to leverage the power and impact of the Black women and youth (Gen Z & Millennial) vote in the 2020 Presidential Election Cycle and ensure the Black population is counted fairly in the 2020 Decennial Census.

ESSENCE is also part of the `Celebration of Leadership in the Fine Arts,’ hosted by CBCF and the CBC Spouses. The fundraising event helps provide scholarships in the performing and visual arts. This year’s honorees are Grammy Award-winning musical artist, Maxwell and history-making ballerina, Misty Copeland. 

Mistress of Ceremonies for the event will be Allison Seymour, a Fox 5 news anchor in Washington, D.C. and WHUR radio host.To register for the ALC, visit

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