“The CBC was formed in 1971 because its founders understood that Black lives matter. Black boys matter. Black girls matter. The Black family matters. The Black church matters. Black America in its totality matters.”
-CBC Chairman G.K. Butterfield
As a little girl, I remember my great uncle Demps would always discuss black history and politics with me. He was fascinated with political giants like John Conyers, Shirley Chisholm, Charlie Rangel and Louis Stokes and their ability to join forces to create the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) back in 1971. Perhaps he was foreshadowing and preparing me for my career path, as I was fortunate enough to work for the CBC. One thing I learned from my great uncle about the CBC, aka the “Conscience of Congress,” was that they were greatly needed and instrumental in serving as the voice for America’s neglected citizens and helping to address their legislative concerns. The same way the CBC was needed back in 1971, it is greatly needed today as we tackle the same issues: voting rights, poverty, criminal justice reform, and education to name a few.
Last month, the largest class for the CBC in its 44-year history was sworn in with Congressman G.K. Butterfield (NC-01) taking the helm as the CBC’s leader for the 114th Congress. Currently, there are 46 members within the caucus hailing from 22 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands; and representing more than 30 million people. The CBC represents 23% of the House Democratic Caucus and 10% of the House of Representatives. Seven members hold ranking member full committee leadership positions from Oversight and Government Reform to Homeland Security.
As the CBC continues to grow in numbers and power, its members continue to advocate for our communities and make sure our voices are heard. For example, with the advocacy of Reps. Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and the HBCU community, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reversed changes to the PLUS Loan regulations that will help an additional 370,000 students across the county afford higher education.
Earlier this year, Reps. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and William Lacy Clay, Jr. (D-MO) introduced the Grand Jury Reform Act (H.R. 429), a bill that would require special prosecutors for all officer involved murder cases in light of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner decisions. Also this term, 11 CBC members traveled to Ferguson, Missouri to meet with young activists to not only support them but encourage them to engage in the political process. Rep. Andre Carson told the young activists, “You have the power to determine the outcome of your mayor, school board, sheriff, and city council. The world is watching Ferguson — and Ferguson will always have the full force and power of the CBC, the conscious of the U.S. Congress as allies.”
As we celebrate black history month and the legacy of the CBC, one thing is for sure, the CBC is here to fight for the future. CBC Chairman G.K. Butterfield recently stated, “We are ready for these fights. The fight for the future is not a black fight, a Democratic or Republican fight; it is a fight that all fair minded Americans should promote. We need to use political means, policy and legal means, to reduce racial disparities and move closer to the day when all African Americans will benefit from fairness and justice and realize the American dream.”