WASHINGTON, September 20, 2015 – 2015’s 5-day 45th Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) was kicked off on September 15 with a press conference focusing on the theme, “With Liberty and Justice for All.” Co-Chairman and U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York’s 8th Congressional district played the victim card hard, drilling down on the ALC’s conference theme with vivid images of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Sean Bell scrolling in the background.
Over five days attendees of the 45th Annual Legislative Conference, have been able to chose from more than 70 education, health, civic engagement and economic empowerment sessions and attend as well this year’s National Town Hall meeting on “Black Lives Matter – Ending Racial Profiling, Police Brutality and Mass Incarceration.”
Congressional Black Caucus Board Chair G. K. Butterfield encouraged the audience to focus on educational technology. “There will be 1.4 billion jobs created in the next 5 years and we have to get African Americans prepared to access those jobs with STEM initiatives,” he said. “We have a TECH 20/20 program that spotlights the tech sector where there are only 4 African American executives in the executive suites and boards of the top 100 technology companies. You have to help us fill the pipeline with STEM graduates,” he said.
When questions finally got around to economic empowerment and the wealth gap, CBCF Chairman R. Donahue Peebles addressed the elephant in the room.
“We are going to bring the agenda of access to the American Dream to the forefront, and the embodiment of that dream is the right to pursue economic opportunity,” he said.
“It is not an accident that our host hotel is the Marriott Marquis,” Peebles continued. “It was developed in partnership with an African-American developer and African-American contractors played a key role in its construction. We are going to be examining access to capital and access to government contracting, as well as the extreme wealth gap. In my hometown of New York, the average net worth of a black woman is $5 dollars and a black man’s net worth is negative. This is not sustainable,” he declared.
Dr. Menna Demessie, Vice-President of Policy Analysis, encouraged ALS participants to explore the STEM education and employment gap for technology jobs by seeing what the White House Initiative on Excellence is doing to reverse the Classroom to Prison Pipeline.
“We encourage you to attend ‘Overcoming the Odds: Education and College Completion for African America,’ said Dr. Demessie. “Part of the rationale is to highlight the blueprint for overcoming the obstacles. Diversity in TECH on Thursday will be working on the TECH 20 20 will be joined by guest host Van Jones and the National Association of Black Engineers. CNBCF is expanding its policy analysis to include environmental sustainability and the promotion of the green economy,” said Dr. Demessie.
The importance of women in the Civil Rights movement and their continued importance in the 21st century were the focal points in President Barack Obama’s keynote speech at the September 19 ALS Phoenix Awards Dinner. The President highlighted family issues and the continuing disparity in the pay of African-American working women. Tying in with the Town Hall Meeting topic, he also emphasized the need for continuing criminal justice reforms and better police tactics and methodologies while praising the good work of law enforcement agencies in general.