Over the next five days, thousands will converge on the nation’s Capitol to tackle the most consequential issues impacting Black life in America.
The 52nd Annual Legislative Conference, presented by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, occurs from September 20-24 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center under the following theme: “Securing Our Democracy. Protecting Our Freedoms. Uplifting Our Culture.”
The long-running conference features an array of panel discussions, presentations and activations that cover critical issues impacting Black people. There are perennial topics such as housing, education and gun violence and newer, future-oriented concerns such as clean energy, technology and innovation.
Tackling the Issues Impacting Black America
When asked whether the conference will prioritize all of these topics based on importance, CBCF President & CEO Nicole Austin-Hillery was unequivocal.
“Our education system, our housing system, having clean water and water rights, the attacks from white supremacists, the criminal justice system issues, issues around voting rights, they are all inextricably linked,” Austin-Hillery told The Chicago Defender, “We can’t have one function well, without all of them functioning well. And that’s really the focus around our conference theme this year, which is securing our democracy, protecting our freedoms and uplifting our culture.”
The ALC will also address issues around health equity, particularly Black maternal health.
During the interview, Austin-Hillery shared alarming statistics that reveal Black women’s disproportionately higher maternal death rates, regardless of their education or socioeconomic status. This issue, she noted, is pivotal because it directly affects the next generation of leaders.
Artificial intelligence was another topic of discussion.
Austin-Hillery emphasized the significance of AI and its widespread impact on various aspects of life. She stressed that the Black community needs to be actively involved in shaping AI technology, available job opportunities in this sector and addressing biases within AI systems.
She also touched on the recent challenges to affirmative action in college admissions. Austin-Hillery acknowledged the Supreme Court’s decision to limit affirmative action in private institutions and expressed the need to explore alternative solutions to address educational disparities.
“It’s unfortunate that the Supreme Court didn’t see the same value in maintaining the use of affirmative action. But we’re going to talk about, at our conference, ‘What now, what next?'” she said.
“We certainly cannot, as a community, say, ‘Well, now that affirmative action is gone, we’re just going to sit back and let the chips fall where they may.'”
Austin-Hillery added, “We are going to be talking about what other solutions and options are available that we have to explore and put in place along with other stakeholder organizations, the other civil rights and social justice organizations that work collectively with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and work collectively with the members of the CBC, we’re going to be talking about problem-solving.”
Austin-Hillery also emphasized that the Black community cannot stand idle while its members, especially young people, are affected by gun violence. The ALC aims to address this issue and advocate for policies to reduce gun violence in communities.
The housing shortage and homelessness epidemic in the black community were also highlighted. Austin-Hillery emphasized the need for collaboration between national and local officials to address these issues effectively. She encouraged individuals and communities to take an active role in finding solutions.
Lastly, Austin-Hillery discussed the recent attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. She emphasized that these initiatives are under attack and that the CBCF is actively addressing these issues during the conference. A fireside chat on this topic is scheduled to address concerns and solutions.
Providing Solutions and Information
Ultimately, the annual conference aims to empower attendees by providing resources, discussions, and solutions to pressing issues affecting the Black community. The conference encourages active participation and engagement to create positive change throughout the rest of the year.
Moreover, free on-site registration will be available throughout the conference to ensure that anyone interested can attend and be part of these vital discussions and solutions free of charge.
“That’s really what’s at the genesis of the ALC,” Austin-Hillery said. “It is about problem-solving. It is not about just coming together and having nice conversations and hearing from very smart people, all of which you will get if you attend.”
“But it’s about giving folks solutions, information, material, and techniques and tools that they can take back to their communities, regardless of whether they live in Washington, D.C., Sacramento, California, or Dover, Delaware.”
For more information on the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference (ALC), please visit this link for programming and registration information.