By William Reed
Since the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) started its Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) weekend, the “Michigan Reception” and “Motown Live Afterglow” have always been the premier parties. From the first Black Caucus weekend in 1971, Motown music executive LeBaron Taylor held the record for hosting the best ALC party. Like other Detroit heavy-hitters, Taylor, a former radio DJ, stood out as an all-time pillar for the CBC’s decades of successes.
For the image of the Black Caucus to be maintained, before they host any festive events celebrating the 43rd ALC, Black American leaders should use the gathering to pay homage to Detroit and address its downfall. It’s time to take measure of Black American’s views of Detroit. Before Blacks took over Detroit in 1950, the population numbered 1.85 million; as of 2011, Detroit had a population of just more than 700,000. It’s time Black political leadership address: What went wrong and why?
Over the years, the conferences on legislative and policy issues impacting the African American community have been helpful, but the “top-shelf” parties always overshadowed the hearings. Before anyone sips a cocktail at ALC 43, it’s mandatory the nation’s top Black political operatives address: What caused Detroit’s demise?
Detroit has been under Black political leadership for more than four decades. Numerous factors have brought Detroit to this point, including a declining tax base. Still, a huge, 139-square-mile city has to maintain; overwhelming health care and pension costs; repeated efforts to manage mounting debts with continued borrowing; annual deficits in the city’s operating budget since 2008; and city services crippled by outdated computer systems, abysmal record-keeping practices and widespread mismanagement and operational dysfunction.
It’s time the nation’s Black leadership focus on the urgent business at hand. The caucus describes its goals as “positively influencing the course of events pertinent to African Americans” … and “achieving greater equity for persons of African descent in the design and content of domestic and international programs and services.”
Thousands will attend the four-day conference the ALC has labeled, It Starts with You. Touted as “a call to action to be and lead the positive change needed in public policy,” the sessions begin Wednesday, Sept. 18-21, 2013, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Each year, the ALC’s highlight has proven to be the Phoenix Awards Gala fundraiser, at which time, the president of the United States usually attends.
The engine behind the ALC events is the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), established in 1976. The CBCF is a public policy, research operation that aims to help the socioeconomic circumstances of African Americans. The CBCF bills the ALC as “providing an African-American perspective on public policy with thought-provoking and educational policy forums, community education workshops and policy briefs.”
The 2013 CBCF Weekend’s credibility is at stake, if current leadership attempts to ignore the Detroit debacle and what wrong transpired in the “Motor City.”
The New York Times reported that between 2004 and 2008, CBC’s political and charitable wings amassed at least $55 million in corporate and union contributions. Black “Special Markets” managers and executives provided the initial support for the conference, its seminars and exhibitions. If the CBCF decided to recognize long-time supporters, including the late Ofield Dukes, and Taylor, that group would also have to include beverage executive Henry H. Brown. This trio greatly contributed to the CBC, and its charities. These African-American executives served as the forerunners of the current Corporate Advisory Council (CAC) in supporting CBCF programs and objectives.
CBC Corporate Advisory Board members sit on various caucus committees to help members of Congress decide what positions to take on issues. These traditionally included cigarette companies, automobile manufacturers, Internet poker operators, beer brewers and the rent-to-own industry, which has become a particular focus of consumer advocates for its practice of charging high monthly fees for appliances, televisions and computers.
Dissenters, say that Black Caucus celebrants are lost in purpose and mission. But Black Caucus Weekend continues to evolve.
William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.