Black Experience

Finding Lasting Love and Purpose as CBCF Fellows

Three decades before he became Prince George’s County executive, Rushern Baker was an ambitious Howard University Law School graduate who was determined to make a difference on Capitol Hill – Christa Beverly was another young lawyer who shared the same passions in many ways.

While Baker and Beverly were dating and eventually got engaged, he said they never dreamed that they would end up on Capitol Hill as Congressional Black Caucus Foundation fellows.

“We applied separately. She was at William and Mary’s Law School and I was at Howard,” Baker said. “We had gotten married in August, I was still looking for a job and we both got notices that we were fellows. I believe that my wife and I are the only couple to become senior Congressional Black Caucus Foundation fellows. She worked on the House side and I worked on the Senate side.

Baker has found memories about a program that is still going strong more than four decades later. Each year eight fellows are selected and for 20 months they log in more than 40 hours a week performing various task that range from responding to constituent mail and phone calls to crafting talking points and writing speeches

Other testimonies about the CBCF fellows program include:

“Moving forward, I hope that my newfound understanding of Capitol Hill will help me to affect public policy on a local level in my hometown of Atlanta. I recently heard that Mayor Kasim Reed and his administration are researching the technology sector, possibly with the aim of attracting tech companies to the city and retaining those already there. Should this project become a reality in the near future, I believe that I could be a valuable asset as a direct result of my intellectual property and telecommunications policy background as a CBCF Fellow.”  — Thomas Cuffie, Science and Technology Fellow, 2012-2014

“During my remaining time on the Hill, I hope to learn more about the Executive budget process and implement a successful policy forum on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) processes in Africa.” — Janelle Johnson, Inaugural Donald M. Payne Foreign Policy Fellow, 2012-2014

In terms of learning, Baker said the experience “was most eye opening.”

“I wanted to go into public service. I wanted to run for office and having a chance to meet people was great. I got to work for Senator John Kerry and I got a chance to meet staff who were life long friends. It also taught me how to work on issues and how to actually represent people. My wife she wanted to do policy; she never wanted to run for office.”

Rushern and Christa Baker remain a strong couple despite her longtime medical battle with Alzheimer’s. He said his wife’s legal career was molded as a result of her participation as a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation fellow.

“When she was in law school she wanted to work on appeals for death row inmates and as a CBCF senior fellow she got to work with Congressman John Conyers on the abolition of the death penalty,” Baker said. “It gave me a chance to have a start on working on politics at a real level. When it was time to run for office it gave me good friends who became the nucleus of the campaign.”

Baker said one of the best things about the program is the exposure that people get to the real work that takes place on Capitol Hill.

“When I worked for Senator Kerry I worked on tax issues and I got to brief him. It was nice to see your questions asked during a Senate hearing,” he said.

Selection as a CBCF fellow is based on the following criteria:

  • A clear record of academic and professional achievement
  • Familiarity with the pertinent federal organizations and processes
  • Evidence of leadership skills and the potential for further growth
  • Demonstrated interest in public policy
  • Quality of application and interview performance

To apply to the CBCF fellowship program, visit http://www.cbcfinc.org/fellowships.

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H.R. Harris

Special to The Informer

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