Cedric Richmond
Rep. Cedric Richmond (Courtesy photo)

Rep. Cedric Richmond has been a congressman in New Orleans for the past six years. During his tenure, he has experienced some of the best and worst times in the country, and has had a front-row seat for all of the action.

Now the 43-year-old congressman has taken on a new challenge as the recently elected chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, one of the most powerful coalitions in the nation.

Asked why he decided to take on this role, Richmond explained, “I have always been interested in serving as chair of the Caucus, but over the Thanksgiving holiday, I began to contemplate what life was going to look like in the new environment of the Trump administration and realized that the CBC was going to have to take the lead role in ensuring African-Americans have a loud and active voice.”

The congressman felt he was up to the challenge, and in November, his colleagues in Congress and Senate voted him as the chairman of the caucus.

Richmond said he knows that the next two years are going to be crucial, and the only way things are going to get accomplished for African-Americans and other disenfranchised communities is if the leadership and members of the caucus have strategic thinking, planning and execution.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi asked that all Democrats defer to senior members in crucial leadership roles, but Richmond didn’t see the request as a deterrent from him running and ultimately becoming chairman.

“The CBC has never been an organization led or deferred to by seniority and I believed I was best suited to take on this role,” the three-term congressional leader said.

As part of Richmond’s leadership, he has vowed to support the Black Press and Black Media throughout the country. He has formed an alliance with past NNPA Chairman Danny J. Bakewell Sr. and NNPA President Benjamin Chavis to ensure that African-American members of the media play an active role in conveying what is going on in the national government to the communities they serve.

“Black Media, and particularly the Black Press, play an extraordinary role in getting our message out to our communities,” he said. “Print media especially plays an important role because the Black Press is highly regarded within our communities and people have a greater trust on the information that they receive via the Black Press.

“Now that we no longer have a president who can or is willing to call a press conference and get information out to our people, we must be strategic in working with the Black Press to get our information and our story to the people,” Richmond said.

Richmond said he understands the power and role the federal government has in supporting all media, and that supporting the Black Press is a key tool in insuring that the African American Community is not ignored in this process.

“The federal government Is the largest advertiser in the country, and for us to ignore, not support or cripple our black newspapers would be a travesty,” he said. “If we don’t advertise in the Black Press, we are missing and not taking advantage of a way to communicate to the millions of African-Americans throughout the country. We cannot allow the Black Press to go away or be weakened, and I am committed to working with Danny Sr. and the NNPA to get the federal government more active in advertising in black newspapers.”

Diversity is a word that in today’s political climate is thrown around in almost every government and corporate office, but rarely have African-Americans benefited from the roles or discussions about diversity. Richmond intends to hold everyone accountable to making sure African-Americans are part of this diversity discussion.

“Just as we discuss and take diversity very seriously within the House in regards to employment, we must also lobby for diversity in advertising and take that just as seriously,” he said.

Richmond is not stopping at the Black Press in moving forward the agenda of the CBC.  He recently met with the national leaders of most of the major African-American civil rights organizations, all of which agreed to meet regularly to organize and function in unison to move forward the black agenda.

“We have agreed to meet regularly and work together to sustain the and uphold the things that are important in sustaining a quality of life for African-Americans,” he said. “We have been through tough times before and this is no different.”

Asked what is the agenda for his tenure, Richmond said the goals of his administration are not much different than the agenda that the CBC has been fighting for since its inception:

• Restoring the Voting Rights Act;
• Creating more economic opportunities for African-Americans; and
• Fighting for raising the minimum wage.

“We cannot allow these tax cuts for business to be on the backs of poor people,” he said. “We cannot not let this administration strip away the safety net which provides services and support for many of the people residing in our communities.”

Richmond knows that raising the minimum wage is essential to creating a stronger foundation for families.

“We want to work and find ways to preserve the family unit,” he said. “We must fight for real criminal justice reform so that people are actually given a second chance and have real opportunities for employment so that they can live productive lives and create more stable family environments.

“We cannot allow for injustice to occur as it relates to [Obamacare],” Richmond said. “Twenty to thirty million people rely on this program to provide quality health care.

“Right now we have a number of single parent households lead mainly by women, who make 60 cents on the dollar in comparison to men,” he said. “Then we blast the teachers for not providing a quality education to the children. Well, how can a child get the support they need at home if the mother is working two jobs? She can’t help him with his homework, she can’t help him study for exams or make sure that he starts and ends each day with a good healthy meal.

“The income of parents plays a vital role in the well-being and cause and effect of the family unit,” he said.

Richmond said he knows that the CBC will continue to fight for the same things it has since its inception in 1971.

“Unfortunately, it appears that President Trump does not take these things seriously, so we must fight harder and not to allow the progress we have made go backwards and continue to make strides in moving our community forward,” he said.

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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