The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBC) opened up its 43rd Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) in Washington this Wednesday with the usual fanfare expected of the major event. Among the bevy of elected officials, distinguished guests, entertainers, and the many attendees, the conference’s 2013 theme, “It Starts With You,” became a rallying cry of sorts.
With the 50th anniversary of the March On Washington event taking place less than a month ago in the nation’s Capital, the energy that was present at that event was evident throughout the sprawling Washington Convention Center grounds on Thursday.
Georgia Congressman Rep. John Lewis (pictured), a star of the Civil Rights Movement, was swarmed by attendees and speakers, alike, who tried to get a word with him. Signing copies of his books “Across That Bridge” and graphic novel “March: Book One” for fans, Rep. Lewis patiently took pictures and greeted all who came to him.
Joining Rep. Lewis in the Author’s Pavillion was former “The Young and The Restless” actress Victoria Rowell, who signed copies of her books “The Women Who Raised Me” and “The Young and The Ruthless.” Ms. Rowell spoke briefly with NewsOne, saying that she’s enjoying her life as an author. Still, Rowell was overheard discussing a new project with fans that may see her return to the small screen.
NewsOne sat in on several panels, but one of the most well-attended sessions was “Where Do We Go From Here? Fifty Years After The March,” which featured Rep. Lewis as the honorary host, actor Malik Yoba, Judith Browne-Dianis of the Advancement Project, North Carolina NAACP President Rev. Dr. William Barber and others. Continuing his fiery tone from the March On Washington speech weeks ago, Rep. Lewis called on those who say progress hasn’t happened to “come walk in his shoes” and hammered home the same “we’re not going back, we’re going forward” sentiment.
Another session that gained plenty of attention was “Mandatory Minimums,” featuring Rep. Maxine Waters as the honorary host and speakers Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree, Deputy Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance Jasmine Tyler, Open Society Senior Policy Analyst Nkechi Taifa, and others. Delivering the keynote speech at this event was Attorney General Eric Holder, and he, too, continued many of the fine points he delivered during the “Realize The Dream” march last month.
Holder was especially pointed in highlighting that poor people and communities of color suffer far greater injustices and harsher sentencing, calling for lawmakers and involved parties to look at decriminalization as a course of action. “Too many people go to prison for too many reasons that do not make good law enforcement sense and it doesn’t serve public safety,” said Holder.