The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference concluded with resounding calls to action by Black lawmakers and their unwavering commitment to uphold democratic values and advance the rights of Black Americans. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris paid tribute to the dedication of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) in their pursuit of progress and equality.
“I chose to run because silence is complicit, and I would not be silent,”
Biden said in an impassioned address at the Phoenix Awards, hoping to underscore the urgency of the moment.
“Democracy was at stake in 2020, and thank God, because of you, we won,” Biden said.
However, the president also issued a sobering reminder that the threat to democracy persists. “I wish I can say the threat to our democracy ended with our victory in 2020, but it didn’t. Our democracy is still at stake, don’t kid yourself,” Biden insisted.
Vice President Harris, herself a former CBC member, lauded the Caucus as the nation’s moral compass, emphasizing their role as truth-tellers about the past and advocates for the future.“Across America, there is a full-on attack on many of the hard-fought, hard-won freedoms that the CBC has achieved,” Harris asserted.
The evening also celebrated leaders and trailblazers who have dedicated themselves to advancing the cause of Black communities. The 2023 Phoenix Awards recognized individuals whose work is creating opportunities for the next generation:
The conference featured insightful panels and discussions addressing critical issues facing Black communities throughout the week. Notable sessions included a press conference hosted by the Hip Hop Caucus, calling for continued activism around issues of policing and overpolicing. Additionally, a panel led by CBC Chair Rep. Steven Horsford and Small Business Association Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman highlighted the significant increase in SBA-backed loans going to Black-owned businesses under the Biden-Harris Administration.
Other sessions delved into critical topics such as advancing equity in infrastructure access, protecting voting rights, and celebrating arts and foreign affairs achievements. A panel discussion on the battle for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the face of growing opposition was of particular significance.
The conference also addressed critical issues such as transportation and the impact of innovations on Black communities. A panel on artificial intelligence delved into leveraging the potential of AI while mitigating risks and ensuring that Black voices are amplified in discussions surrounding emerging technologies.
With the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action and challenges to DEI initiatives, this year’s ALC took on added importance, said Nicole Austin-Hillery, President and CEO of CBCF.
“It is vital that we all engage…to fortify our democracy, protect fundamental freedoms, and celebrate the richness and vibrancy of our cultural heritage” as the nation looks ahead to a pivotal 2024 presidential election,” Austin-Hillery asserted.