Congressional Black Caucus – “Warriors without a War Plan”

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Harry C. Alford and Kay DeBow

Beyond the Rhetoric

By Harry C. Alford & Kay DeBow

The biggest key to the greatness of the United States is its political system. Our founding fathers were “Prophets” when it comes to wisdom and vision. They put together a system that keeps getting stronger. Like a rare choice wine, it just gets better with time. Which is why the most powerful position in this “Land of the Free” is that of federally elected leaders. They not only control the power – they write it; adjust it; provide checks and balances. In the end, our political system is our insurance for continued greatness.

If this is true, and indeed it is, what is up with the Black segment of our political system?  Why is Black America the weakest link on the economic ladder for each segment of our economy? When the CBC was founded in 1971 there were 13 Members. Today, we have 55 Black elected officials in Congress. As a Caucus that is enough to influence just about anything that goes on in Congress. My goodness, if we were to join up with the Hispanic, Native American and Asian segments of Congress we would have a base of 115 minorities – educated with leadership abilities matched by none in the world. That is POWER SUPREME! However, while our other minority segments prosper and lead their people to a stronger and fresher “Promised Land” the CBC constituents sit by and watch the others run through the “gate” as soon as our leaders crack it open – leaving us looking and wondering what just happened?

Perhaps what is missing is the fact that our elected Black leaders put an anemic amount of their energy into issues that should matter most to us. America is a capitalistic society.  Capitalism is the main road to take in our nation. However, it seems to be the road less traveled when it comes to political leadership.

This is how the CBC describes its goals: “The caucus describes its goals as “positively influencing the course of events pertinent to African Americans and others of similar experience and situation,” and “achieving greater equity for persons of African descent in the design and content of domestic and international programs and services.

The CBC encapsulates these goals in the following priorities; closing the achievement and opportunity gaps in education, assuring quality health care for every American, focusing on employment and economic security, ensuring justice for all, retirement security for all Americans, increasing welfare funds, and increasing equity in foreign policy.”

Wait a minute! “Increasing welfare funds and increasing equity in foreign policy…focusing on employment.” Shouldn’t we be talking about building wealth? Economic Empowerment? Making millionaires by the dozens? The sacred value of America is the all mighty dollar. The time is overdue for the Black portion of this wealthy nation to start acting like it. Where is our plan?

One of the greatest co-founders of the Congressional Black Caucus was Adam Clayton Powell. Anything -law or program- coming out of Congress would have to pass his “acid test.” He would demand to show proof that Black America would actively participate and economically improve because of this change. His activity would lead to the tenets of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He and Black Republican Department of Labor officer, Arthur Fletcher, were paving the way for Affirmative Action.

The CBC needs to get back to following The Plan. Whenever corporations, federal agencies, etc. appear before a congressional committee the CBC representatives on that committee must demand to see the plan and proof of Black inclusion resulting from the proposed legislation or rule. “SHOW US THE MONEY!” should be the mantra of every member of the CBC. When they have their routine meetings and hearings, they should review the “score cards” on how much they are “blackenizing” the rules and regulations coming across their desks. We have many miles to go to be where we should be. Time is truly wasting!

From now on, every cabinet member and agency head should fear coming before the CBC during a Congressional hearing or nomination if his track record concerning Black inclusion is weak or anemic. If an agency head is weak in Black inclusion – particularly procurement and lending – they should resign before they come in or change their status in revolutionary form and deliberate speed.

Come on CBC, “If not you then who; if not now then when?”

Right now, the latest move coming from the CBC is a National Listening Tour. That is Town Hall Meetings across the nation to listen to what their constituents say they need. That is bunk! We already know: Procurement opportunities, business development, capital access like I-40 going west, etc. The CBC can make this happen. All they need is a little organization, strategic planning and courage.

A lot of great people died along this way to Political Empowerment. Let us do their legacy right, by taking advantage of what they made possible with their sweat, blood and tears.

Mr. Alford is the Co-Founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Ms. DeBow is the Co-Founder, Executive Vice President of the Chamber. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Emails: halford@nationalbcc.org kdebow@nationalbcc.org.

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