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Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Published: 20 September 2021

President Joe Biden applauded the work of the Congressional Black Caucus and called for ending systemic racism during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Phoenix Awards.

The awards closed out the week-long Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference.

“I got here just a year after the Black Caucus started, 50 years, and the Black Caucus has gotten stronger every year with a powerhouse of ideas and a training ground for a lot of great leaders,” President Biden remarked. “The CBC has made a difference.

"And as we emerge from this pandemic, the time is right to root out systemic racism.

"The time is now for a moral response to heal the soul of this nation and to ensure that Black Americans are fully dealt into the economy, and to this society, they have built and shaped for centuries.”

Hosted by actress Angela Bassett, the Phoenix Awards recognizes extraordinary contributions to the Black community and featured Stacey Abrams, Ledisi, and others. Singer Chaka Khan closed out the awards with her hit song, “I’m Every Woman.”

A stronger CBC emerges

The conference also acknowledged the largest Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) class to date.

“The conference programming reflect[ed] our charge for 2021 and beyond to a continued commitment to uplifting, empowering and mobilizing Black communities through the theme of ‘Black Excellence Unparalleled: Pressing Onward in Power,’” CBCF officials noted. The conference featured thought leaders, legislators, and concerned citizens who engage in economic development, civil and social justice, public health, and education.

cbc conference chakaChaka Khan, who headlined the NNPA Summer Conference in June, closed out the CBCF’s Phoenix Awards with “I’m Every Woman”/BET ScreenshotCBC Chair Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) opened the conference with honorary co-chairs Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Maryland) and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Delaware), CBCF Chair Lori George Billingsley, and CBCF President Tonya Veasey. Sessions included “Re-envisioning Liberation for the Global Black Diaspora” and “Real Talk: Conversations about Family Caregiving in the Black Community,” featuring Melanie Campbell, president, and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable. The conference also tackled “The Impact of Covid-19 on Black Businesses: One Year Later,” where panelists discussed the racial wealth divide.

“Black businesses continue to experience the downside of navigating a pandemic and dramatically reduced access to resources especially customers and contracts,” conference officials stated.

“The lack of equitable access to capital and shrinking reserves continues to hinder sustainability. Clearly, COVID-19 has impacted our society in more ways than one, and Black entrepreneurs are fighting a pandemic within a pandemic.” Sessions also included an “Environmental Justice Braintrust,” which focused on the connection between environmental justice and health disparities.

Environmental and health disparities converge

The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the significant impact both environmental and health disparities have on communities of color.

This year’s program delivered discussions on the intersections of these two areas and what must occur to address these disparities.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) led a voting rights brain trust titled, “Winning the Fight for Voting Rights,” where panelists will discuss the urgency of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s legislation to restore and strengthen the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and address modern-day barriers to the ballot box.

Additionally, the conference featured a panel discussion on the importance of mental health in the Black Community.

Panels also took on the narrowing of the wealth gap and the state of housing in Black America, Sustaining Fathers, Black Men and Boys through the Impact of Covid Pandemic and Racial Justice, and a discussion on the impact of the late boxing great Muhammad Ali.

The 13th annual Black Women’s Roundtable Policy Forum: The Power of Black Women’s Leadership in the Voting Rights Movement, also occurred during the weeklong event. The conference concluded with the annual Phoenix Awards and the “Black Block Party.”

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