By Margaret Bush Ware, 5th Episcopal District

For more than 40 years I have attended and participated in the Congressional Black Caucus (“CBC”) weekend in Washington, DC.  First attending as a member of the road company of Sammy Davis, Jr. who was the first entertainer of the CBC dinner.  Over the years I have witnessed the growth in numbers and activities of the Annual Legislative Conference.  The theme of this years’ conference, “Defining the Moment, Building the Movement” highlighted social and political moments in American history that define the CBC.

Each day, September 14–18, there were policy sessions, panelists, and signature events for the more than 9,000 attendees to participate.  Wednesday evening the CBC Spouses hosted the 20th Annual Celebration of Leadership in the Fine Arts and honored Cicely Tyson, Richard Roundtree and Dionne Warwick.

Years ago the headquarter hotel was the Washington Hilton and brain trusts were held in the Congressional offices on Capitol Hill.  Almost all of the activities are now being held in the Walter Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.

Friday, September 16th I attended the Black Women’s Agenda Luncheon at the Renaissance Hotel where I was able to greet the Women’s Missionary Society International President Dr. Shirley Cason Reed, along with Dr. Dolly Adams, wife of Bishop John Hurst Adams, and Mrs. Lucinda Crawford Belin, wife of Bishop Henry Allen Belin, Jr.   That evening there were a multitude of receptions and celebrations.  I met Georgia Congressman John Lewis who acknowledged the hard work my mother Dr. Opal Ware Johnson is doing registering voters in that state.

For more than three decades the Prayer Breakfast has been the inspirational high note of CBC’s Annual Legislative Conference.  A stimulating message with the subject “Have You Got Good Religion” was delivered by Reverend Dr. Cynthia L. Hale, Senior Pastor of the Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, GA.  Grammy award winning gospel artist Tasha Cobbs sang “Break Every Chain” and lifted the roof off the convention center!

The CBC Annual Phoenix Awards Dinner was an opportunity to acknowledge the 46 years of service provided by New York Congressman Charles Rangel who is retiring.  It is ironic that the CBC was celebrating 46 years of convening, and introduced 46 African American congressional representatives from all over the United States.

Presidential Candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton made a stirring appeal to more than 5000 people in attendance after she received the CBC “Trailblazer” Award.

The highlight of the evening was the appearance of First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama who walked onto the stage holding hands while receiving a five-minute standing ovation.  President Obama delivered a fired up message.  He said emphatically “I will consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy, if this community lets down it’s guard and fails to activate itself in this election.   You want to give me a good send off?  Go vote!”

My friends and I toured the monuments, particularly the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial and the National Museum of African American History and Culture which was not open, we just walked around the spectacular edifice. give me a good send off? Go vote!” – Pres. @BarackObama  give me a good send off? Go vote!”

Closing out the weekend on Sunday was the Donald M. Payne Fellowship Cruise on the Odyssey cruise ship.  Congressman Donald Payne, Sr. passed away three years ago and the citizens of New Jersey elected his son Donald Payne, Jr. to take his seat in Congress.  The brunch was attended by several elected officials and their constituents.

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (the economic arm of the CBC) celebrated its 40th Anniversary this year.  President and CEO A. Shaunice Washington urged attendees and leaders in business, technology, politics, academia and other areas to listen, learn and share their insights during their time in Washington.

If you have not attended a Congressional Black Caucus Legislative weekend, you have missed an opportunity to share with civic, faith and business communities engaging in finding solutions to issues that impact African Americans and Black communities worldwide while advancing our shared values.

Mrs. Margaret Bush Ware is a member of First AME Church, Los Angeles, CA.  She also serves as Member-At-Large for the Sarah Allen Women’s Missionary Society of the Southern California Conference.

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