WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – As the 110th Congress convenes, Black members will wield considerable influence across the board; all the more reason for an active Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the group’s incoming chair to reporters recently.

The CBC chose Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), a former schoolteacher and the mother of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, as its new chair for the next two years. She succeeds Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C.

“We want to take this Caucus to another level,” Rep. Kilpatrick told reporters at the Capitol Dec. 6, “thereby taking our Democratic Caucus to another level, and making sure that American people have the kind of government that God intends and they intend. One that is righteous. One that is self-sufficient, and one that takes care of God’s children.”


Democrats will be in the majority when Congress convenes Jan. 4 and the 43-member caucus will take up a historic slate of leadership positions, including 25 chairs of House committees and sub-committees.

“We are the conscience of the United States House of Representatives and have shown that in the 35 years since our inception, that we remain that,” Rep. Kilpatrick told reporters. “We speak that, we act that and we coordinate and coalesce to make sure that the conscience of the Congress speaks for those 300 million Americans who need a strong government, who need strong leadership.

“We represent more than 40 million Americans, of the 300 million. Not just African Americans, but all ethnic groups. Including Arab Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, Caucasian Americans and others,” she continued.

“That’s more power than African-Americans have ever had in the Congress of the United States,” said Dr. Ronald Walters, a political scientist and director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland, according to a published report.

“Our leadership potential is deep and wide,” Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), outgoing CBC Chair, told reporters at the Capitol. “We have outstanding people in the ranks, coming up, in preparation for being leaders of this Congressional Black Caucus.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), will be 1st Vice Chair; Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), was elected 2nd Vice Chair; Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), will be incoming Secretary; and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) returns as CBC Whip.

Rep. Kilpatrick said she would continue the organization’s focus on issues such as health care, housing and education, and would seek to address racial inequities in the criminal justice system and the crisis in the Sudan’s Darfur region. She insisted that the CBC is needed, even when Black members wield power throughout the Congress.

“Only we can say that the CBC is obsolete,” Rep. Kilpatrick said in response to a question from The Final Call. “Our bylaws say members of the Congressional Black Caucus are African Americans elected to Congress. If we should come in, 43 of us, one day and say, ‘Ah, we don’t need that. We can turn ourselves over.’ That’s not likely. That would be the only way we would dissolve.

“You can rest assured. We are not winding down, we are spiraling up,” she continued.

She said her leadership is likely to revolve around a theme: “Changing course. Confronting crisis. Continuing the legacy.” She added that activism along these lines is consistent with the history of the CBC over the last 35 years.

The value of having CBC members with unprecedented authority in the House next year is so that Blacks will: “Be there to represent and to speak out to coordinate, to bring good public policy, to mobilize across America, so that the children of America will have opportunities,” said Rep. Kilpatrick. “To do what is necessary to take back America for the children’s sake. Good schools. Good health centers so the seniors who built this country won’t have to choose between their medication and rent, their food and rent.

“So, we have our work cut out for us” she continued. “We will continue to fight the disparities we find in healthcare, education and housing. We will continue to confront crisis. Continue the legacy of our predecessors, and continue the legacy that our children might rise up and be the people that God wants us to be.”

CBC members will also work to ensure access to capital for Blacks; an alternative energy policy; and diversified hiring on all committee staffs as well as the staffs of all Democratic House and Senate members.