This Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF) annual conference focused on the power of the Black vote throughout various sessions and at the culminating awards dinner.
The 46th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards dinner Sept. 17 not only featured the last CBCF conference address from the nation’s first Black president, but it furthermore featured politicians and the organization’s leadership who also stressed the importance of preserving the current political agenda for the benefit of the youth and the community as a whole.
“If you want to give Michelle and me a good sendoff — and that was a beautiful video — but don’t just watch us walk off into the sunset, now. Get people registered to vote,” President Obama told a ballroom full of supporters. “If you care about our legacy, realize everything we stand for is at stake… My name may not be on the ballot, but our progress is on the ballot. Tolerance is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot. Justice is on the ballot. Good schools are on the ballot. Ending mass incarceration — that’s on the ballot right now!”
The awards dinner also honored Rep. Charles Rangle (D-N.Y.). As one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rangle is scheduled to retire from Congress at the end of the current term after serving residents of New York’s 13th district since 1971. Rangel received the Founder’s Phoenix award.
“I’m very pleased to see our wisdom become what it has today,” Rangle said. “The torch has passed and there is a lot more work to be done.”
Robert Smith, founder and CEO, Vista Equity Partners and the nine Black people who died at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. in June of 2015 received the CBCF Chair’s award. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) received The Barbara Jordan Phoenix award, named after a leader of the Civil Rights Movement and the first Black women to be elected to the U.S. Congress from the south. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton received The Trailblazer Phoenix award.
As part of her acceptance speech, Clinton acknowledged the progress Obama made during his two terms in office, highlighting the fact that attendees and communities throughout the nation had to stand up to keep that progress going. “I have made the point over and over again; President Obama has saved our country from a second Great Depression, he brought Osama bin Laden (former leader of the al Qaeda terrorist group) to justice and so much more. I for one don’t think he gets the credit he deserves for doing what he’s done on behalf of the greatest country in the world,” she said. “In the country we have a moral obligation to … give every family a chance to rise up and be their dreams. That is what’s at stake in this election.”
The average of ABC News/ Washington Post polls taken in August and September show Clinton with a 91 percent support rate among Black voters, Trump only had 5 percent.
“This award is also for everyone out there, breaking the barriers that are holding Americans back,” Clinton said. “The leaders like all of you and to a rising generation of young activists and to all of those on the front line dedicated to a proposition that in America every single child deserves the chance to fulfill his or her God-given potential.”
The Daily Show host Trevor Noah and singer, songwriter and actress Kelly Rowland served as the event’s emcees. CBCF Spouses 2016 Heineken USA Performing Arts Scholarship recipient Lauryn Hobbs sang the Black national anthem. Clarence Knight and The Clarence Knight Orchestra provided the musical entertainment.
“There’s no such thing as a vote that doesn’t matter,” Obama said. “It all matters. And after we have achieved historic turnout in 2008 and 2012, especially in the African-American community, I will consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy, if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election…. Go vote.”