February 4, 2020 | Kenadie Cobbin-Richardson
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) issued an emergency call-to-action convening to implore Black leadership to mobilize their organizations and communities around two critical action items that must be executed with purpose and precision.
Over the next few months, the CBC is asking black people and those who support justice and equality for all to apply disproportionate energy toward two goals:
(1) to ensure Black people are accurately counted in the 2020 Census; and
(2) to expand the electorate through voter education, registration, and election participation.
More than 2,000 black leaders from civil rights, labor, social justice, faith-based, professional and student organizations from around the country responded to the call and descended on Capitol Hill over the last two days.
The stakes are high. Our children are counting on us to do the right thing. If these two items aren’t accomplished, Black people will experience the devastating effects of our inaction for decades. We must act now, and we must act together.
Representative Karen Bass (CA-37), Chair of the CBC, sounded the alarm proclaiming, “if we don’t fix this, we’re a mess for the next two generations.” Her purpose for organizing the meeting was to ensure that leaders from around the country understand the present crisis and how we must respond strategically over the next few months to ensure that 2020 is a year of victory for our people.
As stated, the first to-do item is to ensure that every person is counted in the 2020 Census. According to panelist Jeanine Abrams McClean, Vice President of Fair Count, an organization founded by her sister, Stacey Abrams, explained to the crowd that 3.7 million Black people were not counted in the 2010 Census. She continued, “It is estimated that 1.7 million Black people are at risk of not being counted in 2020. If that undercount actually happens, $3.3 billion in federal funding will be lost every year for the next ten years.”
Unfortunately, Black people are one of the least accurately counted populations, which hurts our ability to get funding, programs, and representation in Congress. Representative Steven Horsford (NV-04), CBC Parliamentarian, said that the Census generates money we can’t afford to lose. The estimated $880 billion a year will still get allocated, just not to communities of color due to being undercounted. These federal funds support hospitals, schools, roads, redistricting, healthcare, welfare benefits, and other public services in local communities that affect Black people.
Lurie Daniel Favors from the Center for Law and Social Justice roused a standing ovation with her culturally-responsive messaging around how this formula funding impacts prostate cancer research, Medicare, schools, SNAP benefits, and many more issues black people care deeply about and cannot afford to lose resources. Favors continued, “In an era of white supremacy framing, we must know what’s important and how to respond. Most importantly, no matter how many cultures are running through your blood . . . for the Census – check Black!”
Without a doubt, everyone must be counted in 2020. Next month, March 12-20, the count will begin with an invitation to respond to the 2020 Census online. After that initial first touch, expect to receive three reminders by mail with the third reminder containing the paper questionnaire. A final reminder postcard will be sent before a Census worker makes a home visit. The CBC is asking that churches and organizations like black fraternities and sororities, civic organizations, and other collective bodies participate in ensuring that everyone we know responds by Census Day on April 1, 2020.
The second to-do item is to combat the racially motivated voter suppression campaign by expanding the electorate via voter education, registration, and participation. Representative Brenda Lawrence (MI-14) articulated the assault on the Black vote. Voting rights are under attack nationwide as states pass voter suppression laws. These laws lead to significant burdens for eligible voters trying to exercise their most fundamental constitutional right. Since 2008, states across the country have passed measures to make it harder for Americans—particularly black people, the elderly, students, and people with disabilities—to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. These measures include cuts to early voting, voter ID laws, and purges of voter rolls.
Cornel Belcher, President of Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies and former political contributor to CNN, presented Black leaders with information on how to strategically be successful in defeating the Trump administration. He said that the strategy and solution that won the Obama White House was attributable to one thing: our ability to expand the electorate by registering new voters.
Sadly, some people believe that their vote does not count, or it doesn’t make a difference because the people in power will figure out how to rig the system despite our efforts. The data is clear that blacks did not vote in 2016, as we did in 2012. Belcher shared that the pervasive thought during the 2016 presidential election was a choice between the lesser of two evils. We learned that black voters need a relatable candidate with a compelling message to motivate unlikely voters.
Dr. Sonya Horsford, Founding Director of the Black Education Research Collective, declared that “Bad people get elected when good people don’t vote.” Trump got elected because many Black voters did not exercise their right in 2016 as they had four years earlier. The reality is that when black voters show up, the outcome changes.
The CBC pleaded with Black leaders to activate their membership to mobilize and participate in educating voters on the issues that affect black people, increase registration by at least 10-15%, in their communities, and finally, participate in local, state and federal elections from the primaries through Election Day in November.
Participants in the emergency meeting felt inspired and motivated. For the first time in a long time, the message is clear and concise. Moreover, the to-do items represent a clear and measurable outcome.
The truth is that Black people have only one issue on our agenda. Representative James Clyburn (SC-06) stated that the American Dream must be accessible and affordable to all. Nearly all of the issues Blacks contend with are a result of systemic and institutionalized racism.
Because of racism, we are challenged by disproportionate poverty, mass incarceration, double-digit unemployment, disparities in healthcare, maternal mortality, low wages, economic injustice, mental health issues, the digital divide, child hunger, childhood trauma, overexposure to violence, broken families, and education inequality – in addition to voter suppression and being undercounted by the Census.
Bishop William J. Barber II, during his keynote address, challenged the crowd to change and take control of the narrative as this call-to-action is to anyone who believes in justice. He challenged us to redirect the moral direction of our nation.
Moreover, being pro-black is not anti-white or anti-anyone else. Our goal since the first enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, and subsequently building the wealth of this country, has been to fully and freely participate in this brilliant but flawed experiment called democracy. In the words of Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), “Until all of us have arrived, none of us have arrived.”
About the Congressional Black Caucus
For the 116th Congress, the CBC has a historic 55 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, representing more than 82 million Americans, 25.3 percent of the total U.S. population, and more than 17 million African-Americans, 41 percent of the total U.S. African-American population. In addition, the CBC represents almost a fourth of the House Democratic Caucus.