Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 1: CBC Legislative Conference

This is my first time attending the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Legislative Conference.  I was impressed.  I plan to return next year.  I attended the National Town Hall meeting, the Fatherhood panel, African American blogger panel and Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing disparity panel.  In addition, I saw a screening of the independent film "Justice for All". It is a compelling movie regarding injustice within the juvenile criminal justice system.  All of the discussions were informative and solutions oriented. 

I enjoyed the Fatherhood panel discussion.  As Valerie Jarrett's Chief of Staff Michael Strautmanis stated during his presentation, the problem of absent fathers is a structural and fundamental problem in the black community.  Prior to attending the panel, I did not know that President Barack Obama started the first White House mentoring program.  Under the program, twenty young men and twenty young women are paired with senior Obama Administration staff members.  In addition, Mr. Stautmanis discussed the President's new fatherhood initiative. 

Other panelists discussed similar fatherhood and mentoring programs.  In general, all of the programs focus on employment services, child support and father involvement.  One of the panelists, Isaac King discussed why he started his own fatherhood program. As a basketball coach, Mr. King noticed that only one or two fathers attended the games. Most of the game attendees were single mothers. For more information on these programs, please click the following links: Fatherhood and Fathering Court.

The next panel that I attended was U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush's blogger panel.  Panelists included Stacy Ferguson, Krystal High, Dave Stein, Natasha Eubanks and a few others.  The Congressman began the discussion with some words of wisdom.  Quoting a friend of his, Rep. Rush said, "You are a master of the words you don't use and a slave to the words you do use."  He predicted that many people will change their names to disassociate themselves from past, embarrassing online writings.  After listening to Mr. Rush, I am probably going to really think twice before posting anything online.

Although the bloggers panel was interesting, I did not learn anything new about blogging.  No, I take that back.  I did learn about the FTC rules regarding blogs and advertising.  Bottom line, if a company pays a blogger to promote a product, the blogger must disclose that fact.  Also, I found out about a couple of blogs such as, and  I look forward to reading them.  Since I am a political junkie, I will probably will add Politics 365 to my list.

Finally, the Judiciary Issues Forum was the last session that I attended.  The panelists included U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, Kemba Smith, Charles Ogletree, Nkechi Taifa, Julie Steward and others.  Professor Ogletree began the discussion by voicing support for Rep. Waters against the ethics charges, and many in the crowd stood up and applauded.  He offered to donate $1,000.00 to Ms. Waters' legal defense and encourage others to do so as well.  Throughout the program, many attendees voiced support for Ms. Waters and suggested that the ethics charges are based on race.  Ms. Waters reminded the attendees that the discussion should focus on the cocaine sentencing disparities.

The panelists discussed recent legislation reducing the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity from an 100 to 1 disparity to an 18 to 1 disparity.  Although the reduced disparity is a major bipartisan accomplishment, Professor Ogletree emphasized that the public must continue fighting to equalize sentencing for crack and powder cocaine.  He said that the public must push for "1 to 1 until it is done."  He stressed that the sentencing disparity is not based on any substantive facts.  Congress found that there is no legitimate basis for distinguishing between crack and powder cocaine.  Ogletree said that disparity is still discriminatory.  The sentencing disparity has a disproportionately impact on African Americans.

Julie Steward argued that the public should lobby Congress to make the law retroactive. The current law only affects those who are convicted after its enactment.  The people sentenced under the old law are still subjected to the 100 to 1 sentencing disparity.  To match Ogletree's catchy slogan, Nkechi Taifi said, "We must have some electricity around retro activity!"  Everyone started laughing.

I look forward to Day 2 of the CBC Legislative Conference.


  1. Wow we attended all the same panels on Thursday. Interesting summary of what was discussed in each.

  2. Thank you! You have inspired me to follow through and write about Day 2.

  3. i'm curious about the blogging panel. even tho you didn't learn anything much from it, i'd love to hear more about what was said, and by whom.

  4. @Chicago..The panelists talked about the most exciting and the most challenging aspects of blogging. They said that the most exciting aspects include the ease of blogging, development of your own voice, diversity of opinion and great access to people. They said the challenges are building revenue, developing your audience, advertisers offering lower rates to African American bloggers and FTC rules.

    I asked the bloggers two questions. How do bloggers find news sources? Most of my favorite bloggers break stories before the mainstream media. The blogger from Politics 365 told us that her blog has reporters on the ground in various cities. That is how they break stories. Second, I asked, "How do bloggers develop or expand their audience?" The bloggers agreed that content is the most important tool for driving traffic to a blog.