The CBC then and now

In 1971, when I joined 12 other African-American members of Congress to organize the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), we developed a list of 60 recommendations for governmental action, which stood as the CBC’s legislative agenda in our early years. The list reflected the caucus’s commitment to, and concern about, insuring that the U.S. government responded affirmatively to the domestic and international issues of concern to the black community. 

In the years since, the CBC’s legislative initiatives have ranged from creating equal employment opportunities and welfare reform to fighting apartheid in South Africa, and we can look proudly at a record of real progress and achievement. But there is still work to be done. 

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In my humble view, neither the CBC nor the U.S. government generally can successfully confront the yet-to-be-addressed challenges facing America and the African-American community based on the same unilateral assumptions we lived under in 1971. We live in a world today where the issues we face are global in nature, and viewing them from anything other than the larger, more complex bilateral perspective that they present drains our energy, stifles creativity and limits our ability to compete internationally. 

Americans, whether they be black, white or brown, don’t live in a vacuum. Issues like global warming, energy prices, the cost of food, education for the 21st century and technology usage all illustrate how interconnected we are as human beings. While we all mutually benefit from the improvements growing out of our ever-improving abilities to deal with these issues, we still remain mutually vulnerable if we fail to accept the imperative and urgency demanded to understand the true nature of our existence. 

I am ecstatic that my CBC colleagues in 1971 and the members of the CBC in 2013 are brave enough to boldly look beyond the borders of their respective districts and see a world full of problems and opportunities that they are willing to confront. In 1971 the changes we were demanding couldn’t happen fast enough. Today things are happening so quickly that the CBC is fortunate to be able to operate upon the foundation that the 13 founding members built in 1971. 

We had no idea what the future would be. But we realized then that we bore a tremendous responsibility for setting a course of action that would steer future CBC members along a path that would provide true empowerment and prosperity in an ever-changing world. 

Dellums served 13 terms in the House, representing northern California districts, from 1971 to 1998. He has since been a lobbyist and the mayor of Oakland, Calif. He is a founding member of the CBC.