From left to right: Rep. David Scott, Former Congressman and founding member Louis Stokes, Rep. Charlie Rangel, Former Congressman Bill Gray, Rep. James Clyburn, Chairman Cleaver, Rep. G.K. Butterfield pose for a picture during the reception. (Photo: Courtesy of CBC)
Past and current members of the Congressional Black Caucus gathered in the U.S. Capitol’s historic Statuary Hall Wednesday night to celebrate the group’s founding 40 years ago and toast legislative victories, such as establishing a federal holiday that honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A few of the founding 13 were there, but as Rep. Charles Rangel (D-New York) noted bitter-sweetly, too many others are no longer around.
Their spirits were certainly alive, however, as older members recalled fondly their trailblazing days during the caucus’s early years, and younger members sat in awe of just being in the company of “the giants” they say inspired them to enter political and make a difference for African-American communities. Rep. Marsha Fudge (D-Ohio), presented a gift to founding member Louis Stokes, whose former seat she now holds in a district that has only ever been represented by three African-Americans, including the late Stephanie Tubbs. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pennsylvania) recalled admiring as a teenager the political path paved by former Rep. William Gray, the first African-American House majority whip, whose seat he now holds.
"This group [today] is as dedicated as we were in trying to make an impact on these areas of American life," said Stokes.
As the CBC has grown from 13 to 43, its members have experienced the lows of being in the minority, as they are now, and the highest of highs as chairs of some of Congress’s most influential committees and subcommittees. But as they said repeatedly Wednesday night, whether they’re on the top or the bottom, their duty will always be to serve as the conscience of the Congress.