Speaking to a standing room only crowd during the 2014 Emerging Leaders Town Hall, Songstress and Activist Ledisi stated emphatically, “We have to tap into our collective power.” This sentiment perfectly summarizes the energy emanating and overflow of a call to action from every session I have participated in thus far as I walked the halls of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center during this week’s 44th Annual Legislative Conference.
Congressman Bobby Rush (IL) hosted a session on Minority Media Ownership, followed by the Emerging Leaders Instant Apprentice Luncheon and the subsequent town hall. Empaneled with luminaries in business, the social justice movement and public service was the Foundation’s Vision was evidenced: “We envision a world in which the black community is free of all disparities and able to contribute to advancing the common good.”
As a first-time attendee, to the Annual Legislative Conference, there are a number of things that stuck with me and moved me:
1. The large number of youth, in groups or just tagging along with their parents, that came out on this chilly rainy Thursday. Whether by force or by choice, the kids all seemed cheery and were welcomed and poured into by all whom they encountered. Just having them here is important and even if they don’t ‘get it’ now, they will some day; and
2. The panels didn’t just dissect problems, but rather provided concrete answers and anecdotal, in addition to statistical, data. The panelists were all at the top of their respective fields and were so generous with their knowledge and open to answering questions and sharing information that if acted upon would lead to success.
There was a focus on the upcoming generations and a strong sense that the old guard readily imparted knowledge in anticipation of the next chapter and innovation to come – a symbolic passing of the baton. Panelist James Reynolds, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Loop Capital said of his co-panelist, Federal Communications Commissioner, Mignon Clyburn, (daughter of Congressman Clyburn), she was continuing a legacy and, “pushing the boulder further up the hill to improve our community.”
I do have to say that while today was a great day for me from start to finish, the highlight of my day was having a quick moment with one of my personal heroes, the Honorable John Lewis. He has been a tireless champion for civil and human rights and someone who has done so much for our betterment. So I simply thanked him for all that he’s done for us, and in a way that only Representative Lewis would he simply replied, “Just trying to help.” And that my friends wraps my first day at the Annual Legislative Conference. This conference exemplifies the spirit of this year’s theme “It Starts With You” by ensuring that our next generation surpasses the last in fiscal, mental and physical health, that our communities are made whole and we are given equal access and due process, collectively.