CBCF Kicked Off 40th Anniversary Celebration During Black History Month

Shrita Sterlin-Hernandez

Celebration Paid Tribute to the CBCF Founders and CBC Members of 1976

WASHINGTON— The Avoice Heritage Celebration kicked off the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Incorporated’s (CBCF) fortieth anniversary and the 10th anniversary of its Avoice virtual library on Tuesday, February 23, 2016. The Celebration, themed “Because they serve, we soar,” honored the founders of the CBCF (Nira Hardon Long, Albert L. Nellum and former member of Congress Yvonne Brathwaite Burke) and the living African-American members of Congress serving when the CBCF was established in 1976: Representatives John Conyers, Jr.; William Clay, Sr.; Ronald V. Dellums; Charles B. Rangel; Yvonne Brathwaite Burke; Andrew Young and Harold Ford, Sr.

The Avoice Heritage Celebration, which took place this year at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, DC, supports the Avoice virtual library, an online repository chronicling the achievements of African-American members of Congress.

“I look forward to continuing the CBCF’s rich legacy of service and exposing young African Americans to the opportunities of this great nation,” said R. Donahue Peebles, CBCF board chair. “The founding members of the CBCF knocked down the barriers impeding access, and their dedicated service helps us go beyond all limits.”

“Tonight, we witnessed anew the transformative role that CBC and CBCF have played on the issues that matter most to our communities,” said A. Shuanise Washington, president and CEO of the CBCF. “Our founders envisioned a world in which all communities would have an equal voice, regardless of race or socioeconomic status. Today, we are proud to carry this vision forward.”

As part of the evening’s tribute, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman, G. K. Butterfield presented his extended remarks in the Congressional Record on February 12, 2016, recognizing the CBCF, its founders, and the Avoice virtual library. “I ask my colleagues to join me in honoring the 40th anniversary of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Incorporated and the 1976 class of the Congressional Black Caucus and recognizing their tremendous contributions to our nation.”

CBCF recognized each of the 17 Congressional Black Caucus members of 1976: Representatives Charles Diggs, Jr.; Augustus Hawkins; Robert N.C. Nix, Jr.; John Conyers, Jr.; Shirley Chisholm; William Clay, Sr.; Louis Stokes; Ronald Dellums; Walter E. Fauntroy; Ralph Metcalfe; Parren Mitchell; Charles B. Rangel; Yvonne Brathwaite Burke; Andrew Young; Cardiss Collins; Barbara Jordan; and Harold Ford, Sr.

Representatives John Conyers, Charles B. Rangel and Ronald V. Dellums accepted the Avoice Heritage Award on behalf of the CBC members of the 94th Congress. Family members of late Rep. Augustus Hawkins was also in attendance.

The importance of continuing the fight for social and economic opportunities in the African- American community was a shared theme among the honorees. “To see all of you here tonight makes me proud,” stated Rep. John Conyers. “We are still struggling with the same issues: jobs, justice and opportunity—but remain committed to improving the plight for all Americans.”

“What a great time to be alive,” proclaimed Rep. Charles Rangel. Rep. Rangel continued, “We must keep on fighting until we win this struggle. We are nowhere near the top of the mountain.”

Addressing today’s emerging leaders, Rep. Ron Dellums noted, “Yesterday’s principle has become today’s great imperative.” He went on to encourage the next generation of young leaders, stating “Embrace the optimism that the CBCF has brought forward, and you can change the world. I’m not done fighting, so I will be joining you!”

Marie Long, daughter of CBCF founding board member, Nira Hardon Long, accepted a framed copy Rep. G. K. Butterfield’s extended remarks on behalf of the founders of the CBCF. Rep. Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, who has the distinction of being both a founding member of the CBC and a founding director of the CBCF, could not attend, but sent a letter that was presented to the CBCF, stating “Since its founding, the Foundation has educated, inspired and provided opportunities for African Americans to achieve their dreams and give back to their communities. I am so very proud of the Foundation’s work, its enduring relevance and its legacy of uplifting the African-American community.”

The event’s emcee and CBC executive director from 1974 to 1981, Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner summed up the evening, “This year’s theme is ‘is Because they serve, we soar,’ a fitting tribute to the work of the CBC and the CBCF founders, which we continue now.”

The 2016 Avoice Heritage Celebration was sponsored in part by: Anheuser Busch, ExxonMobil Corporation, National Association of Broadcasters, T Mobile, National Education Association, Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurer, DCI Group and DB Bourbon Candy.


The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Incorporated, established in 1976, is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy, research and educational institute intended to broaden and elevate the influence of African Americans in the political, legislative and public policy arenas.

The Avoice virtual library is the first and most comprehensive collection of African-American political and legislative contributions to America’s democracy from the 1800s to the present. The collection highlights the contributions of African Americans in Congress from the 1870s to present day as well as historic materials. Avoice is made possible through partnerships with the University of Texas at Austin, the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center Manuscripts Division at Howard University, and financial support from Dell Inc.

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