- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

My mailbox was full with invitations to this forum and that “braintrust,” to this VIP luncheon and that must-see-and-be-seen reception. “You are cordially invited to…” and “your presence is requested for…” a laundry list of events, several scheduled at the same time on the same day. If only I could clone myself.

Why am I such a hot commodity at these cheese-and-cracker feasts or midday meals of grilled salmon, chilled shrimp and mountains of grilled veggies and sliced watermelon? In certain quarters, my guest appearance is as welcome as that of the tireless utility workers who arrive to restore power. Mine, however, is not a personal ability to produce power but is the power of the press, the ability to persuade the minds of the malleable masses, that rolls out the welcome mat.

It isn’t me the politicians and policy wonks are after. It is my pen, or rather my printed platform. I am, after all, a black journalist and this, after all, is what I call “Black Week” in the nation’s capital.

Much like Black History Month in February, the third week in September is traditionally reserved for the Congressional Black Caucus’ Annual Legislative Weekend, when black personas and black agendas are given passing thought in the mainstream.

The rest of the year, most blacks complain, they may as well be persona non grata in the nation’s political dialogue. Hey, better now than not at all. But many are right to tire of politicians of every stripe patronizing them only when voting time nears. Be mindful that it’s only a year until the national elections and no voter is left to be uncourted. Political pundits and pollsters are fully aware that the black electorate is far from energized, feeling that the Democrats take them for granted while the GOP offers them slogans and tokens.

It has been the fall tradition for three decades now that the Democrat-dominated Black Caucus takes over the town with social commentaries and soirees that raise big bucks for minority scholarships. But not to be outdone, the black Republicans are joining the September ritual.

On one side of town, the District’s new convention center reaped the benefits of jam-packed corridors filled with folks engaged in discussions ranging from the fate of the black male to the future of the black woman as well as gathering goods from all manner of sponsors hawking their wares targeting this minority market.

During a luncheon in the U.S. Capitol sponsored by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, the party leader told the invited black journalists that the Democratic National Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus did not want them to take up the Democratic cause but to give a fair hearing their party’s legislative agenda aimed at creating “jobs, jobs, jobs,” quality education and economic parity.

Mrs. Pelosi also noted that when she sits at the conference table with other national leaders, she is the only one who represents a variety of constituents and caucuses including blacks, Hispanics, Asians and women.

At the same time, across town, in a meeting room at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, a smaller group of elected and appointed Republicans known as the New Black Leadership Coalition gathered at a luncheon held in conjunction with the Centre for New Black Leadership to honor former Sen. Edward Brooke, Massachusetts Republican.

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele helped introduce the elder statesman, who reminisced about the era when he won a Senate seat and there were still “white” and “colored” restrooms and water fountains in the halls of Congress.

Mr. Brooke encouraged the group to seek statewide offices because he proved that a minority candidate could win in states without large black populations or districts that provided the margin for victory.

Mr. Steele said he told the black Republicans in the room that they stood on the shoulders of Mr. Brooke, and it was up to them to broaden their shoulders so others could stand on theirs. Never one to miss an opportunity, black conservative columnist Armstrong Williams enlisted Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, to host a reception in the Capitol to honor black appointees in the Bush administration such as Secretary of Education Rod Paige, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Appropriately, in the center of this and other events stood Marc Morial, the relatively new executive director of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans. During a Tuesday press luncheon sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters, Mr. Morial told black journalists he plans to increase the service organization’s role in the public-policy arena. And he said it is important for black leaders to demonstrate to the general populace that so-called black issues — better schools, better health care and better jobs, among them — are issues concerning all Americans.

It is imperative for blacks as well as other minorities to fully participate at every level of political debate and public policy planning on both sides of the aisles. Still, I can’t help but wonder, who is listening? Is anyone with real power brave and bold enough to take real action to make substantive progress with the real problems facing real people in this country?

Meanwhile, I’m off to the Acela Club at the MCI Center for another CBC reception, this one “Celebrating Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Her Quest for Full Democracy for the District of Columbia and Her Achievements in Promoting Diversity in Business.”

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