Magazine article The Crisis

Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick Takes Helm of CBC

Magazine article The Crisis

Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick Takes Helm of CBC

Article excerpt

The same day Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) became the first woman speaker of the House of Representatives, another new face of leadership came to power on Capitol Hill. On Jan. 4, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) was sworn in as chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the 36-year-old group of African American members of Congress.

Kilpatrick is the CBC's 20th chair and the fifth woman in the position. She was elected unanimously to lead the organization at arguably the most influential moment in its history.

"We're major players in this Congress," says Kilpatrick.

Indeed. Much has changed since the CBC formed in 1971. The Caucus has more than tripled in size, from 13 founding members to 43 members today. Five African Americans are chairs of powerful committees, and 17 are chairing congressional subcommittees, another record.

"We're known as the conscience of the Congress," says Kilpatrick. "Our agenda is an American agenda."

Nevertheless, the CBC continues to tackle issues that uniquely or disproportionately impact Black citizens. For example, the group led the fight to renew the Voting Rights Act and wants a committee to investigate how to ensure that Hurricane Katrina survivors receive the support needed to rebuild their lives.

"Congresswoman Kilpatrick is just an excellent choice to lead the Congressional Black Caucus," says Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of Policy Link, an Oakland-based, national research and action institute that focuses on economic and social equality.

"Her particular experience within the Congress around housing and transportation issues really situates her well to be able to help the Congressional Black Caucus during what I predict will be a very exciting period. …

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