In the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict, the new Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys will convene for its first hearing on Wednesday to discuss “The Status of Black Males: Ensuring Our Boys Mature Into Strong Men.”
Testimony will be heard at the Rayburn House Office Building from former Maryland congressman and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, author and Georgetown University professor Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, and Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans David J. Johns. Each will discuss a different phase of a black man’s life: childhood, teen years and adulthood.
The new caucus, established in March, is modeled after Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s (D-D.C.) D.C. Commission on Black Men and Boys, which convened a townhall-style forum at the D.C. Armory more than a year ago as tensions over the Trayvon Martin case ran high. Panelists and residents engaged in a frank discussion about everything from saggy pants to youth mentoring, from racial profiling to their own slain children.
Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) is co-chairing the caucus with Norton. Reps. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) and Cedric Richmond (D-La.) are vice-chairs.
Other caucus members thus far are Reps. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Shelia Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), William Lacy-Clay (D-Mo.), Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Don Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.).
Norton said this first hearing was not timed to coincide with the Zimmerman verdict, but nonetheless is “right on time.”
“Our nation and our African American community need to bring our Black men and boys to center stage,” she said. “With this inaugural hearing, our new Caucus on Black Men and Boys begins our mission to take on the challenges facing our men and boys, and to ask our fellow Americans and African Americans to do the same.”
“Fifty years after the March on Washington it is an unfortunate fact that today young black men are still more likely to be unemployed, to be expelled from school, to be stopped at random on the street because they have been profiled, to be sent to prison, to not have access to regular quality health care, or to have suffered gun violence,” said Davis. “We know that our nation cannot be true to its values, indeed cannot sustain itself divided by such persistent inequalities. This hearing is a key step into focusing the attention and creativity of our nation into addressing the profound causes and consequences of this great divide.”
The caucus mission is stated as being a “vehicle for raising consciousness” on issues disproportionately affecting black men and youth including job training, HIV/AIDS and the breakdown of the family.