ABOVE: President Joe Biden addresses the audience at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Phoenix Awards (Photo Credit: Kea Taylor/Imagine Photography)
Every year, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation hosts their Annual Legislative Conference (ALC), considered to be the nation’s leading policy conference.
This year, the ALC returned to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. from September 20th to September 24th, and featured five days of premium programming, and several signature events, including the Day of Healing (formerly the Prayer Breakfast), the National Town Hall, and the sold-out Phoenix Awards black-tie dinner.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both were featured speakers at the annual Phoenix Awards dinner and they honored the work of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the CBCF when it comes to upholding democratic norms and institutions and charting a pathway for progress for Black Americans, while warning attendees that the work they do is more important now than ever before leading up to this pivotal election year.
At this year’s Phoenix Awards dinner, Vice President Kamala Harris was welcomed to a standing ovation as she took to the stage to deliver a powerful message to attendees, warning everyone that there is much at stake ahead of the 2024 Presidential elections.
“As a proud former CBC member, I thank you for your partnership and your leadership,” said Vice President Harris. “The CBC has always been the conscience of our country, a truth teller—truths about where we have been and where we must go. Let us continue to speak truth. Across America, there is a full-on attack on many of the hard-fought, hard-won freedoms that the CBC has achieved.”
Vice President Harris laid the foundation and turned the podium over to President Biden, who followed her with a stirring speech addressing many of the concerns she raised in her speech.
“I chose to run because silence is complicit, and I would not be silent,” said President Biden. Democracy was at stake in 2020, and thank God, because of you, we won. I wish I can say the threat to our democracy ended with our victory in 2020, but it didn’t. Our democracy is still at stake, don’t kid yourself.”
President Biden also challenged Americans to reject racism and those who are determined to spread hate and division in this country.
“Hear this. Hear it clearly,” President Biden said before making a powerful declaration. “I want the entire nation to join me in sending the strongest, clearest, most powerful message possible that political violence in America is never, never, never acceptable in our democracy.”
President Biden stated that those who seek power at all costs are a threat to our democracy and must be stopped.
“I will always defend, protect, and fight for our democracy,” said President Biden.
President Biden also touted his accomplishments and highlighted all the promises made and kept to Black Americans since being elected to office in 2020.
President Biden and Vice President Harris delivered their remarks halfway through the part of the program where the winners of the signature Phoenix Awards were being announced. The Phoenix Awards are given annually to six people who are recognized for serving as leaders and trailblazers for the Black community.
The 2023 Phoenix Awards honorees were MC Lyte, LL Cool J, Karine Jean-Pierre, Mayor Karen Bass, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and Tennessee State Rep. Justin Jones.
MC Lyte and LL Cool J were both given the 2023 CBCF Culture Icon Award.
“Thank you to the entire CBC for your dedication to change,” said MC Lyte, who received her award first. “Because you do what you do, and you take care of the heavy lifting in our communities, we in hip-hop get to do what we do and that’s to entertain.”
“In hip-hop culture, we’re not always politically correct but we are always artistically correct, and so this love of this culture and this love of this art wouldn’t be anything without all of your support,” said LL Cool J, upon receiving his award. “I want to commend you on everything that you’re doing to make dreams come true around the country for Black men and Black women like myself, and I’d just encourage you to go after your dreams.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was given the CBCF Annual Legislative Conference Honorary Co-Chairs’ Award.
“I would not be here today if it were not for the generation of barrier-breaking people before me. This is really a truly humbling experience, and I stand on their shoulders,” said Jean-Pierre. “I have learned from their excellence and benefited from their sacrifices, and I am forever grateful to them.”
Mayor of Los Angeles Karen Bass received the CBCF Chair’s Award.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to leave Congress, but I had to because Black folk in Los Angeles are 8% of our city and 30% of the people on our streets. In Los Angeles, that’s 46,000 people who sleep on the streets every night, and every night five of them don’t wake up,” said Mayor Bass. “But CBC will always be in my heart, and even though I might not be a member of Congress I still consider myself part of the CBC family.”
House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-8) was honored with the CBC Body Award.
“Thank you for this incredible honor. Since 1971, the CBC has fought for racial justice, social justice, economic justice and to bring the American dream to life in every single zip code,” said Rep. Jeffries. “We will continue to speak up, we will continue to show up, we will continue to stand up until we reach the promised land of liberty and justice for all.”
Tennessee State Rep. Justin Jones (D-TN-52) received the CBC Chair’s Award.
“I’m so honored to be standing in this tradition of good trouble, this legacy of liberation, and this reminder that we are a people of progress. On April 6, I was the youngest Black lawmaker, and my colleague and I were expelled fighting for a nation to protect kids and not guns,” said Rep. Jones. “I’m so humbled to receive this award; not for myself but for the movement of which we are a part.”
Speaking at the event, CBC Chair Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) noted that this year’s caucus is the largest ever, with 58 members, representing 82 million Americans and making up almost one-quarter of the House Democratic Caucus.