By Danny J. Bakewell, Jr. (Executive Editor, Los Angeles Sentinel)
Congressman Cedric Richmond has been a congressman in New Orleans for the past six years. During his tenure, he has experienced some of the best and worst times in the country and has had a front row seat for all of the action. Now, the 43 year-old congressman has taken on a new challenge as the newly-elected chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), one of the most powerful coalitions in the nation.
When asked why he decided to take on this role the congressman explained: “I have always been interested in serving as Chair of the Caucus, but over the Thanksgiving holiday, I began to contemplate what life was going to look like in the new environment of the Trump Administration and realized that the CBC was going to have to take the lead roll in ensuring African Americans have a loud and active voice.”
The congressman felt he was up to the challenge, and in November, his colleagues in the House of Representatives and in the United States Senate elected him to serve as chairman of the caucus.
Richmond knows that the next two years are going to be crucial and that the only way things are going to get accomplished for African Americans and other disenfranchised communities, is if the leadership and members of the caucus have strategic thinking, strategic planning and strategic execution.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi asked that all Democrats defer to senior members in crucial leadership roles. Congressman Richmond didn’t see this request as a deterrent from running to lead the CBC and ultimately becoming chairman.
“The CBC has never been an organization led or deferred to by seniority and I believed I was best suited to take on this role,” stated the three-term congressional leader; obviously, his colleagues agreed.
As part of Congressman Richmond’s leadership, he has vowed to support the Black Press and Black media throughout the country. He has formed an alliance with past NNPA Chairman Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. and NNPA President Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., to ensure that African American media is included and plays an active role in sharing important news about national government with the communities that they serve.
Congressman Richmond is a supporter of the Black Press and when asked why he feels it is necessary to take on this challenge the congressman had this to say:
“Black Media and particularly the Black Press play and extraordinary role in getting our message out to our communities, print media especially plays an important role, because the Black Press is highly regarded within our communities and people have a greater trust on the information that they receive via the Black Press.”
Richmond continued: “Now that we no longer have a President [Obama], who can or is, willing to call a press conference and get information out to our people, we must be strategic in working with the Black Press to get our information and our stories to the people.”
Congressman Richmond understands the power and role the federal government plays in supporting all media, and he feels that supporting the Black Press is a key tool in ensuring that the African American community is not ignored in this process.
“The federal government is the largest advertiser in the country and for us to ignore, not support, or cripple our Black Newspapers would be a travesty,” said Richmond. “If we don’t advertise in the Black Press we are not taking advantage of a way to communicate to the millions of African Americans throughout the country. We cannot allow the Black Press to go away or be weakened and I am committed to working with Danny [Bakewell Sr.] and the NNPA to get the federal government more active in advertising in Black newspapers.”
Diversity is a word that, in today’s political climate, is thrown around in almost every government and corporate office, but rarely have African Americans benefitted from these discussions about diversity. Chairman Richmond intends to hold everyone accountable when it comes to making sure that African Americans are part of the diversity discussion.
“Just as we discuss and take diversity very seriously within the House, in regards to employment, we must also lobby for diversity in advertising and take that just as seriously,” said Richmond.
Richmond said that restoring the Voting Rights Act, fighting to raise the minimum wage and creating economic opportunities for African Americans are critical objectives on the CBC’s agenda. He recently met with the national leaders of most of the major African American civil rights groups and they have agreed to meet regularly to organize and function in unison to move forward with a unified Black Agenda.
Richmond said, “We have been through tough times before and this is no different.”