Rep. Richmond Sworn in as Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus

January 4, 2017
Press Release

Washington, DC –Today, Congressman Cedric Richmond (LA-02) was sworn in as the 25th Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) during a ceremony hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) at the Warner Theatre.  The ceremony marked the induction of the largest class in the CBC’s 46-year history.

Over the next two years, Chairman Richmond will lead the Caucus in its mission of empowering the African American community and providing a voice for people of color and vulnerable communities.

“The 49 Members of the CBC are committed to do our part,” said Rep. Richmond. “To provide leadership, engage the people across the country, and fight shoulder to shoulder to ensure the arc of history continues to bend toward justice.”

The Chairman’s full remarks are included below.

We've assembled this morning to celebrate historic achievements and acknowledge the progress of the Congressional Black Caucus as an institution.

We now stand at 49 Members--bipartisan, bi-cameral; with 2 of our Members serving in the U.S. Senate.

Just to be clear, that is 49 Members from 49 jurisdictions that all speak with one voice.

Our Members are in leadership and head Committees on every major issue debated in the halls of Congress,

Our Members are on the forefront providing the intellectual strength and moral clarity to light America’s path forward.

Our Members represent 78 million Americans representing 24% of population, and 17 million African-Americans representing 41% of the African American population- in different parts of the country--urban centers, suburban neighborhoods, and rural counties.

We continue to celebrate the past 8 years of successful leadership of one of our own in the White House.

There is much to celebrate and that is due to the heroes that came before us.

Legendary heroes like John Lewis and Eleanor Holmes-Norton, who remind us of the progress our country has made and our people have seen.

Revolutionary leaders like Maxine Waters and Bobby Rush, who remind us of the many battles we have waged and won.

Social Justice Warriors like Jim Clyburn and Elijah Cummings, who show us every day the importance of fighting...fighting for what's right and what’s just.

Brilliant luminaries like Bobby Scott and Barbara Lee who help light this nation’s path to a more prosperous and inclusive future.

And our next generation of strong and courageous leaders likes Yvette Clarke, Hakeem Jeffries and Andre Carson.

However, we will miss a profound opportunity if we only gather to celebrate.  We would not do the people we represent justice if we don't acknowledge the mood of people of color throughout this nation.

There are many Americans, especially Black Americans, who can't understand how we got where we are today.  Coming off 8 years of hope, pride and inspiration, they are fearful of the current state of division, hate and pettiness.

Many of our young people are frustrated with the fact that they seem to be fighting the same causes Dr. King, Reverend Jackson and others galvanized the country behind during the Civil Rights Movement: jobs, justice and common humanity.

In 1853, Theodore Parker the abolitionist, Unitarian minister and quintessential thinker told us: "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one. . . . But from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice."

A century later, during the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an admirer of Parker, quoted his lofty prophecy during marches and speeches, reminding us of this essential point that we know still holds true today.

Often he'd ask in a refrain, "How long? Not long." He would finish in a flourish: "Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Members of the CBC know this all too well.  While others have thrown up their hands, hung their heads, paralyzed by frustration… the members of the CBC have remained FOCUSED and DRIVEN.  They have remained the "Conscience of the Congress"

Members like Shirley Chisholm who during her historic term fought to combat hunger in our communities through food stamps and worked to expand opportunities for women in the labor force… and children in the classroom.

Members like Charlie Rangel who fought to maintain America’s commitment to the least of these and move communities of color closer to economic freedom.

Members like John Conyers who has dedicated his life to helping people of color find the justice in the criminal justice system.

Even though it doesn't look like it sometimes, including now, the arc is still bending. HOWEVER, It DOES NOT bend on its own.  It takes people of all ages and races, with moral conviction and strength to make it bend.

The 49 Members of the CBC are committed to do our part: to provide the leadership, engage the people across the country, and fight shoulder to shoulder to ensure the arc continues to bend.

We cannot do it alone. We need the fire, passion, and talent of young people to use the tools and resources of today to capture the nation and give life to our movement.

As we all know, it was young women and young men who were on the front lines of the fight for freedom in the sixties and it is no different today.

We need the wisdom, clarity, and foresight of our elders so that we can stand on their shoulders and achieve much greater heights.

If we do not learn from our past, our future will be more of the same.

As I close, I want to tell you what you can expect from the CBC this Congress:

  • We will confront those who seek to divide.
  • We will be clear about our demands on behalf of black people across the globe.
  • We will venture outside of Washington regularly to engage our people in the places they live, work and worship.
  • We will heed the many lessons from our leaders who came before, but we will innovate and evolve to tackle the challenges of today.
  • We will be deliberate in our thoughts and actions and will engage on our own terms.

We won't give in

We won't give up

We won’t fall back

We will move our people and our nation forward.

What we won’t do is dance if we’re not at a party, laugh if nothing is funny, scratch if nothing is itching.