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Black Caucus Kicks Off Conference, E-Library

Tuesday was a hectic day for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. While caucus leaders were busy kicking off their 3-decades-old legislative conference, the press shop was singing the praises of the Dell computer company, which gave the foundation $500,000 to help build an online library chronicling the history of black leadership in Congress.

The conference, a four-day event anticipated to include nearly 40,000 people as well as appearances from five of the Democratic White House hopefuls, will focus on a series of events highlighting issues affecting black Americans, including health care, criminal justice and the economy. Participants, who include the 39 members of the CBC, will also work toward bolstering voter outreach and mobilization heading into the 2004 elections.

“The purpose of the weekend is to discuss a range of issues that are important to CBC constituents and the African-American community,” said CBC spokesman Doug Thornell. “The unique thing about it is it offers an opportunity for the constituents around the country to speak and offer advice and input to the Members of Congress who represent them.”

Five Democratic presidential hopefuls — retired Gen. Wesley Clark, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.) and Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) — are expected to attend the annual awards dinner, which concludes the conference on Saturday.

And while Thornell was busy promoting the conference, Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), chairman of the CBCF, was announcing Dell’s computer system and financial contribution.

“Dell and the CBCF share a common goal, to provide a wealth of knowledge to people worldwide on the magnitude and role of African-Americans throughout history in shaping democracy in the United States,” Jefferson said. “The virtual library will not only safeguard these important archives, but it will serve as a legacy for years to come.”

When it is completed, the virtual library will provide a central source of information about historical and contemporary black policy issues, preserve and archive photographs, videos and other historical documents of black political leaders, and enable online public access to political and educational workshops on government and history.

The donation will be spread over the next five years, and the new site will be unveiled in 2004.

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