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CBC Conference to Highlight Katrina

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation legislative conference, an event typically studded with celebrities and political superstars, this year will also highlight survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

The 35th annual CBC Foundation event begins today at the Washington Convention Center, with a focus on the major issues facing blacks and the post-Katrina recovery efforts. The foundation has set up a Katrina relief fund and has invited those displaced by the storm who are now staying at the D.C. Armory to attend the event’s prayer breakfast on Saturday.

“The foundation’s 35th annual legislative conference has greater significance this year because of the natural disaster that our country recently faced,” said Paul Brathwaite, executive director of the CBC. “The conference will once again give our members a platform to discuss the issues of disparities and poverty that Katrina demonstrated for the entire world to see in the areas of health, economic opportunity and education, to name a few.”

The four-day conference is expected to draw as many as 30,000 participants, including House and Senate Members, prominent black officials, business leaders and state lawmakers. The annual session raises money for the foundation and offers the 43 members of the CBC, as well as other blacks, an opportunity to discuss legislative priorities and talk about ways to influence national policies.

With Katrina in mind, the conference theme this year is “Recovery, Reclamation, Restoration, Rejuvenation and Reunion.” Organizers are focusing on a goal of eradicating poverty and eliminating racial disparities in society.

While the survivors of the hurricane top the list of notable attendees, the CBC Foundation once again is expecting its share of star power this year.

Actor Jamie Foxx, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, retired Gen. Wesley Clark and singer Harry Belafonte are expected to attend.

Also, in what could be a preview of the Democratic 2008 presidential ticket, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) and will share the stage at the conference’s “National Town Hall meeting.” The town hall is billed as a forum to help “define a common agenda for Black people across the nation.”

The town hall is one of several features of the conference. Also on the agenda are forums and panel discussions on issues ranging from health care, voting rights, defense and homeland security, employment, and equal opportunities for blacks.

The conference also will feature a luncheon Thursday with black Members of Congress and state legislators to discuss ways to influence policies on the local level.

Brathwaite added that hopefully now, House Members and Senators fully understand that their spending and budget priorities make a difference in people’s lives, and that “If we don’t take care of the least among us, we’re not going to be the true world leader that we should be.”

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