The 113th Congress includes 42 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including an incoming chairman who has reaffirmed the group's commitment to advocate for policies that are not only in the best interest of people of color but also protect America's most vulnerable populations.
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation hosted a ceremonial swearing-in for the new CBC on Thursday. Incoming chair Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio took the gavel from Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). Judge Benita Y. Pearson of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio administered a ceremonial oath of office to the members.
In addition to the formalities, the event was focused on urgent reminders about the caucus's historic and still necessary role as the self-appointed "conscience of the Congress."
In her remarks, Fudge said there would be no break in the group's resolve to advocate for policies in the best interest of people of color while also championing policies protect America's most vulnerable populations. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer each echoed these sentiments when they took to the podium to welcome new members and thank the caucus for its legacy of service.
"In the words of Barbara Jordan, the first African-American woman from the South elected to the House of Representatives, 'The imperative is to define what is right and then do it' – and in our case, we do it even when no one knows," Fudge said.
"The 13 founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus established this body to positively influence the course of events affecting African Americans and others with similar interests. Since then, CBC members ... have led many of the most pivotal discussions and initiatives. We have been at the forefront of the movement against social and economic injustice."
Asked for his advice to the five new members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they begin their tenure in the wake of contentious fiscal-cliff negotiations and with low approval ratings for the body as a whole, Rep. Cleaver told The Root that he suggests keeping this perspective in mind:
"Anybody coming into Congress at this time can celebrate the fact that men and women usually do their best in the midst of a crisis. Few people rise to greatness in peaceful, calm waters. It is when they are in the midst of troubled waters and a storm that they do best. And, as painful as it is for me to say, a storm is brewing in the United States. How we handle the storm could determine how this nation will do for the next century."
"There is so much to be done, and hopefully we can achieve what's best for the people," Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) echoed. As for the freshman members of the 40-year-old group: "They'll get it as time comes. They had good advice to get here, and I know they'll be able to catch on quickly," she said.
Fudge will be joined by Reps. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina as first vice chair, Rep. Yvette Clarke of New York as second vice chair, Andre Carson of Indiana as secretary and Karen Bass of California as whip.
The five new members are Mark Veasy (Texas-33), Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.-08), Steven Horsford (Nev.-04), Joyce Beatty (Ohio-03) and Donald Payne Jr. (N.J.-10).
The ceremonial swearing-in event ended with members greeting and congratulating one another as pastor and gospel artist Marvin L. Sapp performed his hit, "Never Would Have Made It."