A Historic Meeting: Vice President Kamala Harris Welcomes Congressional Black Caucus to the White House
Courtesy of The White House

Vice President Kamala Harris held a historic meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) at the White House, discussing issues of importance to Black communities and all Americans.

The one-hour meeting took place on Thursday in the Vice President’s ceremonial office. It is the first time in U.S. history that a sitting VP is a woman, Black, Southeast Asian American and a former member of the CBC.  

That it happened during Black History Month was a plus. “Everyone was very excited,” a Capitol Hill source told ESSENCE.

The CBC has a record 58 members in the 117th Congress, and marks its 50th anniversary this year. The group recently unveiled its new plan for equality, equity and equal justice under the theme, “Our Power, Our Message.”  

CBC Chair, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) and Rep. Nikema Williams (D-GA) were among the lawmakers in attendance. The group all wore masks and were socially distanced.  

“Met with Vice-President Kamala Harris and fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss issues of concern in our community related to the pandemic and beyond,” Rep. Jeffries, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, posted on social media. “Change is coming.”

The topics on the agenda included discussion of the American Rescue Plan, which is a top legislative priority for the Biden-Harris Administration.  

The comprehensive plan would direct $1.9 trillion in emergency relief to Americans. It expands vaccine distribution and testing for COVID-19. It will extend aid to businesses and workers to help financially until it is safe to fully reopen. It will additionally provide teachers and school districts with resources for safe in-person learning, among other provisions.

The plan also includes investments of $20 billion to help hard-hit public transit agencies avoid layoffs and service reductions that disproportionately harm Black workers. It would deliver immediate relief to working families bearing the brunt of the crisis and provide eligible individuals and families a $1,400 per-person check. The plan would also provide an additional $35 billion in rental, mortgage, and homelessness assistance, helping Black families, whom data show are more likely to be rent-burdened.

The U.S. House of Representatives is slated to vote on the American Rescue Plan today. 

“The American Rescue Plan proposed by the Biden-Harris administration will help Black neighborhoods and businesses build back and better after being disproportionately hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Williams, who is newly elected and holds the seat of the late civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis. “I look forward to working with Vice President Harris, and my Congressional Black Caucus colleagues as we live Black history by strengthening our power and our message.”  

VP Harris has had a packed schedule. In addition to daily briefings with President Biden, she has met with global leaders and national stakeholders.

She recently visited a grocery store in Washington, D.C. where people were being vaccinated. She recently swore in Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the top Black diplomat who will serve as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Harris has also met virtually with local members of the Black Chamber of Commerce from across the country to discuss the importance of passing the American Rescue Plan.

This weekend, the Vice President is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the 40th annual Black History Month breakfast hosted by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD). And tomorrow evening, the president, first lady, vice president and second gentleman will host a virtual Black History Month Celebration. The pre-taped event will include performances by Anthony Hamilton and the St. Augustine Gospel Choir. 

The program will be livestreamed and will share messages celebrating the Black experience and Black contributions to our country’s history. The event will also highlight the executive actions and policy proposals that honor Black History by working to lift every voice and improving the futures of Black Americans.

The 8 PM ET event will be livestreamed on the White House official Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels.

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