To the Congressional Black Caucus
AN URGENT PETITION TO THE CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS We note with great alarm the steady deterioration of the Congressional Black Caucus as a force for progressive change. Despite the diligent work of many individual members, the CBC as a body has abdicated its responsibility to collectively uphold fundamental principles held dear by overwhelming numbers of African Americans and peoples of good will. These principles regarding peace, social and economic justice, racial equality, and people\'s rights to self-determination, broadly comprise the historically evolved Black Political Consensus. In the face of increasing defections of CBC members from the basic tenets of the Black Political Consensus, and the failure of the CBC to collectively function according to its motto, \"the conscience of the Congress\" it becomes necessary to DEMAND that CBC leadership, the Caucus as a body, and each individual member adhere to a \"bright lines\" political/legislative agenda that allows no \"weasel room\" for crass collaboration, rank opportunism, and betrayal. WE DEMAND that the CBC, individually and collectively, take immediate action to: DISMANTLE RACIALLY SELECTIVE MASS INCARCERATION, beginning with action to sunset or repeal all mandatory sentencing legislation, eliminate the differential in penalties for crack and powdered cocaine, and halt privatization of prisons and prison health services. America\'s prison population has multiplied eightfold since 1970. African Americans are one-eighth of this nation, but fully half of her prisons and jails. Mass Black incarceration is a national public policy that destroys the prospects for progress in every arena of African American life. With projections that the prison and jail population will increase by nearly 200,000 in the next four years, the CBC should demand an immediate cap on federal and state prison growth, the latter on penalty of loss of federal criminal justice funding to those states not in compliance. AID AND EMPOWER THOSE DISPERSED AND DISPOSSESSED BY KATRINA through legislation that specifically recognizes the rights of hundreds of thousands of exiles to return to their communities under conditions of adequate housing, schools, health care, social support infrastructure and priority employment for pre-Katrina residents in the reconstruction effort. The CBC-backed legislation should be guided by the New Orleans Citizens Bill of Rights, drawn up by residents of the city. The CBC must demand that destruction of public housing and other affordable dwellings cease, and that affordable housing be constructed for the 70 percent of uprooted residents who were renters. Not one federal dime should be spent for programs that lead to further gentrification of New Orleans. The CBC should establish its own permanent Watchdog Unit to monitor all reconstruction activities. END THE WAR IN IRAQ NOW through support of the Woolsey-Waters-Lee \"Bring the Troops Home and Iraqi Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2007\"; H.R. 508, and renunciation of George Bush\'s pre-emptive war doctrine in all its manifestations. The Bush war policy is a formula for endless global conflict, deterioration of the rule of law among nations, and growing impoverishment, indebtedness and evisceration of civil liberties at home. Further, the CBC must resist all attempts to draw the U.S. into war with Iran, and block covert and overt U.S. schemes for \"regime change\" elsewhere in the world, most notably in Venezuela. GET THE U.S. MILITARY OUT OF AFRICA by withholding funds and authorization for a permanent string of U.S. military bases throughout oil-rich regions of Africa, from Djibouti and Ethiopia in the east to the Gulf of Guinea in the west. In January, the White House created a Pentagon Africa Command as part of its so-called Global War on Terror, thus targeting the continent for further militarization and destabilization. The CBC must create its own Watchdog Unit to monitor and expose administration plans to make Africa the next front in its wars to seize the world\'s resources. TRANSFORM THE CITIES AND CREATE MILLIONS OF JOBS through a massive program similar to the U.S. post-war Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe, or the much larger federal programs that established national infrastructure necessary for the creation of an almost exclusively white American suburbia during the same period. Integral to this project must be creation of GOOD JOBS AT GOOD WAGES for the residents of the cities, good schools to educate young people who will fill those jobs, and democratic participation of residents in the transformation of their neighborhoods and hometowns. The CBC must unequivocally support the Employee Free Choice Act and other measures that allow employees on any job to organize unions wherever and whenever they choose. ESTABLISH TRULY UNIVERSAL, SINGLE PAYER HEALTH CARE for all Americans, by endorsing HR 676, co-sponsored by Reps. John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich, as a first step toward a single payer system of national health insurance. 15-30% of every American health care dollar pays for advertising, shareholder profit and other non-health care costs. Medicare, Medicaid and single payer systems like the Canadian one spend 97 to 99 cents of every dollar on health care. These are the only practical ways to deliver health care to all Americans. Any proposal that further entrenches private profit further delays the advent of a genuine national health care program, thus making inevitable the unnecessary death of millions of Americans. ENSURE VOTING RIGHTS through measures to require verifiable paper trails, along with enforceable guarantees that every citizen has an equal opportunity to vote, and an equal chance to see that vote counted. The CBC must support all measures that reinstate the franchise to persons who have served out their criminal sentences. *** It is the CBC\'s failures that compel us to demand specific action on these seven \"bright line\" issues. Where relevant legislation does not exist, we insist that CBC members act like leaders and submit their own bills, to be co-sponsored by fellow members. We will not accept the pitiful excuse that it is useless to propose legislation that will not be passed in this session. If the Congressional Black Caucus is incapable of taking leadership, it has already outlived its usefulness.