Signage declaring the tenets of the Congressional Black Caucus’s 52nd Annual Legislative Conference is displayed at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Wednesday, September 20, 2024 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 52nd Annual Legislative Conference began earlier this week. Hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the annual legislative conference will take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center from September 20-24. 

This year’s themes are “Securing Our Democracy. Protecting Our Freedoms. Uplifting Our Culture,” according to the Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) website. The conference will be co-chaired by Atlanta’s own Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock, who late last week, sent a letter to Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens asking that eligible signatures be accepted in order for residents that are not in favor of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center to have their voices heard on the matter. Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands is Warnock’s conference co-chair.

There are a number of signature events on the schedule for this year’s conference, including the Day of Healing, which brings together faith leaders and religious followers of all faiths on Saturday.

The African American Policy Forum booth inside the Marketplace Town center at this year’s ALC. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

Everything began Wednesday with an opening press conference followed by a health fair that provided screenings for the unhoused and uninsured residents of Washington, D.C. On a daily basis there can be thousands of unhoused persons in the nation’s capital, according to data from The Community Partnership for Prevention of Homelessness. 

A national town hall with a focus on examining censorship, disinformation, and voter suppression took place Wednesday. 

There will also be appearances from both President Joseph R. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who will be delivering keynote remarks during the annual Phoenix Awards on Saturday.  

Less political and more focussed on fellowship, the Congressional Black Caucus Community Breakfast, which will take place Wednesday at Franklin Park, a 4.79 acre public park downtown.The Gospel Extravaganza will take place that evening and will feature a number of choirs from across the country, speakers and performers. 

The Marketplace Town Center, which is located on the second floor of the convention center. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

One of the other unique features of the conference is the Marketplace Town Center, which is located on the second floor of the convention center. Vendors from around the country are in town to sell art, books, African-inspired clothing, hand-crafted jewelry and Divine Nine merchandise.

A ceramic statue by Rashad Reed of R. Rashad Studios out of Peoria, Illinois. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

Rashad Reed, an artist from Peoria, Illinois, drove to the convention where he will be selling his ceramic pieces. He has been a vendor at the Annual Legislative Conference in the past and knows it’s a good opportunity to get his work out to the masses.

“I love being here. You get a chance to meet collectors and it’s always good to get feedback,” Reed said. 

Heart and Soul magazine CEO Clarence I. Brown was preparing to shut his booth down for the evening when he added, “We have been participating in ALC for over a decade. I’m happy to see it back because we get to talk to people in the community when we are here.”

Heart and Soul, a digital magazine and website that focuses its content on health and wellness, is located nearby in Virginia. “We need the Congressional Black Caucus to keep fighting for our communities.”

African American Policy Forum (AAPF), a New York-based think tank, is also at the convention this year. The organization’s Director of Programming Glenda Smiley and a pair of colleagues were managing the AAPF booth and its tables and bookshelves full of banned Black books. Classics like “The Color Purple,” “The Bluest Eye,” and newer but equally as powerful books such as “All Boys Aren’t Blue,”  “Between the World and Me,” and “The 1619 Project,” have all been on banned books lists around the country. Each book was represented at the AAPF booth.

“It’s important for us to be here when legislatures and advocates are speaking,” said Smiley who added that people that have visited their booth Wednesday were shocked to learn that some of their favorite books were on banned lists.

“Some people have been moved to tears to learn these books are banned,” she said.

 There are also booths for national brands like Amazon, Meta, Tik Tok, and the National Association Real Estate Brokers, Inc., Zillow, Apple and the Black Information Network inside the Marketplace Town Center.

The Atlanta Voice will be in Washington for the conference and will be posting daily reports to

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...