Fellow, Congressional Black Caucus
Erin McIntire will spend this summer working as a legal fellow for the Congressional Black Caucus on Capitol Hill. The Congressional Black Caucus advocates for legislation that best serves the social and economic interests of African Americans and neglected communities within the United States.
July 1, 2013
I can't believe I have been working as a legal fellow at the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) for a month now! The CBC, founded during the 92nd Congress, serves the African American legislators in making effective legislation and policy that considers the needs of black constituents. I was fortunate enough to be selected as the only legal fellow for the CBC for this summer. As such, I have been given the opportunity to touch on a plethora of political issues as well as have the chance to learn more about issues that spark my interest. While there aren't typical days in the office, I have had the opportunity to attend briefings with the CBC's executive director and policy director. I have also had the opportunity to observe political strategists in action, especially those that prevented the FARM bill from passing.
The last few weeks at the CBC have been particularly exciting. When the Voting Rights Act SCOTUS decision was released, I got to be heavily involved in the analysis of the case. I must say I've never read a case that fast in my life! While I read the case, I helped the policy director and communications/press director create talking points for the CBC press conference that was held a few hours later. I also got to sit in on the press conference and listen to various CBC members, including Reps. John Lewis and Terri Sewell, discuss the reasons why the coverage formula is still necessary. Being exposed to the CBC members has been a true privilege and I look forward to personally meeting all of them during my fellowship. I am also excited to see whether and/or how Congress will draft a new coverage formula for the Voting Rights Act.
In addition to working on the Voting Rights Act, I have been corresponding with various advocate groups that have been seeking to get ERPA (End Racial Profiling Act) implemented. So far, I have attended briefings with the CBC chair, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, as well as other CBC staffers on how the CBC can get involved on this issue. I am hoping to learn as much as possible about this issue and hopefully make good contacts with these organizations so that I may do more work on racial profiling in the future.
So far, I have learned that the CBC staff is like one big family. I feel so lucky that the staffers have included me on so many projects as well as events outside of work (the Congressional Baseball game and Jazz in the Park). On my own time, I have ventured out to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. For any artists/dancer/theater geeks out there, I saw Ballet Across America and watched a wonderful performance featuring Dance Theatre of Harlem.
This has truly been an exciting summer to get involved on Capitol Hill. In the upcoming month, I plan on attending more briefings on international human rights issues, setting up a briefing regarding phone rate prison reform, attending at least three networking events, and making connections with my Mid-Atlantic Black Law Student Association colleagues.
I look forward to continuing what has already been a very exciting summer.
Aug. 7, 2013
Today marks the last two weeks of my fellowship with the Congressional Black Caucus. This last month has been truly exciting and highly eventful. I accomplished my goal to attend more briefings and events on international issues. I also feel fortunate to have exposure to such a broad base of topics facing black communities both inside and outside the United States.
On July 26th, I had the opportunity to attend an all-day Congressional Staff Briefing on the inner workings of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). During the briefing, USAID staff discussed the impact its Feed the Future Program has had on efforts to alleviate world hunger. Staffers also discussed the devastating effects that hunger has had on youth in developing nations. Currently, a generation of youth will experience growth stunting due to malnutrition and hunger.
I am really excited that I had the opportunity to attend this briefing because I would like to work for an organization like USAID in the future. I think my experience working for the Congressional Black Caucus would be extremely helpful in future work at other types of human-rights-oriented organizations because I now understand how to navigate the lengthy, legislative process that can prevent or enable different laws to come into fruition. Working at the Congressional Black Caucus has also given me a better understanding of how important lobbying becomes for various organizations in their attempt to have their interests represented within Congress.
This last month, I have also helped with the logistics of the CBC's Affordable Care Act Tour to St. Croix, Chicago, Oakland, Dallas, Miami, Brooklyn, Las Vegas, and Baltimore. It has been inspiring to help plan this tour because it has helped hundreds of individuals in each of these cities, particularly African-Americans, better understand the changes that have occurred for health insurance as well as how to get the health insurance they will soon need.
On July 24th, I was fortunate enough to sit behind the Congressional Black Caucus members during the Congressional Caucus on Black Men & Boys' hearing: "The Status of Black Males: Ensuring Our Boys Mature Into Strong Men." During the hearing, Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin's father, spoke on the necessity of changing Stand Your Ground laws. Tracy Martin was accompanied by Dr. Michael E. Dyson. Dr. Dyson discussed the status of black teens and youth living within the United States. According to Dr. Dyson, all blacks live under suspicion in which their humanity and intelligence are constantly under question. These are evidenced through a system that has continuously placed black youth into expulsion, detention, and special education. Through these systems, blacks are racially profiled; this racial profiling has been taught through media outlets and has become pervasive in the subconscious thinking of men like George Zimmerman.
Shortly after this hearing, I wrote a letter for the CBC Chair requesting the Steering & Policy Committee host a hearing to discuss race and justice in the United States. After the hearing, I wrote a resource guide for the Congressional Black Caucus members to use while they are in their districts so that they can continue to have an appropriate dialog with their constituents regarding how to change some of the systemic issues that have continuously impacted blacks and Latinos.
Alongside framing how to appropriately discuss race with constituents, I have been working on a Monthly Jobs Report memo for CBC staff that discusses the national unemployment rate; state unemployment rates; and unemployment rates based on gender, age, and race. This memo has been extremely important because it has ensured that CBC members have a comprehensive understanding of the needs of their unemployed constituents. The memo has also been helpful in that it has showed unemployment patterns over time, which ensures that CBC members will make educated votes on legislation and create bills with full awareness of their constituents needs.
This last month, I also drafted letters to the World Bank on behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus. These letters focused on the CBC's concerns regarding the Bank's racially discriminatory practices in its hiring and promotion standards. I have really enjoyed the process of working towards a resolution for the black employees hired by the Bank. As a part of the resolution process, I participated in a phone briefing yesterday with my boss and the U.S. Treasury, to discuss possible solutions to aid in ending hiring discrimination. These solutions included an internal accountability office, an internal study of the Bank that focuses on the racial composition of employees rather than geographical composition, and an internal dispute resolution board that would hear grievances related to employment practices. While this issue will continue on after my fellowship, I feel fortunate to have participated in a portion of the process.
I look forward to finishing my fellowship and possibly working on similar issues at other organizations in the future.