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The Power of Now
This weekend, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) awarded Elaine Jones, LDF's former President and Director-Counsel, with the prestigious CBC Chair's Phoenix Award. The Phoenix Awards are presented annually at CBC's Legislative Conference Dinner to "extraordinary individuals who, through their efforts and accomplishments, have made significant contributions to society."
In addition to Elaine, President Bill Clinton and Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) received Phoenix Awards from the Caucus. President Obama delivered the keynote address at the dinner, which is the highlight of the four-day legislative conference designed to address policies for the African-American community.
The Chair of the CBC, Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH), presented the award to Elaine, a longtime friend. LDF staff, friends and colleagues were in attendance for the occasion. A video tribute to Elaine was shown, which traced Elaine's history with LDF over the decades and noted her many significant litigation and legislative accomplishments.
Leslie Proll, Director of LDF's Washington Office, congratulated Elaine on the high honor. "The CBC could not have chosen a more deserving civil rights leader for this award. Many of CBC's 43 Members worked closely with Elaine; they know first-hand that the legislative victories in civil rights were due in large part to Elaine's vision and strategic thinking."
In her acceptance speech, Elaine called upon the audience to continue the unfinished business of civil rights. She cited the recent rollback on voting rights by the Supreme Court, which requires an immediate legislative response. Recalling the history of African-American representation in Congress, Elaine quoted from the 1901 farewell address to Congress of North Carolina Representative George Henry White: "This ... is perhaps the Negro's temporary farewell to the American Congress; but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up someday and come again." Elaine noted it would be more than seventy years before another African American from the South was elected to Congress, Barbara Jordan (D-TX).
The theme of the dinner was the "Spirit of 1963." The CBC paid tribute to momentous events in civil rights during that year, including the March on Washington, the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, and the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in Birmingham. "The events that transpired [that year] helped propel the movement forward and laid the foundation for the historic legislative gains of subsequent years."