Training with the Congressional Black Caucus

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Formed in 1971, the the Congressional Black Caucus Institute (CBIC) has been an influential voice for people of color in the American government. Using their leverage in politics, these inspiring people have worked to fix economic, social, and political disparities faced by their communities. Specifically, CBCI’s work includes, but is not limited to, reforming the criminal justice system, pushing back against voter suppression, making top of the line education available for everyone, and eliminating racial health disparities. Our own Mariah Davis, field manager for the Choose Clean Water, has been accepted to the CBCI Political Leadership Training – a program that creates strong and experienced future leaders. We sat down with Mariah to ask a few questions on her application to this program.

Why did you apply to join the Congressional Black Caucus program? What drew you in?

I decided to apply for a political leadership program, or at least was drawn to one, once I started to dive into my environmental career. I saw an alignment between the conservation movement and politics that I really wanted to explore. I was searching for a program that would not only help me build my skill set, but one that would challenge me and fit into my current campaign work. I was drawn to this program specifically because it works for my schedule and I personally align with the mission of the CBCI as a whole. I did a lot of research prior to applying and explored programs in the greater D.C. metro area before settling in on this one. Throughout my work in the environmental sector, I’ve developed a really great relationship with members of Congress who are also a part of the Congressional Black Caucus. I have worked with Congressman A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) and his staff on multiple outreach efforts over the last few years. Knowing that I already had great relationships with members of Congress involved in the CBCI, I felt encouraged to apply.

What do you hope to gain as an individual from this? What do you think you can offer them?

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I’m really interested in getting to know my peers from around the country who also have experience in campaign work. I think all of their perspectives will be unique, so I’m excited to learn about their backgrounds and skill sets in their respective careers. I’m hoping there will be a great mix of people I can network and build relationships with. This training is meant for those who either want to run for office or for individuals who are interested in supporting campaign work. Over the course of a week, we will develop winning strategies to execute successful campaign plans and fundraising tactics needed to win. Through this simulation, I hope to build upon my existing knowledge to help build out existing campaigns within the Coalition that brings clean water back to the region. In exchange, I can offer a tactful and strategic mindset, combined with a background on environmental justice issues.

 You mentioned the socioeconomic imbalance in neighborhoods of color, why do you think this injustice exists? How can it be improved or solved?

The reality is that racial discrimination has been embedded within our current policies and the way in which the American government is run. Overall, is it very challenging to address the many layers of how we ended up this way. Luckily, there has been an increase in the number of people of color that want to have a seat at the table and become decision makers - this is key to undoing the harmful policies that currently exist. Continuing to empower people around you to vote and to participate in the electoral process is crucial, as well as investments in programs that enable high performing students from undeserved communities to apply for higher education opportunities. From a more political lens, it is important that we support leaders who prioritize their constituents over corporations looking to influence decision making.

Congratulations on your acceptance, Mariah!

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern with Choose Clean Water.