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While the first days of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF) 45th Annual Legislative Conference 2015 were chock-full of a number of panels discussing economic empowerment, diversity in technology, the future of the Voting Rights Act, and the school-to-prison pipeline, the common thread of Black Lives Matter was hard to miss — the visibility serving as proof that the largest freedom movement in recent decades is both effective and catching fire.

In a town hall meeting to kick off CBC Week, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) spoke to a crowded room about the power of the Black Lives Matter Network, urging both policymakers and the community to join in an effort to combat issues that disproportionately affect Black communities. Challenging critics of the movement who blame violence against police on members of the network, Lee made it clear that caring for Black lives and considering the lives of those in blue were not mutually exclusive.

“We all mourn when a law enforcement officer falls in the line of duty,” Rep. Lee said. “And that’s why I stand for Black Lives Matter. They never would step in the line of arguing for any violence. So let’s make that a point for our community. You call 911 still, do you not?”

Just two days later, President Obama echoed Lee’s statements when he addressed a full ballroom at the CBCF Phoenix Awards with a moving address focused on empowering Black women.

“There is no contradiction between us caring about our law enforcement officers and also making sure that our laws are applied fairly,” Obama said. “Do not make this as an either/or proposition. This is a both/and proposition. We want to protect our police officers. We’ll do a better job doing it if our communities can feel confident that they are being treated fairly. I hope I’m making that clear.”

The comments from both Lee and President Obama were fitting given the main focus of the CBCF panels — criminal justice reform.

NewsOne caught up with Sen. Cory Booker, who was on hand to discuss the school-to-prison pipeline and the policy his team is currently pushing to curb an influx of students from falling through the cracks.

“We’re losing too much of our valuable natural resource,” Booker told NewsOne. “It isn’t oil or gas. It’s our children.”

Benjamin Crump, attorney for the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, reiterated the need to protect young Black girls and boys, posing this question to NewsOne in an exclusive interview:

“What is it about our children that draws the gauge of suspicion, that draws the perception that they’re up to no good?”

One way to combat the disenfranchisement of our children, Natalie Madeira Cofield, founder of Walkers Legacy, told NewsOne, is economic empowerment.

“I think it’s important that we build business for 2016 and beyond, and that people see successful Black entrepreneurs in every fabric of every city of this country,” she said at an IMPACT Emerging Leaders Town Hall.

Check out NewsOne’s recap of CBC Week in the video and catch exclusive interviews with Carmen Perez (Justice League NYC), Glenn Martin of JustLeadership USA, Cory Booker, Benjamin Crump, and more.


Overheard At CBCF: What Are Our Representatives, Activists, & Entrepreneurs Saying About Black Lives Matter?

Deputy Director For White House Education Initiative: Black Lives Matter Is “On The Tongues” Of The Obama Administration

Mother Of Sandra Bland: “I Will Not Stop Until We Find Out What Happened To Her”

“All Of Us Are The Beneficiaries Of Strong Black Women:” Obama Fights For Women Of Color In CBCF Speech

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EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Cory Booker, Benjamin Crump & Marilyn Mosby Talk Black Lives, Criminal Justice At CBCF ALC 15  was originally published on