Sylvia Hutchins had attended last week's Solidarity Day march here and yesterday, the middle-aged black woman repacked her suitcase, got 10 of her friends together, and returned for the Congressional Black Caucus Weekend. "Just to support black politicians," said Hutchins, an official of a city employes' union in New York City. "We have got to back our people 100 percent. This is a tough administration to crack, but we have to show Reagan we are not going to take this lying down."
As people began to gather yesterday for the 11th annual Black Caucus Weekend, they talked more about the largest black political gathering of the year as a vehicle for protest and organization, than as an opportunity for reunion and partying. "The drastic budgetary cuts create some urgency," said Rep. Julian Dixon (D-Calif.), the chairman of the weekend, as he greeted guests at a reception.
Obstensibly the weekend, highlighted by an awards banquet, is the 18-member Caucus' primary fund-raiser, bringing in a half a million dollars last year for its office, internships and other projects. Each year the Caucus' weekend adopts more of the cornucopia convention atmosphere. Just yesterday, on the first day of the three-day gathering, there were speeches, a march, a rally on the Capitol steps, workshops on a dozen issues, two receptions, a jazz concert, a midnight fashion show, and several non-Caucus-related meetings and parties. That variety gave credence to both dominant purposes of the weekend: hard work and extravagant frivolity.
Over barbecue sandwiches, potato chips and beer at the Rayburn Building, 300 of the 1,000 people who had sat through six hours of legislative workshops continued their dialogue on private enterprise incentives in cities, overcrowding of jails, opportunities in cable television and the ever-present topic of the effect of Reaganomics.
Arthur Petersen, a local consultant, and Lawrence Cager, a Baltimore member of Maryland's Black Chamber of Commerce, felt Rep. Gus Savage's (D-Ill.) workshop on economic development illustrated the best of what could be accomplished over the weekend. "We got down to the questions of what happens when the initial incentives for those businesses are ended. There's a real danger there," Petersen explained. "Now, can direct community control influence the development of those jobs?"
By the time Savage arrived at the pre-jazz concert reception at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, he was incorporating his workshop exchange into legislation. "We have got to deal with the relationship between where the businesses are located and where the employes can be hired from. That workshop was a step toward defining ourselves not only as representatives of blacks but of the working class."