The 41st annual Congressional Black Caucus week officially kicks off Wednesday, with thousands flocking to debate issues, listen to President Obama or lobby for their causes. But for many, the week is judged a success or failure by a single criteria: How good the parties were.

With that in mind, we talked to some CBC week vets so they could school us on what makes for a great caucus party.

Patrice Webb, Director of External Affairs, Heineken USA, Inc.
Great venue: it should be packed, but not like sardines, more like a grocery bag...paper of course, not plastic. Temperature control is a good thing so having access to outside via a balcony, roof top or courtyard is ideal.
A great crowd: it should be one where everyone knows at least half the room. There should be numerous moments of bumping and realizing that you actually know the dude in front of you, from when you first got to DC.
Great music- the DJ has to be on point and know exactly when to pull out the Fugees, LL, Jay-Z, Bootsie, Young MC, Prince and Mr. Brown --the wrong timing can kill the vibe and clear the floor.
A Great Gatsby ending- that means that you have so much fun at the party that you don't care that it's 3 a.m., you just want to know "where's the after party?"
One of the most important components is having the right crowd. An off crowd can make a potentially good party totally sour.
Some rules of etiquette for CBCF party goers: do your research on the hot parties early, rsvp to everything just in case you end up at the door and lastly, be nice to the other partiers you run into--they may be your connection to getting into the next event.
     And lastly after the last party on Saturday night, The Diner in Adams Morgan is the perfect ending.

Nicole Venable, 18-year CBC veteran, lobbyist and former Chief of Staff for Rep. William Jefferson, (D-LA)
A good mix of politicos, CBC Members, Hill Staff and a good food spread!  There is barely time to eat otherwise! 

Chanelle Hardy, Senior Vice President for Policy and Executive Director, The National Urban League Policy Institute; Former Chief of Staff for Rep. Artur Davis. (D-Alabama)
A great CBC party is like a family reunion, seeing old family and friends; seeing people that you’ve worked with for years. We’re in a unique little world here, there’s still not as many of us in this field as there should be, and we work really hard,  so it’s fun to take a moment to celebrate each other.
A good party is in a place that’s a really nice venue, with good background entertainment like a live jazz ensemble. For the later parties you want the music to be a little more upbeat, but for the earlier ones you want to be able to hear the people you’re talking to.
A great CBC party provides access - to Members, key staff, and policy and advocacy colleagues in the public, NGO and private sectors - in a relaxed and enjoyable setting. CBC is a unique opportunity to reconnect with a huge number of African-American movers and shakers at once.
As for food, you want something good and easy that you can eat while you’re talking with someone, Things that are not messy, but still tasty.

Cheeky Sasso, Chief Executive Officer, Cheeky Sasso Entertainment & Marketing Group
A great CBC party has the right artistry, the right music, the right floral arrangements in a place that allows the dignitaries to feel like they’re in a warm environment.
For food you have to have some kind of shrimp appetizer passed. You also have sliders, bruschetta, chicken fingers, steak tidbits and vegetable Asian rolls. For music you have to know who the guests are, but I like to take the guests on a musical journey through classic hip-hop. I might hit them with 1980s and 1990s hip-hop then I might go into Fonda Rae “Over Like a Fat Rat” or some classics from Patrice Rushen. Definitely have to have some Isley Brothers then some Zapp & Roger.
Then you bring it home with some Tribe Called Quest and the Native Tongues, things that the crowd may have been listening to in college. I’ve been known to infuse some salsa and merengue. But you have to do something for everybody, too, so I’ll do Billy Joel with some Huey Lewis.

A. Scott Bolden, the District's go-to-if-you're-in-a-tight-spot attorney
Substance and star power, for starters. If you get a good mix of substance and star power it means you have elected officials, it means you have athletes and entertainers and great food. A good time slot, always helps and that means little or no competition with other parties; You always want to have a good mix of professionals. That’s usually a good formula for success. A great invitation helps. A great theme, too. Something that’s different from the normal political business invite we get daily in Washington. Those factors are key.
But in the end it comes down to the conversation and the entertainment. And many times there isn’t much difference between the two.

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