Oh What a Year! Let's take a look back at 2020

What a year! 2020 has been a trying year for our country. In early Spring, we were thrust into a global pandemic that was quickly exacerbated by the racial maelstrom triggered by the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police. Ensuing protests, call for action, and public debate around the real intent of "law and order" took center stage against the backdrop of the upcoming national election.

Despite the challenges of 2020, we stood in lines, mailed in ballots, and drove souls to the polls, all while wearing masks and staying six feet apart. We turned out in record numbers to vote, fully understanding that this was the most consequential election of our lifetime regardless of partisan political affiliation. The fight for equality and justice did not end on November 3, 2020. Continue demanding change from your house to the White House and all the places in between.

We would be remiss not acknowledging Chairman Thompson's political prowess as chair of the Democratic Convention and Congressman Cedric Richmond as co-chair of the Biden campaign. We are proud of your work. Congratulations to both Congressman Richmond and Congresswoman Marica Fudge for being tapped to serve in the Biden-Harris Administration.

Richmond will serve as senior adviser to the President and Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. When confirmed, Congresswoman Fudge will be the first black woman to serve as Secretary of Housing and Urban since the Carter administration. We are grateful for their time and leadership and can't wait to see your sphere of influence on the West Wing.

As 2020 comes to an end, our sincerest thanks to our board of directors, partners, supporters, and friends. Your commitment to us helped us continue to do great work throughout this year. We know our success comes from your belief and confidence in us; we can't thank you enough.

COVID-19 presented us with myriad hurdles while also providing never before imagined ways of connecting. Read on to see how we pivoted to carry out programming this year. We hope to see all of you in person in 2021.

Have a safe and peaceful holiday season!


Vanessa Griddine-Jones

Executive Director

Presidential Democratic Debate

Before the gravity of the global pandemic was conveyed to the world, we successfully kicked off 2020 as a co-host with CBS of the South Carolina Democratic Presidential Debate in Charleston. Over 400 participants over three days attended our "First in the South President Debate Summit."

Note: In previous presidential election years, CBCI has also participated in the Republican Presidential debates. This year, the RNC did not hold presidential debates.

In conjunction with the summit, CBCI held a one-day campaign training workshop in Charleston, SC, at the historic Mother Emanuel Church. During the training, we had a press conference announcing a scholarship honoring Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney's (former SC state senator and senior pastor at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church), civic-mindedness and political zeal. Pinckney was killed along with eight others in a racially motivated massacre in 2015. The scholarship will cover the cost of a participant from the Charleston area to attend our annual Boot Camp.

ACT (Advocacy and Campaign Training)

We began the second year of our Advocacy and Campaign Training (ACT) Workshops with the renewal of another generous grant from the Walton Family Foundation. The funding allows us to provide a 2-day abbreviated version of our week-long annual Boot Camp. These workshops are free of charge to the participants in various cities throughout the United States.

In August, we held a two-day virtual ACT workshop for Georgia and Louisiana residents. The 55 participants did a deep dive into the fundamentals of the campaign arts- all via Zoom. We assembled a powerhouse team of trainers, all experts in different facets of campaigning and advocacy: Blair Boutte (Campaign Strategy), Conen Morgan (Voter Files), Denise Horn, Rasheedah Thomas & Calvin Dark (Communications), Douglas Wilson (Direct Voter Contact), Jessica Knight Henry (Finance), and Dana Henry (Education Advocacy). The 10-hour training was highly interactive, and participants learned directly from leaders, managers, and advisors for current candidates and policy advocates. We look forward to expanding our geographies in 2021.

Click here for more about CBCI Alumni activities.

Boot Camp

Our annual Political Development and Leadership Program (Boot Camp) was postponed this year due to Covid-19. But, don't fret; we are looking for ways to implement Covid-19 safety protocols for 2021.

21st Century Council

Our 21st Century Council continued to meet throughout the year and worked on policy recommendations for the Annual Report. The 2021 report will be unveiled in January of 2021 and includes policy recommendations for nearly every industry from Biopharmaceuticals to Transportation and new sections on Racial Equality and Sustainable Development. We look forward to unveiling the 2021 Annual report at the start of the 117th Session of Congress.


There was no way to convene our MS Policy Conference amid the pandemic. But you all demanded that our 21st year still be recognized. So, we gathered virtually for a toast to celebrate what would have been the first day of our annual conference. Over 100 people from all over the country joined the Zoom as we raised a toast listening to The Thrill is Gone, performed by blues guitarist, Kingfish.

CBCI Initiative for the Global African Diaspora

CBCI goes global…as part of our special consultative status granted in 2017 by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNECOSOC), we launched our Global African Diaspora Initiative and held the following activities:

In honor of Juneteenth, the CBCI joined with fellow UNECOSOC African American organizations (Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, NAACP, and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated) to bring global awareness and support for actions to combat the many challenges facing African Americans in the United States of America.

We hosted a virtual celebration honoring 75 years of African Americans' contributions to the United Nations with distinguished discussion leaders, including CBCI Board Chairman, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (MS); Congressional Representative to the UN, Rep. Barbara Lee (CA); President of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson; Executive Director of the National Council of Negro Women, Janice L. Mathis; former US Ambassador to the UN, Andrew Young; and actor and UN Goodwill Ambassador, Danny Glover.

Additionally, CBCI held a virtual forum, "Globally Black: Increasing Diversity in Foreign Affairs Careers," to increase African American interest in pursuing foreign affairs careers. The forum, which was simulcast on Facebook Live, brought together current and former African American business leaders, ambassadors, diplomats, and 150 current students from HBCUs across the country. The forum is a part of our ongoing informational series.

Covid-19 Education and Outreach Project

At the initial peak of COVID-19's disproportionate impact on African Americans, we proposed an education and outreach project to dispel myths and misinformation about COVID-19. The project seeks to disseminate accurate information by trusted community messengers and providing resources to those communities with high infection rates. In partnership with the East Bay Community Foundation, the project targets African American communities in 8 geographies in Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, California, Alabama, and Washington, DC. This is a demonstration project and will begin January- September 2021.