Over 17,000 people are expected to attend the 38th annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative weekend which begins Wednesday with an event sponsored by the Washington DC City Council. The CBC meet is being held under the theme “Embracing the Promise, Realizing the Vision.” Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is expected to host one of the conferences’ 84 forums and workshops.

Health care along with the escalating financial crisis precipitated by the sub-prime lending crisis are slated to be addressed by legislators and activists during the weekend. HIV/AIDS is a leading cause of death among African Americans. A recent study suggested that if Black America was regarded as a country, it would have the 16th highest infection rate. The sub-prime crisis has caused the largest wealth loss among Black citizens in US history and was also prominently addressed by the NAACP and Urban League last summer.

Efforts to bolster Obama’s election bid are sure to figure prominently in the proceedings. “What was once beyond our grasp is now at our fingertips,” remarked Kendrick Meek (D-FL) a chair of the CBC Foundation which sponsors the confab. Voter registration and turnout efforts are intense as the election nears. Early in the summer Obama predicted a 30 percent increase in the Black vote. According to Time magazine, North Carolina already has over 400,000 new registered voters alone.

With several Congressional Black Caucus members leading important committees in Congress, among them, Ways and Means, Judiciary and Homeland Security, and with the possibility of electing an African American president, this year’s conference will focus on salient programmatic issues. The Afro-American newspaper quotes conference leader Elsie Scott as saying it

“will offer a clear vision of what the icons of the civil rights movement promised – a nation full of equal opportunities for all of its citizens. The conference will be filled with dynamic social and policy content [and] everyone will leave the conference better informed and motivated to make a difference back in their communities.”

Ron Walters, a leading African American political scientist stresses the importance of securing a Congressional majority in support of the CBC’s legislative program, writes the Afro American, “If they’re (Democrats) able to get at least six more seats in the Senate they will create a veto-proof majority.”

The conference ends on Saturday.