About a dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus are scheduled to be in Jackson and the Delta this week to discuss health care, education, retirement, affordable housing and other issues facing their constituents.
The lawmakers come from several Southern states and are being hosted in Mississippi by U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson.
“This is our opportunity to take the Congressional Black Caucus agenda out of Washington and into the public at large,” Thompson, D-Miss., said during a conference call.
The caucus chairman, Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., said the group wants to eliminate unequal treatment minorities receive in many parts of life. He said as the caucus develops policy proposals, it will help to “start in Mississippi, where the needs are so great.”
Thompson next year will face probably his most established Democratic primary challenger since he went to Washington in 1993. State Rep. Chuck Espy of Clarksdale _ nephew of Thompson’s predecessor in Congress, Mike Espy _ is already campaigning in the district that stretches through the Delta into parts of Jackson and down to Jefferson County in southwest Mississippi.
During a conference call to promote the tour, Congressional Black Caucus members praised Thompson but said issues _ not politics _ prompted their trip to his district.
“This is not a response to anything political that is taking place in Mississippi,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., has known Thompson for more than two decades, and said Thompson “has been just an unbelievably effective political leader.”
As for the trip to Mississippi, Lewis said: “We’re not doing it for political reasons. We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.”
A town-hall meeting is set from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Jackson State University’s e-center.
On Wednesday, the congressional delegation will go to Yazoo City for the groundbreaking of a community health center and to Belzoni to tour a hospital. They’ll also tour a housing development in Greenwood and attend a 5:30-8:30 p.m. town hall meeting at the Greenwood-Leflore County Civic Center.
“I think we can not only bring about a sense of hope, but we can learn a great deal,” Lewis said.
On Aug. 19, caucus members plan to be in Charlotte, N.C., to hold a meeting about education.
Thompson is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute.