AFGE National Secretary Treasurer Eugene Hudson Jr. on Wednesday spoke at the inaugural Black Men & Boys Day on Capitol Hill advocacy training aimed at encouraging black men and boys to engage in legislative advocacy on issues that impact their communities. AFGE was a lead sponsor of the event, which was hosted by the National Coalition on the Black Civic Participation (NCBCP)’s Black Youth Vote at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
NST Hudson, AFGE’s first elected African American National Secretary Treasurer, discussed several topics including issues black men are facing and a mandatory sentencing reform law. He also gave advice to young black men on how they should conduct themselves when stopped by the police.
“Cooperation is the key,” said NST Hudson, who serves on the board of NCBCP. “If you go to jail, you could get bail and you can have people who support you, but if you’re dead, there’s not much that we can do for you.”
NST Hudson is from California and has been to most of the federal prisons in the state as AFGE represents Bureau of Prisons (BOP) employees. He said about 40% of inmates are black men, and for the most part these inmates don’t have much to do, partly because the small work program can’t accommodate everyone. Many of the inmates are also locked up for far too long despite their non-violent offenses. He supports mandatory sentencing reform to fix the overcrowding problem, which threatens safety of both inmates and BOP employees.
Also speaking at the event was former member of Congress Kendrick Meek, who gave hands-on training on how to talk to members of Congress and their staff, what to expect, and how to prepare themselves.
“When you walk into the Capitol of the United States, that is your Capitol…That’s the feeling that you need to possess,” said the former member of Congress from Florida and visiting fellow at Howard University. “The great thing that you will be doing here is that you’ll be speaking on behalf of those who do not have the ability to be here, those individuals who have to catch the bus at 5 a.m. in the morning and better be on time whether they’re going to punch in or they’re going to lose it or whether they have to work extra to make up that time; those individuals who do not have a lunch break; those individuals that have to eat standing up. We’re here to represent them. That’s what makes our group so great.”
On Thursday, AFGE activist Donnell Owens from the Communications Department was one of the 200 black activists from across the country to visit members of Congress on Capitol Hill.
“Protest is a form of engagement. Legislative advocacy is another form of engagement,” said Rev. Tony Lee, the founder and senior pastor of the Community of Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church in Hillcrest Heights in Maryland. The church has gained regional and national attention for its work around HIV/AIDS, violence prevention, and educational advocacy.