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Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Convention In Cincinnati A First

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Jay Hanselman
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For the first time in its history, the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus will be holding its convention in Cincinnati.  

The group has a convention every four years.

The group will be meeting at the Westin Hotel and other sites from July 15 to July 17.  Those meetings will overlap with the national NAACP convention being held at the Duke Energy Center starting July 16.

State Representative and Caucus President Alicia Reece said the group will focus on successes including increasing state business for minority-owned companies and providing more funding to communities to lower the infant mortality rate.

Reece said another focus will involve reforming the criminal justice system, not only in Ohio but around the country.

"We are in a time now where we need comprehensive justice reform that improves not only police community relations, but also accountability," Reece said. "And that's what people are asking for is accountability."

The caucus recommendations for reforms include mandatory body cameras for all Ohio police officers and regulations on when video is released, transparency in investigations, allowing independent prosecutors to investigate officer involved shootings and reforming the grand jury process.

State Representative Christie Kuhns is chairing this year's caucus convention.  She said the theme is, "The Power of the Black Vote."

"If you want to see change in your communities, you have to vote individuals into office who see things as you see things," Kuhns said. "And if they don't do what you voted them into do, you have to vote them out and replace them."

The convention includes a number of workshops that are free and open to the public for participation.  A luncheon featuring Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee from Texas requires advance registration; and an awards gala with national civil rights leader Vernon Jordan requires advanced purchased tickets.

Reece said the reason for the convention is that the nation is at a crossroad.

"Will we move forward and doing something bold, or will we pass it on to the next generation to have to deal with the same issues that we dealt with in the 60's?," Reece said. "Will get the answer this week."

The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus was founded in 1967 and advocates for legislation and state initiatives "that empower African-Americans in Ohio."  Today the caucus has 13 active members out of the 132 members of the Ohio General Assembly.