U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn, a veteran of the civil rights movement who is today the No. 3 Democrat in the House of Representatives, will speak Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Roper Performing Arts Center, part of Tidewater Community College’s Black History Month observance.

During “An Evening with Congressman Clyburn,” he will discuss the Black History Month theme “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington,” and take audience questions.

Clyburn’s talk is free and open to the public. The Roper is at 340 Granby St. in downtown Norfolk. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.  

President Obama has said Clyburn is “one of a handful of people who, when they speak, the entire Congress listens.” Assistant Democratic leader in the 113th Congress, Clyburn is the leadership liaison to the Appropriations Committee and one of the Democratic Caucus’ primary liaisons to the White House.

Clyburn grew up in Sumter, S.C., the eldest son of an activist fundamentalist minister and an independent, civic-minded beautician, who grounded him in family, faith and public service. He was elected president of his NAACP youth chapter when he was 12, helped organize many civil rights marches and demonstrations as a student leader at South Carolina State College, and met his wife, Emily, in jail during one of his incarcerations.

He came to Congress in 1993, and in 1999 was elected chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. When Democrats regained the House majority in 2006, Clyburn was elevated by his colleagues to House Majority Whip.

As a national leader, he has worked to respond to the needs of America’s diverse communities. He championed rural communities supporting the development of regional water projects, community health centers and broadband connections. He has supported higher education by leading the charge for increased Pell grants, investing millions in science and math programs and historic preservation at historically black colleges and universities. He has encouraged economic development by securing funding for Empowerment Zones; investing in green technology development such as nuclear, wind, hydrogen and biofuels; and directing 10 percent of Recovery Act funding to communities 20 percent under the poverty level for the past 30 years.

Clyburn was instrumental in advancing into law measures to address historic discrimination issues, significantly reducing the statutory disparity in cocaine sentencing and compensating African-American and Native-American farmers who suffered racial discrimination under the USDA loan program.

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn speaks at TCC