Obama Takes Suggestions from African-American Leaders
1 year ago
One-on-one discussions with White House officials lead to numerous ideas
WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama’s latest attempt to reach the black community was the African American Policy in Action Leadership Conference held Wednesday at the White House, which led to numerous initiatives and concerns the administration may want to take into consideration.
After harsh criticism from prominent black figures Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), professor Cornel West and talk show host Tavis Smiley, and a constant media analysis of whether Obama still has support from the black community, the conference could be called nothing but a strategic move by the administration to combat notions that the president is shortchanging black people.
“I think he’s done more than what [African Americans] realize,” said Maryland Senator Catherine Pugh (D), who also chairs the state's Legislative Black Caucus. “I think there’s a communication gap,” she said.
During two-hour break out sessions, Pugh, along with other black elected officials, business owners, professors and community leaders from across the country, were able to suggest to Cabinet members and White House officials initiatives that would help the African-American community . Each leader was assigned to a track:
Track one: Education Reform and Job Training
Track two: Economic Growth, Jobs Creation, and Business Development
Track three: Anti-Poverty Strategies
Track four: Prevention and Health Disparities (Let's Move)
Track five: Fatherhood, Prevention, and Reentry Issues
Track six: Housing and Urban Affairs
At 3:45 p.m., leaders in each track (with the exception of the last two) were able to report solutions for the track they were assigned. Was it effective?
Rev. C.T. Vivian, a civil rights activist who organized sit-ins in the 1960s, thought the administration would consider ideas.
“When you see key people taking notes, that means something,” Vivian said. “If anything we said could be worked out, they will do it. ”
Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s senior adviser, and Jewel James, the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs’ deputy director, sat in front of the audience writing notes as each person reported their suggestions.
Vivian said support from the black community is needed to help Obama—a common tone among attendees.
“If we at this point would allow ourselves to lose a magnificent brain, heart and spirit as Obama, we would be giving up the possibilities of our future, and give it to those who don’t care about black people,” he said.