8 August 2011: The African American Vote in 2012 and Beyond
The title of the address and panel discussion today at the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, DC, was a bit deceptive because 1) it was really about all of us and 2) according to one panelist, for President Obama to stump tomorrow on what he plans to do for African Americans would be his undoing.
More than that, he has done much for his people that hasn't received much press, and even more, the direction of all people of color in this country should be toward more participation in the politics and policy making of their communities.
Representative Donna Edwards, D-MD, was keynote speaker. Following her was a panel of three, including Jonathan Capehart, Pulitzer-prize-winning reporter for the Washington Post; Kim Williams, professor of political science at the Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University; and Jamal Simmons, principal at the Raben Group, "a progressive group with deep roots in law and public policy," concerned with policy formation, lobbying, and coalition building, among many other pursuits. The panel was moderated by Daniella Gibbs Leger, Vice President for New American Communities Initiatives at CAP.
First to speak, Rep. Edwards, whose district (the fourth) comprises the two Maryland counties closest to the District, Prince George's and Montgomery. On demographics, she said that Prince George's is largely black, while Montgomery is a majority/minority county, the latter a demographic found all over the country.
Thence began the theme that carried through the event--we're really all the same, particular in times of crisis, as the plummeting stock market reflects the economic downturn crippling all but the super-rich who engineered this fiasco.
Concerns of Edwards's constituents include jobs, job creation, disparities between the rich and the poor, public transportation, and clean air and water--all American concerns as well as those in her district, she said.
She is sure that Obama will have the support of his fellow African Americans, in part because none of the opposition concerns them other than negatively.
Edwards spoke of the rich ethnic diversity in Montgomery County, most lately experiencing an influx of African immigrants. There are also Hispanics, African Americans, Asians and South Asians, as well as whites.
And then to some specifics: the number of new hires last week in this country was 116,000; her fellow African Americans need three times that number, at least.
Some of them will rejoin the workforce, but chronic unemployment heavily afflicts both Hispanics and blacks.
The question is always "Is Obama doing enough?" The challenge is to do more, but this is true of any president.
Training and job creation are keys to a better future; the twenty-first century demands news skills and investment in infrastructure and mass transit that will create new jobs.
August is the time when members of Congress mix among their constituents, she said.
The threat to Pell grants, which have helped to create so many successful professionals, is another handicap to progress; moreover, because real estate equity is down, families can borrow less toward the higher education of their children.
"Not a problem" for the GOP.
The African Americans in Edwards's district disagree on many issues, but all aspire toward elevation of their lifestyles and place in the world.