As Democrats start the 2016 presidential campaign in earnest, Black women play key roles in the convention and in making the case for Hillary Clinton.
BY PENNY DICKERSON
SPECIAL TO THE
PHILADELPHIA, PA. – ‘The City of Brotherly Love” welcomed delegates and a host of high-profile political leaders and celebrities for the 2016 Democratic National Convention that convened July 25-28 in the Pennsylvania Convention Center and Wells Fargo Arena.
The muted news is that Black women have been in the leadership trenches to organize the assembly.
Hacked and leaked
Democratic officials and cybersecurity company CrowdStrike Inc. said last month that hackers tied to the Russian government gained access to servers at the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Three days before the start of the party’s national convention, about 20,000 emails and other internal documents from the DNC were posted online by WikiLeaks.
Some of them showed the party favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Consequently, South Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz was unceremoniously dumped from her DNC chairmanship.
Political analyst Donna Brazile is now interim chair of the party. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, is permanent chair of the convention. The Reverend Leah Daughtry has twice served as the convention CEO.
Black women served as leaders, activists, delegates, mothers for social justice, and volunteers to assist the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton in putting on its best face.
Kicks it off
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake gaveled in the convention on Monday, also taking over from Wasserman Schultz. Rawlings-Blake has served as the secretary of the national Democratic Party since 2013.
Rawlings-Blake introduced herself to the crowd as “mayor of the great city of Baltimore” and called it an “honor and a pleasure” to kick off the convention.
After calling the convention to order, she started walking off stage – only to realize she hadn’t actually struck the podium with a gavel. She hurried back and did so to applause.
Brazile addresses CBC
Brazile spoke to a Monday morning Congressional Black Caucus meeting.
“…I sincerely apologize for those of you who took offense or were offended, for those of you who feel betrayed and were betrayed for those ridiculous, insensitive, inappropriate emails that should have never been sent. Those words do not reflect the spirit of this party.
“If I am allowed to be your interim chair, my door is open. I’m leaving CNN and ABC (TV) to go back to who I really am. I am an organizer,” said Brazile. “We gonna win this damn thing, so roll up your sleeves. You know what to do.”
Actress and activist
Sheryl Lee Ralph is best known for her talent as an actress and singer, as well as for her advocacy for causes like fighting HIV/AIDS.
“Am I disappointed about the email scandal? Absolutely. How many times do your parents have to tell you, ‘If you don’t want anybody to see it, don’t put it in an email and don’t put it on the Internet,’” said Ralph. “Well, now we know. Your mama’s right.
“Voter turnout has got to be better than it’s been in the past four years,” Ralph said. “Every time we come out and talk to people, we’re told there are 500,000 people in different states not voting.
They’re just not in the system. Do you know that if we could all of those people engaged, everything about this entire election would change?”
Ralph added a direct challenge for youth: “If you’re going to use your youth, tweet about it, Snapchat about it. We need you to come in full force with all of your millennium magic. We need your help in turning this around.”
Florida delegate on party unification
Kathleen Gordon has more than fifty years of political experience, including serving on the Orange County (Orlando) School Board.
“We need to listen to the other side, the (Bernie) Sanders side,” said Gordon. “There are two teams here: the Bernie team and the Hillary team. In Denver (2008) there was a Hillary team and a Barack team, so I’ve been there.
“When Hillary spoke with us she said ‘I am going to vote for Barack Obama’ and then we spoke with the Barack team. We decided that we needed to come together before the convention was over,” shared Gordon.
First lady speaks
Michelle Obama made the case for Hillary Clinton on Monday night by drawing on the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s own struggles eight years ago – and delivering what appeared to double as a message to those in the party reluctant to accept Clinton’s candidacy.
When Clinton didn’t win the nomination in 2008, “She didn’t get angry, or disillusioned. Hillary did not pack up and go home,” Obama told the crowd filling the Wells Fargo Center, where supporters of Bernie Sanders were a vocal presence Monday. “Because as a true public servant, Hillary knows this is so much bigger than her own desires and disappointments.”
Michelle Obama’s initiatives as first lady – including targeting childhood obesity – have spurred criticism from some conservatives, but have had less of a political profile.
On Monday, Obama didn’t focus on her work, but described her husband’s tenure as marked by his “decency and his grace.” She recalled how their lives changed with the presidency, including their realization of how the experience would shape their children.
That is what the election is about, she said: Choosing “who will have the power to shape our children for the next four to eight years of their lives.”
Black mothers for social justice
A consortium of Black women called “Mothers of the Movement” took the stage Tuesday night.
They each lost a child to gun violence. All stood tall and strong in black, adorned with red florals.
Two were from Florida: Lucy McBath, whose 17-year-old son Jordan Davis was shot to death in 2012 during a dispute about loud music in the parking lot of a Jacksonville convenience store; and Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, who was walking through a gated community in Sanford in 2012 when he was pursued and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
“I am an unwilling participant in this movement. I would not have signed up for this. None of us would have. But I am here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who is in heaven, and for my other son, Jahvaris, who is still here on earth,” said Fulton.
“I didn’t want this spotlight. But I will do everything I can to focus some of that light on a path out of this darkness.”