This article is part of a series on the Democratic National Convention.
On the third day of the Democratic National Convention Black delegates from around the country came together to discuss the state of Black America and the need to get out the vote. The caucus met just weeks after shockwaves rippled throughout the country earlier this month as the nation bore witness to the police murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the sniper shooting that killed five police officers during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas. The major themes of the meeting became clear as Black leaders took to the stage to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement, voter suppression, and what was at stake for people of color in the the impending presidential election.
Speakers for the meeting included: the 82nd Attorney General of the Unites States, and the first African American to serve in the position, Eric Holder; CEO of the DNC Leah D. Daughtry; Mayor of Baltimore Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; DNC Chief of Staff Brandon Davis; and president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Cornell William Brooks. Former Attorney General Holder was also the caucus’ honoree for the day.
Leah D. Daughtry came to the stage opening up the meeting with a short prayer and greetings before going into an explanation on the importance of voting in the upcoming election. Daughtry stated that there was a need to make a connection between “change and voting,” and that voting “does matter.” The CEO of the DNC went on to say that “people in communities who say it [voting] doesn’t matter come from a place of privilege.” She expounded on her statement by explaining that issues such as healthcare, unemployment, student loans , and affordable housing were all issues that greatly affected communities of color. “We [people of color] can’t afford to stay home or sit it out. Your voice is your vote. We’ve got to keep the White House,” Daughtry proclaimed.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake went on after Daughtry and echoed similar sentiments about the importance of voting. Blake stated that we have to “think about the young people. We do not want a country ruled by fear.”
Chief of Staff for the DNC Brandon Davis outlined the goals of the Democratic party for the upcoming general elections. Referencing the Democratic party’s platform Davis remarked that it was a “policy agenda that will work for Black people.” Yet, David noted that it wasn’t just the presidential election the Black community needed to get out the vote for but state and local elections as well. “We can not forget the nine battleground states. We have to win up and down the ticket. We have to expand our voter registration. All of this will matter in the long run. We need to govern for a generation.”
Former Attorney General Eric Holder took to the podium expanding further on sentiments he expressed in his Tuesday night speech at the DNC convention proceedings. “The agenda for common sense gun control remains unfinished,” Holder stated. “We need reasonable gun control in our nation. This affects our communities. Any candidate not for gun regulation is not a candidate that would get my vote,” he went on. Referencing the tragedies at Sandy Hook and the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando Holder said, “95 percent of the population wanted it [gun control]. The Gun Lobby convinced Congress to vote a different way.”
Focusing in on voter suppression Holder proclaimed that the “gutting of the Voting Rights Act was one of the worst decisions ever made,” and that, “the Voting Rights Act was the gem of the Civil Rights Movement.” Holder is referencing the 2012 Supreme Court decision that section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the part where states having a history of the worst discriminatory practices against voters have to preclear their voting changes with the federal government, as unconstitutional. “Five members of the Supreme Court voted against the Voting Rights Act. This needs to change. Who is put on Supreme Court matters,” Holder emphasized. “Can you imagine the guy from The Apprentice picking the next Supreme Court Justice,” he said, in reference to Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump’s history in reality television.
Holder also pushed for a need to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Comparing the emerging movement against police brutality against people of color to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s, Holder explained, “I know these young people. They are committed, they are determined to be heard. They are in the best traditions of the Civil Rights movement. They are trying to move this country towards a place it ought to be, so you all [should] defend Black Lives Matters. And you all should defend that term because for too long in our history Black lives didn’t matter.”
NAACP president Cornell Brooks was one of the final speakers. He focused on the fight against voter suppression. Opening his speech Brooks reflected on Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous speech at the Democratic Convention of 1940 in which the former First Lady stated, “This is no ordinary time.” The NAACP president stated that this sentiment held true for today. “We find ourselves in a peculiar part in time as we are without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act since it was signed 50 years ago. This is not your parents’ voter suppression,” Brooks explained. “The right to vote is a civic sacrament. If you believe Black Lives Matter then you have to believe the Black vote matters,” he concluded.
The caucus meeting was closed out by the commissioner of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Thomas Hicks, who urged delegates to do two major things going towards the presidential elections, “Check your registration and volunteer to be a poll worker… The best way to influence the election is to be inside of the election.”
Photo: Members of the Black Caucus of the DNC including former Attorney General Eric Holder (second from left). | Chauncey K. Robinson/PW