President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and White House officials met Thursday with leaders from eight legacy Black civil rights organizations in what was termed “very constructive” dialogue.
The meeting lasted one hour and 45 minutes and issues of concern ran the gamut: voter suppression legislation sweeping state legislatures, the spike in gun violence in America’s communities, police reform and more.
Pending legislation in Congress was discussed such as the For the People Act, which passed the House but has stalled in the U.S. Senate; the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act; and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, currently being negotiated by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA).
“We value the importance of this meeting, as it demonstrates the administration’s intention to push for the long-overdue protections holding back our democracy,” said Melanie Campbell, President/CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable. “Of the many outcomes that came from this meeting, the most important is our renewed commitment to the long tradition held by the civil rights community to take matters into their own hands through direct action — and that means showing up in person to highlight what is at stake.”
“This will be a summer of activism,” Reverend Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network told reporters after the meeting. “A summer of getting back in the streets. A summer of saying to the Senate and the Congress, you may be going home, but it’s going to be warmer politically than you think on the ground. And we want that to be made clear.”
Besides Campbell and Sharpton, fellow participants included Dr. Johnnetta Cole, National Chair and President of the National Council of Negro Women; Marc Morial, President/CEO of the National Urban League; and Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Joining them was Wade Henderson, Interim President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; and Damon Hewitt, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, participated virtually.
“In our meeting today, President Biden and Vice President Harris made it clear that the administration will continue to fight to protect our most fundamental right, the right to vote,” said Johnson. “The NAACP will continue to engage with the President and the Vice President to ensure that all voices are heard.” Ultimately, he added, “Congress must act with great urgency to pass significant legislation that protects this sacred right. Time is of the essence.“
Among the White House officials present were: Susan Rice, Domestic Policy Advisor; Cedric Richmond, Senior Advisor to the President; Danielle Conley, Deputy Counsel to the President; Tina Flournoy, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the Vice President; Catherine Lhamon, Deputy Assistant to the President for Racial Justice and Equity; and Dana Remus, Assistant to the President and White House Counsel.
The President and Vice President reiterated that their Administration will continue to push Congress to pass critical legislation to protect voting rights, while also utilizing existing federal resources to ensure full voter participation and fair elections.
The civil rights leaders provided an update on the work their organizations are doing, both nationally and in the states, to protect the right to vote. They also provided the President and Vice President with their ideas on ways to engage the public on civil rights issues.
“We did ask the Vice President if she would go on the road,” added Sharpton. “She absolutely said that she would do that.”
Meanwhile, a group of Black women-led groups have organized a “Black Women Leaders and Allies Freedom to Vote Call to Action Week” beginning July 12. Throughout the week, online and in-person events will rally support for a package of comprehensive democracy reforms currently being debated in Congress. Organizers said the measures reflect core American values and the freedom and right to vote.
The week of action will include a social media takeover, town hall, a call-in-day to Congress, and day of action on Capitol Hill. For more information visit the following website here.