DNC Guest Blog Post #3 From League of Young Voters:
Last night was historic. For the first time in America’s complicated history, a sitting African American president received the nomination from his party for a second term. While many of us have grown accustomed to seeing a brown man address the nation as the commander-in-chief, even the most cynical of haters had to, sort of, acknowledge that it was pretty cool seeing someone of African descent take the stage and address the world as the most powerful person on the planet.
Unlike the 2008 election, which saw haters from the right and left criticize President Obama for his lack of experience, last night’s entire convention agenda was scripted to remind viewers that the former community organizer has been extremely competent at taking care of the nation’s big business. From the stimulus, to the Affordable Care Act, to the killing of Osama Bin Laden, we were all reminded that President Obama has been working hard during his four years in office. Even the usually humble president had to brush the dirt of his shoulders, and let the world know that he was, “no longer just a candidate, I am the President.”
But while Obama’s message powerfully underscored his economic and diplomatic prowess, the truth is that unless we as young people and people of color push Obama to do more in his second term, our communities are unlikely to experience the transformative change needed to end the cycles of violence and joblessness that plague our community. In reality, it is highly unlikely that we will have another shot at having another president of color in the very near future.
Yesterday, I was criticized by many in the grassroots community for stating that I felt Bill Clinton’s speech did not do enough to raise the tough socio-economic issues impacting the nation’s working poor. But unlike many activists who engage in progressive politics, I don’t believe our generation is strengthened by remaining quiet about the issues most affecting our community. In fact, if there is anything that Obama has shown us during his first term; it’s that he is willing to make bold decisions when he is pushed by to do so.
Unlike many of us in the Hip-Hop generation who repeatedly complain about how little Obama is doing for inner city neighborhoods, these last four years, immigrant and gay rights groups used the power of direct action to advance their communities’ policy agenda. Whether it was through the power of petition, public spectacle or civil disobedience, during his first term, Obama’s most bold moves came as result of grassroots organizations forcing him to take decisive action.
That’s why it doesn’t really matter how good Obama’s speech was last night. If our communities are going to get significant investment and attention from the federal government these next four years, we are going to have to force Obama’s hand. Yes, this fall we will all work hard to get the president reelected, but immediately following the election, the minute the polls close, we must step up our civic action.
Whether it be though the nonviolent power of civil disobedience and noncooperation, or through a massive petition campaign that forces the Obama administration to make direct investment into our war torn neighborhoods that are plagued by inner city violence, we must no longer wait for the president to lead on our issues. After all, President Obama, unfortunately, can’t only focus on the issues most impacting poor people of color. But, if we constantly force him to act on the causes that are most passionate to us, we will no longer be ignored by our fellow brother during his second term.
Of course, it won’t be easy. Many of us are too caught up in the melodrama of political history to step up and demand action. Others will be so cynical that they won’t participate and even more, will be too scared that they may lose access to the White House to actually speak up. But some of us have to be brave. The Hip-Hop generation can no longer be the silent majority. We must step up and be willing to sacrifice our own comfort and privilege to make sure the next generation of people of color and poor people has a chance to compete in the 21st century economy. The problems in our community are too drastic for us to sit idly by while young brothers and sisters in the street continue to die and be put in prison at alarming rates.
And at the end of the day, President Obama will only be made better by our bold actions. As a former community organizer, he knows the power of constructive tension. Hopefully, this time we won’t be too caught up in the historic moment to make sure our demands are met. We have too much to fight for.
Rob “Biko” Baker, Executive Director, League of Young Voters Education Fund
About Robert “Biko” Baker:
The Executive Director of the League of Young Voters Education Fund, Rob “Biko” Baker, is a nationally recognized leader. He has organized town hall meetings and used social networking to motivate young people to get involved in the civic process. Baker has served as the deputy publicity coordinator and young voter organizer for the Brown and Black Presidential Forum. He has appeared on MSNBC, C-SPAN, Fox News and CNN and has interviewed luminaries Cornell West, Russell Simmons and Howard Dean to name a few. He has also written a number of articles for America’s biggest online publications, including HuffingtonPost.com, GlobalGrind.com, VIBE, The Source and The Nation.