Uplifting Black America: President Barack Obama’s Bold Legacy

Michael H. Cottman,

  President Barack Obama spoke directly to Black Americans during the National Action Network (NAN) conference, which I believe is part of the President’s ongoing crusade to outline a national social agenda to uplift citizens of color.

The President’s appearance at the NAN conference comes as Sharpton has been speaking out about several high-profile racial cases involving black teenagers being killed by whites or dying under mysterious circumstances. Sharpton has also been vocal about voting rights and GOP suppression tactics, and the ongoing assault on Obama by congressional Republicans. As a co-host for the national radio program, Keeping it Real with Rev. Al Sharpton, I have listened to Sharpton talk passionately about the significance of Obama speaking at the conference, but it is also true that Obama considers Sharpton a powerful voice for justice in the black community – and someone Obama takes seriously.

  In his second term in office, the president has been focused more boldly –and more specifically – on uplifting African-Americans while creating a social agenda that benefits Black people. Each month, it seems, the president is using his White House bully pulpit to talk more about social justice issues, economic and health reforms – and how these policies impact African-Americans and Hispanics. President Obama spoke at the University of Texas during their three-day Civil Rights Summit to mark the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The summit chronicled the civil rights movement and address contemporary racial issues.

  Could Obama be looking ahead to his legacy with two years remaining in the White House? Last month at the White House, Obama met with several civil rights leaders including Sharpton about raising the minimum wage, black unemployment, health care, voting rights and education. “We talked extensively about the challenges of unemployment, the challenges of under-employment, the challenges of black and urban and brown unemployment in this nation,” Marc Morial, president of The National Urban League, shared after the meeting with Obama and U.S Attorney Eric Holder. “It was helpful to us to hear the president and his team clarify some misconceptions about the Affordable Care Act, one (being) that it adds to the deficit when all the projections are that it will reduce the deficit,” Morial said.

  Since that meeting, Obama also unveiled “My Brother’s Keeper Initiative,” a national program designed to improve the quality of life for young African American boys. “The plain fact is there are some Americans who, in the aggregate, are consistently doing worse in our society—groups that have had the odds stacked against them in unique ways that require unique solutions; groups who’ve seen fewer opportunities that have spanned generations,” Obama said in February. “And by almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color.”

  The president has also vowed to create an environment where all African-American students receive an education that fully gets them ready for high school graduation, college completion and productive careers in a highly competitive global job market.

  In January, in an article published in the New Yorker, Obama talked candidly about his blackness. “There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a Black president,” Obama said. “Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a Black president.”

  President Obama is boldly telling his truth—and I’m eager to hear it. What do you think?


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