In the euphoria over the election of the nation’s first Black President, the larger Black community gave little thought to the practical implications of having a Black American lead the nation. While people paid attention to the potential racial fallout, and for Blacks the question of Barack Obama’s personal safety was paramount, there was very little attention paid to the issues of how to engage the new President and the expectations around his presidency. For the most part, Black Americans seemed willing to grant the new President an extended honeymoon and were wary of voicing criticism for fear that it would somehow be used against the administration.
Even though this posture among Blacks is understandable, and given the history behind Barack Obama’s election should be expected, it does not bode well for a policy agenda to uplift the Black community. As the administration is now in its second year, some Blacks are beginning to question the benefits Blacks are receiving from their support of the Obama candidacy. With unemployment and long-term joblessness gripping Blacks, patience is wearing thin as the political debates in the nation’s capital seem to have little relevance to the day-to-day suffering in communities across the nation. Though the President remains popular among Blacks, a growing chorus is emerging that seeks better outcomes from White House policy making. This is true among the masses as well as Black professionals, as is evidenced by the work of the Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission.
Named in honor of the late, legendary Congresswoman from Brooklyn, New York, the Commission is the brainchild of Dr. Ron Daniels, president of the Institute for the Black World 21st Century. Daniels conceived the commission as a vehicle to evaluate the efficacy of the administration’s policy agenda and propose policy remedies that can stimulate economic growth among Black Americans as well as promote social justice. At the heart of the Commission’s focus is accountability, an important tool that has often been lacking in its application toward efforts purportedly made on behalf of the Black community. In the absence of an objective critique of the Obama administration by progressive Black interests, there was little chance of developing a pro-active agenda that could support the President when appropriate or counter the White House when necessary.
Dr. Daniels has assembled an impressive group of thinkers and doers to serve on the Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission. Serving as a co-chairperson is Dr. Julianne Malveaux, the president of Bennett College for Women. The Commission held its second public meeting at the recent Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference before a large audience of conference attendees. It symbolically named the late Dr. Ron Walters, the imminent political scientist who died one week ago and was an active participant in the work of the Commission, as an honorary chairperson.
As the November midterm elections approach, the Black community must be prepared for the possibility of a different political climate in Washington, D.C. Traditionally the party in power loses seats in the House of Representatives and this year will likely be no different. However, the degree of genuine angst in the electorate and undertones of hate in some quarters will make the next two years of the Obama administration difficult to navigate to say the least. In the midst of all of this “change,” Black Americans must be prepared to stake their claim independent of other interests and have the wherewithal to qualify our positions with the President. The Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission gives us a unique platform to protect our interests, support the President, and move our nation in a more progressive direction. We look forward to tracking the work of the Commission and its progress in helping shape a progressive agenda.
Editor's Note: Dr. Ron Daniels and Dr. Julianne Malveaux are Contributors to NorthStarNews.com