AALF panel explores prospects under a Biden administration

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The Biden administration is now in place. With both houses of Congress soon to be under Democratic control along with the White House, some believe it is even more important to hold these two branches of government accountable for systemic change.

“We are ready to hit the road running,” said White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain last week on “Washington Post Live.” 

A January 13 African American Leadership Forum virtual panel discussed the incoming Biden administration and other political issues. “The administration has four priorities in its first 100 days: COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change,” reflected Democratic National Committee Midwest Caucus Chair Ron Harris. “We need to ask the question, ‘What does that mean?’ for Blacks and other POCs,” he added.

The election of two Georgians to the U.S. Senate, which shifts the balance of power from the GOP to the Democrats for the first time in six years, was largely due to Black voters, the panel noted.

“It is incredibly historic because the victory would not have been possible without Black, Brown and women leadership,” explained Harris. “I think it will serve as a model for us as we go around the country winning these races.”

Harris and “Run Like Harriet” founder Anika Bowie both spent time in Georgia in the run-up to the January 5 special senatorial election. Bowie, a Minneapolis NAACP vice president, said she saw voters there energized, but she added, “There still is a need for more people to get involved” in non-presidential elections. 

“We don’t have the ability to stop right now,” stated Children’s Minnesota Vice-President James Burroughs, who also pointed out that Black people need to hold elected officials accountable, especially the new administration and Congress.

Bowie added, “We need to be very unapologetic when we are addressing the new administration.” She also noted that about 10% of the 2021 Minnesota State Legislature is made up of People of Color, including DFL Rep. Rena Moran of St. Paul, the new House Ways and Means Committee chair. That committee establishes state spending priorities.

The panel also looked back at the January 6 Capitol insurrection that overshadowed the Georgia senate election. “I don’t know how long they will cling to their hate,” observed KMOJ Host Lissa Jones of the rioters.

“What we saw at the Capitol was horrible,” said Bowie. “But what we are also seeing now is a certain rhetoric that’s being utilized to remove accountability” among those who stormed the Capitol.

At least 80% of the rioters didn’t wear masks or take any health precautions, which made it a “super spreader event” for COVID, said Children Minnesota nurse Adriene Thornton. 

Harris stressed the importance that the same “wide coalition” of Blacks, other POC and young people who helped elect President Biden and new U.S. Senators Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff stay intact in future local, state and national elections. 

About Charles Hallman

Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at challman@spokesman-recorder.com

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