CLEVELAND — Republican National Conventions are routinely mostly white. This year’s, however, was remarkably so, particularly according to the African-American Republicans, some who complained to the media and their party.
If anything, this year, the party bash was most notable for prominent black Republicans who aren’t here.
Pastor Mark Burns speaks during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Thursday, July 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Missing is a long list of Black Republican stalwarts – former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, Utah Congresswoman Mia Love, former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts, former Education Secretary Rod Paige, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Affairs Alphonso Jackson and a long list of black state and municipal office holders.
Many were turned off by Trump and statements he has made about Mexicans, Muslims and other that even members of his party called racist.
Love told one newspaper she didn’t come because she didn’t see a benefit to her state. Powell told the New York Times he wasn’t even watching the convention on television.
Patrick O’Daniel from Austin, Texas, center, and his fellow texas delegates wave their hats during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Thursday, July 21, 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)
One bit of news that has caused the convention some embarrassment is the lack of black delegates to the convention.
Telly Lovelace, the Republican Party’s national director for African-American Initiatives and Media, sent an email to reporters outlining the diversity of delegates at the party’s convention. The total number of African-American delegates was 18 out of 2,472 delegates. That figure represents less than 1 percent of total delegates.
In 2004, by comparison, the number black delegates at the convention was 7 percent, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington public policy organization that produces research on black electoral politics.
Alabama delegates cheer as Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana speaks during the third day session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Wednesday, July 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
In an interview here at the convention, Lovelace said that unofficially those numbers have changed, but he didn’t have any new figures.
“We’ll be releasing the official numbers soon,” said Lovelace, who noted that he is the only African American at the RNC headquarters.
Despite the statistics that show black voters are turned off by Trump and the absence of so many prominent black Republicans, Lovelace said the party’s black engagement is better than it was in 2014.
“We need to build a relationship with the community,” he said, which he was hired to do.
Delegates dance during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Thursday, July 21, 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Lovelace was previously the managing director of IR Media LLC, an African American owned Washington-based communications firm founded by former chief of staff to former Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. Jarvis Stewart.
His job is to make the Republican Party seem like a viable option to African-American voters. His hiring followed an exodus of black staffers in the party’s the African-American outreach of black where the entire black outreach staff at the RNC left their positions between October and April.
Lovelace said the well-publicized friction between the Republican Party and the Trump campaign is improving.
“We’re beginning to have that merge between the RNC and the Trump campaign,” said Lovelace who said he is the only African American staffer at the RNC headquarters.
The RNC will continue to hire black staffers, implement a program that will allow the RNC and state Republican chapters to engage with historically black colleges and universities and will reach out to the black community using a wide range of media on issues important to them, he said.
“We’re taking a step in the right direction,” he said.