By Sean Yoes
AFRO Senior Reporter
Despite the seemingly inane political machinations and protestations of Donald John Trump, he will become a former president on Jan. 20, 2021, and Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Ultimately, what does the transition of power at the Executive Branch mean for Black America? More directly what should be the agenda moving forward for Black Americans, the constituency perhaps most responsible for President-Elect Biden’s victory?
At least publicly, he acknowledged as much during his acceptance speech in Wilmington, Del., on Nov. 7.
“Especially at those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the African-American community stood up again for me,” said Biden emphatically. “You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours.”
Although many are earnestly strategizing about what Biden having Black America’s collective back should look like, one legendary political strategist warns there is still significant work to be done connected to the 2020 General Election despite the results that will put Biden back in the White House.
“The most immediate Black agenda right now must be putting the Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate,” said Larry S. Gibson, law professor at the University of Maryland, who has orchestrated several historic campaigns including that of Kurt L. Schmoke, Baltimore’s first elected Black mayor and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman elected president of an African nation.
“It is premature to begin celebrating. The two Georgia Senate seats in the January runoff elections should get our undivided attention,” Gibson added alluding to the Democratic Senate candidacies of John Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, a former Senior Pastor at Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore for four and a half years, prior to his ascension to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in 2005.
“To celebrate now, or to let up off the gas would be like spiking the ball before crossing the goal line. We all have work to do. Everyone knows somebody in Georgia.”
Yanet Amanuel, Public Policy Advocate for the ACLU of Maryland, like Gibson is also immediately focused on the power of the Black vote and specifically protecting and augmenting the franchise for the Black community.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about felony voter disenfranchisement. There was a lot of talk this election about how every vote counts and how close the election was in a lot of swing states like Georgia, where there are almost 50,000 state prisoners that don’t have access to the ballot or the right to vote,” Amanuel said.
“In addition to that, legalizing marijuana and reallocating the revenue to communities impacted by the war on drugs, police accountability, ending the death penalty, educating Black children and protecting Black protestors rights,” she added. “These are just some of the important things that immediately come to mind.”
The murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day at the hands of members of the Minneapolis Police Department perhaps made the issue of law enforcement reform more ubiquitous than at any other time in the nation’s history.
“There must be police reform and a national Use of Force policy that is adhered to by all policing agencies receiving federal funding, which is almost all agencies,” said Dr. Tyrone Powers, director of Innovations and Special Initiatives at Anne Arundel Community College and a nationally recognized expert on law enforcement. “This policy can come out of the Department of Justice and there must be experienced and vetted Black leadership involved. Agencies such as the FBI must be more diverse, presently the FBI has less Black Special Agents then it had years ago,” added Powers, a former member of the FBI and the Maryland State Police. “Further these individuals must be in positions that impact which investigations are done and how they are done. This will allow for more thorough, complete investigations onto use of force issues — with recommendations for prosecutions — where deemed appropriate.”
Implicit in the ongoing and arduous pursuit of criminal justice reform many believe, is Biden’s role as one of the architects of the 1994 Crime Bill when he was a Senator from Delaware. There is little dispute that the implementation of the legislation has been and continues to be disproportionately injurious to the Black community. In 2020, some see the relationship between the Democratic Party and the Black community despite it’s often unwavering support of the Party, as dubious at best.
“The Democrats have demonstrated that they are going to cater to the suburbs as their target demographic. This constituency tends to be more politically conservative, particularly on issues of race, public safety and criminal justice,” said Dayvon Love, Director of Public Policy for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a Black grassroots think tank. “Now more than ever we will need to build independent Black institutions to make stronger demands of the party that has constantly taken us for granted,” added Love. He argues the Black community must pursue several objectives going forward including: “Collective Black wealth creation…(shifting) as much wealth from the emerging cannabis industry to the communities most impacted by the war on drugs (and) build alternatives to police to deal with public safety,” Love said.
The bottom line for Powers and others is that Black America has to move quickly beyond simply producing an ambitious agenda.
“All items that we pursue on our agenda must be tangible, measurable and submitted with suggested and/or required deadlines,” Powers said. “Our agendas can no longer be philosophical and theoretical in nature…Deliverables must have timelines and deadlines, that are prior to the next election. No excuses.”