WASHINGTON WATCH: What Are The Specifics Of The New Black Agenda (VIDEO)

Last month dozens of Black leaders came to Washington, D.C., to discuss a black agenda for President Barack Obama’s second term. Black unemployment was just one of the five, key priorities outlined by the group.

Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League; Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation; and Hilary Shelton, director of the Washington, D.C. NAACP joined Roland Martin on Washington Watch to talk about how they are going to advance this new black agenda with the current Congress.

MR. MARTIN:  Hello, folks.  Happy New Year, and welcome to “Washington Watch.”

Our regular studio is being upgraded this week, so we are at the NBC studios on Capitol Hill; but, still, it’s our usual TV One “Washington Watch.”

A lot to talk about in the news this week.  President Barack Obama’s inauguration for his second term is a week away, and while he prepares for that, he’s also trying to navigate the rocky waters of gun control and selecting a new cabinet.  He’s getting attacked from the right and the left.

We’ll get into that later in the roundtable; but first, last month, dozens of black leaders came to Washington, D.C., to discuss a black agenda for President Barack Obama’s second term.  Black unemployment was just one of the five, key priorities outlined by the group.

Joining me now to talk about how they are going to advance this new black agenda with the current Congress [are]:  Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League; Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation; and Hilary Shelton, director of the Washington, D.C. NAACP.

Folks, welcome back to the show.

MR. MARC MORIAL:  Roland –


MR. HILARY SHELTON:  Good to be with you.

MR. MORIAL:  — it’s great to be with you – always.

MS. CAMPBELL:  Happy New Year.

MR. MARTIN:  So, last month, we covered the event where you laid out these five, broad priorities.  Congress is already back in session.  They’ve [been] sworn in.

When you talk about [an] agenda, it’s always specific policies, laws.  So, what are you pushing folks to get behind, specifically – because, for instance, this week, 13,000 Deltas were in town.  You’re going to have African-American[s] coming in for other conventions.  And so what are you specifically saying when you come to D.C., we need you going to Capitol Hill, pushing these things to make sure they get done [as] part of the black agenda?

MR. MORIAL:  We had a great meeting on December, the 3rd.  We had 50-plus African-American leaders, many representing organizations present.  We decided on five priorities.

We are now about to take the next step.  Our next meeting will take place on January 25th, here in Washington.  It is at that time when we hope to present to the group a comprehensive set of recommendations.  In effect, what we’re doing is – whether it’s the NAACP, or the National Coalition, or the National Urban League, or the National Action Network, or the Lawyers’ Committee, or LDF – all of us have a set of policy priorities.  We’re trying to amalgamate, assemble, put them together in a cohesive and comprehensive whole.

Right now, I would say that for black people in America, we must say, “Jobs!  Jobs!  Jobs!”  Yes, there’re issues like education; healthcare; voting rights; criminal justice reform, including guns; but the unemployment rate and the continued persistence of high unemployment in black America is the number one issue facing our community.

MR. MARTIN:  Melanie, we want to say, “Jobs!  Jobs!  Jobs!” but we also must say this is specifically what we are pushing, because if it’s just simply a broad statement, folks can just sort of throw whatever there.


MR. MARTIN:  And so in terms of driving that piece in terms of being specific:  “This is what we desire.”

MS. CAMPBELL:  Well, I think part of [what] we’re also working on as a[n] addition to that is also really weighing in on who’s going to be in his second administration, in this term, and looking to make sure that the African-American community is a part of the cabinet, and really trying to be helpful in trying to make recommendations for this cabinet.  This is the second term.  We think President Obama did a great job – not all what we wanted, for sure, but you had, I think it was – and I’m not exactly sure of these numbers, but the cabinet was nine women and13 men, I think, or somewhere along that.  We’d like to see that be even better.  We’d like to see more black women, specifically, in cabinet statutory positions, for instance.

MR. MARTIN:  But not just cabinet.


MR. MARTIN:  As well, though, you need –

MS. CAMPBELL:  — yes.

MR. MARTIN:  — to drill down, because you need the chiefs of staff, the folks who are –

MS. CAMPBELL:  Exactly.

MR. MARTIN:  — in the departments –


MR. MARTIN:  — because it’s one thing to have somebody who’s out representing it, but when it comes to the folks writing the regulations, I mean –

MS. CAMPBELL:  Exactly.

MR. MARTIN:  — when it comes – look, the whole issue with pardons in the Justice Department, when you look at the whole issue in terms of HBCUs [in the] Education Department –


MR. MARTIN:  — those folks who’re below the cabinet secretaries –

MS. CAMPBELL:  Well, we’re talking –

MR. MARTIN:  — are critical.

MS. CAMPBELL:  — about cabinet and those going below[?].  We’re talking about judiciary and what happens with that.  We’re talking about the White House.  We’re talking about the entire administration.  We’re not just talking about cabinet, but cabinet is also very, very –

MR. MARTIN:  Hilary, one of the –

MS. CAMPBELL:  — important.

MR. MARTIN:  — Hilary, one of the things that I always talk about on this show is we can talk about plans and agendas, but unless we have the mobilization and the organization aspect –

MR. SHELTON:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — it’s just a great idea.  And so talk about that in terms of, again, versus telling folks, “We need you to come to Washington, D.C., for a large march on one particular day,” taking advantage – literally – of the thousands of folks who’re coming to the nation’s capital and say, “We need you going en masse [and] hitting all 435 members of the House, all 100 U.S. senators.”

MR. SHELTON:  Absolutely.  You absolutely have to do it.  We’ve always seen it as a sin at the NAACP for people to come to Washington and not go to their members of Congress to address these issues.  As you mentioned, 435 voting members of the House; five delegates from the territories, of course, including the – the last bastion of colonialism, Washington, D.C., and moving those issues forward.

But it also means having very specific bills.  We know that too often we raise the issue, and someone will come forward with a piece of legislation that sounds like the right fix, but doesn’t address our concerns.  We’ve learned over the years once size does not fit all.  So, as we talk about whether it’s issues of gun violence as we talk about how it affects the African-American community – still the number one cause of death for African-American males between 15 and 20.  When we talk about issues like education reform, we know our community’s in a very different position than others, but deserve first-class, high-quality public education as well.

When we talk about going off to colleges and universities, we know that we’re disproportionately dependent on Pell grants, subsidized student loans and other issues important to us – not to mention the survival of our HBCUs.

When we talk about gun violence, we know the major mantle that’s being discussed now across the country is the issue of shootings in schools a la Columbine, a la Newtown – issues along those lines.  Those are crucially important as well.  When we lose 25 children at one time, that is an absolute horror.  But we know that we’ve been losing the equivalent of that per week in cities like –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. SHELTON:  — Chicago and St. Louis and Los Angeles.

So, the policies that address these issues also have to address those concerns and not have the pushback, because[?] we’ve also seen some problems of reaction around those programs, where they think that it’s good for us to do things like put military or even –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. SHELTON:  — police officers in our schools.


MR. SHELTON:  Not a good idea.

MR. MARTIN:  — so, Marc, when you guys convene January 25th, are we talking about, “Look, these are the specific bills we’re talking about.  So, when you go back, your folks need to be armed with those sheets of paper saying, under voting, under economics, under this” –

MR. MORIAL:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — you know, “This is the bill.”  “This is the sponsor,” and judging –

MR. MORIAL:  We’re absolutely driving at specifics, and that’s why this is historic – because I think the idea that we can come together around a set of specific recommendations, I think, would be a major breakthrough for the African-American leadership in this country.  There is no doubt that what we seek on the 25th is specifics around jobs, whether it’s a reintroduction of the American Jobs Act, a more targeted effort at job training in the inner city, more support for minority businesses.  And there could be a long menu of ideas.

We are going to have the challenge – as you mentioned, Roland, very rightly – to create the mobilization and the awareness.  And that’s going to be a very important step that there are discussions about right now.  We have got to recognize that the problems and the ground we’ve lost because of the recession is significant and will not fix itself serendipitously.

MR. SHELTON:  Absolutely.

MR. MORIAL:  We’ve got to be assertive.  We’ve got to be informative.  We’re going to work with the President, while still challenging the President.  We’re going to work with the Congress, while still challenging the Congress.  We’re going to have a greater focus on governors and mayors –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. MORIAL:  — and the private sector and the like.  This is much more than, I think, the way we’ve been thinking about these issues in the past.


MR. MARTIN:  Real quick.  Melanie, real quick.

MS. CAMPBELL:  The other thing I want to add is right after that, you mentioned Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. – because I happen to be a member, and we’re celebrating our centennial.  Well –

OFF CAMERA:  Congratulations.

MS. CAMPBELL:  — we will have Delta Days, and the Deltas –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. CAMPBELL:  — are a part of this 50 group.  Marc has his legislative weekend.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. CAMPBELL:  Black Women’s Roundtable has theirs. Part of what we’ll all be able to do by coming together with a common thread of an agenda is, right away, starting in February, March, April, and continually utilize those legislative days to really mobilize around a common thread and –

MR. MARTIN:  But the key –

MS. CAMPBELL:  — a common agenda.

MR. MARTIN:  — though, is when people have those events in D.C., it needs to be on their agenda.  Don’t just meet at the hotels or the convention center.  Take out six hours out of your schedule and tell your convention attendees, “We’re all marching to Capitol Hill” –

MR. SHELTON:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — because they –

MR. MORIAL:  [Crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  — they need to see –

MS. CAMPBELL:  You can believe that.

MR. MARTIN:  — thousands of people –

MR. MORIAL:  — 50 years ago –

MR. MARTIN:  — [crosstalk].

MR. SHELTON:  That’s it.


MR. MORIAL:  — people marched in the streets because they couldn’t march in the halls of Congress.


MR. MORIAL:  We need a new march in the halls of Congress –


MR. MORIAL:  — to demand what we need.

MR. MARTIN:  Absolutely.


MR. MARTIN:  All right.  Marc, Melanie, Hilary, appreciate it.  Thanks always for coming back on “Washington Watch.”

MR. MORIAL:  Thanks, Roland.

MR. SHELTON:  Good to –

MS. CAMPBELL:  Thank you.

MR. SHELTON:  — be with you.