A Black Lives Matter advocate rejects the president’s invitation to attend the historic event
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed a cross-generational group of Civil Rights leaders to the White House Thursday for a Black History Month reception as an act of gratitude. President Obama said, “The people in this room have been incredible supporters of me and Michelle . . .we are grateful. Black history has been American history. This is about the lived, shared experiences of all African Americans.”
Ironically, outside of that unified setting a narrative about the White House’s recalcitrance to respond to the needs of minorities was being written from the pen of a disgruntled invitee.
Black Lives Matter Chicago co-founder, Aislinn Pulley declined the honorable invitation to attend a gathering of a smaller group of African American Faith and Civil Rights leaders that was held a the White House earlier in the day, an example of the disconnect in approach between some elder leaders and younger ones,
The meeting was designed to discuss a range of issues concerning African American such as education, criminal justice reform and the school-to-prison pipeline.
But Pulley said the meeting was a “photo op” and criticized the White House for delivery no more than lip service in conquering police brutality in her inner city streets and others across the nation.
“I was under the impression that a meeting was being organized to facilitate a genuine exchange on the matters facing millions of Black and Brown people in the United States,” Pulley wrote in a www.truthout.com op-ed piece. “I could not, with any integrity, participate in such a sham that would only serve to legitimize the false narrative that the government is working to end police brutality and the institutional racism that fuels it. For the increasing number of families fighting for justice and dignity for their kin slain by police, I refuse to give its perpetrators and enablers political cover by making an appearance among them.”
The attendees who accepted the invitation included Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Ation Network, Ben Crump, president of the National Bar Association; Brittany Packnett, a member of the president’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and co-founder of We The Protestors and Campaign Zero; NAACP President Cornell Brooks; Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat; National Urban League President Marc Morial; Mary Patricia Hector, national youth director of the National Action Network; Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change; and Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.Many of the leader present were history makers in their own right who have been on the front lines fighting for Back lives for decades, such as Rev. C.T. Vivian and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the first Black woman to hold her position also participated in the leadership round table.
The White House said they have never hosted a meeting of inter-generational Black leaders before.
Although, Pulley, a self describe radical, missed the opportunity to share her views among a pool of seemingly similarly-minded individuals, Obama was pleased with the feedback from the young advocates in the meeting.
“I am most encouraged by is the degree of focus and seriousness and constructiveness that exists not only with existing civil rights organizations, but this new generation. They are some serious young people. I told them that they are much better organizers than I was when I was their age, and I am confident that they are going to take America to new heights. My job is just to make sure that I’m listening to them and learning from them a little bit. And hopefully, working together across divides of race and party, we can make sure that we’re living up to our highest American ideals. There’s no better way for us to celebrate Black History Month.”
At the reception Mr. Obama also noted he was inspired by the mindset of today’s young Blacks: “What’s so inspiring about these young people and their generation is that they don’t see black history as a relic; it’s not something to study in a book. They don’t see themselves as distant from that history — they are participants, making history. It’s alive, something that we have the power and the responsibility to shape and to wield.”
(Aside: The Morgan State University band, an HBCU in Baltimore, greeted guests as they arrived, another first at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.)