WASHINGTON – The Black Economic Alliance, a nonpartisan group founded by Black executives and business leaders, today hosted a first-of-its-kind Presidential Candidates Forum on expanding economic opportunity for Black Americans. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) participated in the forum at the historic Charleston Music Hall in the key early primary state of South Carolina.
“As an organization committed to advancing economic progress and prosperity in the Black community, the Black Economic Alliance is proud to have hosted these candidates for a timely discussion focused on economic priorities for Black Americans,” said Dr. Tony Coles, Co-Chair of the Black Economic Alliance. “We will continue to engage the presidential candidates to ensure they keep Black economic issues top of mind as the cycle proceeds.”
“As we approach the 2020 election, pundits, activists and public officials on both sides of the aisle agree the stakes could not be higher— this election will determine the future of issues ranging from health care to immigration, from education to the economy,” said Charles Phillips, Co-Chair of the Black Economic Alliance. “At the current moment, in which we are witnessing a more engaged electorate than any other in recent memory, it is critical that we ensure Black economic prosperity is a key part of the discussion, and that we hold our elected leaders accountable.”
“Make no mistake, Black voters will determine who sits in the White House and walks the halls of Congress, in both the House and Senate. The BEA will build upon the work we did in 2018 and are doing this year advocating for policies that will uplift our communities. We will ensure that all the candidates, regardless of party, are prioritizing our issues in this election,” said Akunna Cook, Executive Director of the Black Economic Alliance. “And we will be focused on turning out Black voters, ensuring that the critical infrastructure needed to get our communities to the polls are there early enough to make a difference, that our votes aren’t suppressed, and that our concerns about the economy are heard and addressed by policy makers and elected officials,” said Cook.
The forum, opened by Congressman James E. Clyburn and moderated by Soledad O’Brien, provided a platform for top-tier presidential candidates to present specific policy solutions to key economic issues and detail their vision for helping Black Americans meaningfully participate in the economy. Candidates presented policies related to increasing homeownership for Black Americans, improving access to capital, ensuring college affordability, and advancing overall economic prosperity to reverse economic disparities facing Black communities.
“As business and political leaders, we must remember that less than two percent of those in the top one-percent income bracket in this country are Black households…That is why we are here today. To hear and offer ideas about what can be done to close the socio-economic gaps that proliferate among Americans and threaten the very foundation of our economic system,” said Congressman Clyburn.
The four candidates spoke on the importance of the event:
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke said, “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to participate in the Black Economic Alliance Forum, and for the chance to discuss how this country can improve work, wages and wealth in communities of color as we fight for equity in America. We cannot address our broken democracy or the historic disparities in our economy with half measures or only half the country. It’s going to take all of us and it’s only going to happen with bold policy solutions like the ones we discussed at today’s forum.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren said, “Thank you to the Black Economic Alliance for its leadership in the fight for economic justice. I was honored to take part in a conversation about how we can confront decades of government sponsored discrimination and institutional racism and make big, structural change to ensure Black families have the opportunity to build wealth and a bright future. There’s a lot of work we need to do to address income inequality, access to affordable education, and increasing homeownership for Black Americans — and I was glad to share my plans for that.”
Mayor Pete Buttigieg said, “Replacing racist policies with neutral ones will not be enough to deliver equality. We must actively work to reverse these harms, which is why I propose that we invest in equity with a new Douglass Plan as bold as the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II. Such a plan could help heal the deep wounds of America’s original sin and supercharge economic growth for every American.”
Sen. Cory Booker said, “In a very short time, the Black Economic Alliance has brought the attention of the nation to focusing on issues that are critical to the success of all Americans. By talking about black economic empowerment after generations of policies designed to undermine, to hurt, to exclude African Americans, to have an organization that is trying to bring this back to having a consciousness about racial disparities and real policies to address that, that’s really exciting and I’m happy to be part of it.”
The Black Economic Alliance hosted the forum on the heels of the release of a nationwide survey that found that Black Americans still face a number of obstacles to improving work, wages, and wealth. The poll—conducted by Hart Research and Brossard Research of 1,003 Black adults— found that 81% of Black Americans continue to believe that it is hard for Black Americans to achieve the American Dream today. Creating good-paying jobs with benefits and making sure people have the training and skills needed for the jobs of the future were identified as top priorities for improving the economic and financial situations of Black Americans.
Launched in 2018, the Black Economic Alliance is focused on advancing policies that can and will create economic empowerment in the Black community. Over the course of the 2020 electoral cycle, the organization will continue to shape the national discourse and elevate issues important to Black Americans by funding research and analysis to help determine Black Americans’ policy priorities, convening presidential candidates for meaningful conversations about Black economic empowerment, and supporting additional candidates in competitive statewide and federal races.