Leaders of civil rights organizations met Friday with President Biden on at the White House to urge the administration to embolden voting rights, improve economic opportunities and advance civil rights for all Americans, particularly African Americans.
Attending the meeting were Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League; the Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network; Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convenor on the Black Women’s Roundtable; Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP; Janai Nelson, NAACP Legal Defense Fund president and director-counsel; Damon Hewitt, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law executive director and president; Maya Wiley, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; and Thelma Daley, chair of the National Council of Negro Women.
The meeting occurred days after the leaders declared a state of emergency for democracy in the country and Biden’s televised message on Thursday warning against rising white nationalism and anti-democracy movements.
“Earlier this week, we recognized the 59th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, a collective response to fight racism, hatred and repression that had plagued and terrorized Black people for decades, and the impact it had in ushering in historic civil rights, voting rights and fair housing legislation in the 1960s,” Campbell said. “Today we find our rights and freedoms once again under attack. Racist and white nationalists threaten our democracy, and the U.S. Supreme Court and state lawmakers are rolling back voting rights, reproductive rights, and LGBTQ-plus rights. Today I shared with President Biden that Black people, especially Black women and families, have not fully recovered economically from the COVID-19 pandemic; and the critical need to address gun violence and policing reform to ensure Black communities are safe. Further, Black women, who drive Black voter turnout and serve as the majority of poll workers in Black communities, are extremely concerned about the threat of white nationalist intimidation at the polls.”
Campbell urged the president to do everything in his power to make sure voters are protected at the polls and poll workers are safe while during their jobs this election season.
Johnson talked about the crisis in Jackson, Miss., and said the administration must make sure communities of color have access to clean drinking water.
Wiley said the leaders told the president that the “full force of the federal government” is needed “to protect each and every voter from political violence, intimidation and barriers.”
“We cannot allow the white supremacist forces who want to deny us our basic human freedoms to win,” Wiley said.
Daley urged the president to pay more attention to the country’s floundering education system, noting many teachers are leaving the profession and school systems are having difficulty retaining quality staff.
“An enlightened citizenry is the best guarantee of democracy,” she said.