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Black Lawmakers Join President Obama On Historic Trip To Kenya, Ethiopia
Black lawmakers were among those leaving Thursday with President Barack Obama aboard Air Force One on a historic trip to Africa, which marks the first time a sitting U.S. president has traveled to Kenya and Ethiopia.
The visit underscores the president’s familial ties to Kenya, where he has already met with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, spent time with members of his father’s family, and will attend a summit with young African leaders.
The visit also marks the first time that a sitting U.S. president addresses the African Union. He will attend bilateral meetings in Ethiopia and Kenya, attend additional meetings at the African Union, and address the sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), the first to be held in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The Global Entrepreneurship Summit will highlight the president’s commitment to promoting entrepreneurship globally, particularly opportunities for women and girls,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice said earlier this week at a White House press briefing, according to a statement.
Rice, foreign policy aide Ben Rhodes, and White House spokesman Josh Earnest joined him on the trip.
Rice also said that the president would have an opportunity to pay tribute to the victims and the survivors of the 1998 embassy bombings, which targeted U.S. embassies not only in Nairobi, but also in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Also joining him at various times on the six-day trip aboard Air Force One are about 20 lawmakers, including Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), president of the Congressional Black Caucus; Representatives Barbara Lee and Karen Bass, Democrats from California; Representatives Gregory Meeks and Charlie Rangel, Democrats from New York; Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.); Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson, Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee, all Democrats from Texas; Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.); Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio); Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.); Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.); Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.); Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.); Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.); and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.).
“I’m honored to join President Obama on this historic trip and in representing the United States as we strengthen our partnerships with Kenya, Ethiopia, and other African allies,” Butterfield said in a statement. “The African continent is strategically important to U.S. interests. It is the ancestral home of millions of African-Americans who have great pride in their connection. All Americans want to see African citizens safe and secure in every respect.”
Before embarking on the trip, President Obama reflected on the continent’s promise and difficulties.
“Despite its many challenges–and we have to be clear-eyed about all the challenges that the continent still faces–Africa is a place of incredible dynamism, some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, extraordinary people, extraordinary resilience,” he said, according to a White House statement. “And it has the potential to be the next center of global economic growth.
“And that’s why, as president, I’ve worked so hard to take our relationship with Africa to a new level. We’ve boosted U.S. exports,” the president continued. “We’ve launched historic initiatives to promote trade and investment, health, agricultural development and food security, Power Africa to promote and expand electrification”
Hillary Clinton Weighs In On Sandra Bland, #BlackLivesMatter
In an effort to capitalize on her rivals’ failures to embrace the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton continued to seize the moment this week.
She told a crowd of about 400 people in South Carolina on Thursday, “Yes, Black lives matter.” She also took a moment to address the death of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old Illinois woman who was found dead in a Waller County, Texas jail cell after an arrest for a minor traffic infraction.
“My heart breaks at seeing another young African-American life lost too soon,” she told the crowd. “Sandra Bland had a bright future ahead of her and it is particularly tragic that she lost her life just as she was to start her new career. From what I’ve seen, the circumstances of this case are incredibly disturbing. I hope and expect that there will be a full investigation into this situation. It is also a tragic reminder of the ongoing systemic issues of race and justice in America that we must address with urgency, and we have to do more than talk—we have to take action.”
After not attending Netroots Nation last weekend, on Monday she said, “racial inequality is not merely a symptom of economic inequality” in an apparent swipe at her rival presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (Independent – Vermont). Sanders was shut down by Black Lives Matter activists at the event last weekend for failing to respond to protesters during a talk. He later tried to make amends on social media by voicing support for Black lives.
After a long conspiracy of silence, it’s good that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is receiving recognition from presidential candidates. Still, the contenders should not have to be prodded so much before they speak. What do you think? Sound off in the comments.
PHOTO CREDITS: Getty