Joe Biden‘s campaign on Thursday was set to kick off the first in its new series of roundtable discussions for and about Black men in the wake of the latest spate of police violence that prompted a renewed round of protests around the country.
The “Shop Talk” discussions — the first of which is scheduled for Thursday — will be held weekly in an effort at engaging Black men and was launched partially as a response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who officers shot at least seven times in the back after he was walking away from the police to enter his car on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Biden expressed disgust when responding to Blake’s shooting.
“Once again, a Black man — Jacob Blake — was shot by the police. In front of his children. It makes me sick,” Biden said in a video he tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “Is this the country we want to be? Needless violence won’t heal us. We need to end the violence — and peacefully come together to demand justice.”
A number of professional sporting events were paused after players said Blake’s death was taking a toll mentally on them. Biden applauded the athletes’ “moral leadership” in deciding against competing.
The inaugural installment of “Shop Talk” has been scheduled for Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET and will feature an all-star lineup of panelists being moderated by a small business owner in Wisconsin.
The panelists include Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is also co-chair of the Biden campaign; Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes; political pundit and former South Carolina State Rep. Bakari Sellers; actor Terrence J; music mogul Jermaine Dupri; and Chuck Creekmur, the CEO of the popular website AllHipHop.com.
Gaulien “Gee” Smith, who owns a barbershop in the Milwaukee area, will moderate the “Shop Talk.”
Creekmur said the roundtable series was a critical component to making strides socially and politically both now and in the future.
“This is a special time in history that future generations will study. They will know and see who did what, what the world was like and how we handled it,” Creekmur told NewsOne in a direct message Thursday morning. “This election is critical and it is truly not the time to be on the sidelines watching. Men often bear an unspoken or unexpressed burden and I think Shop Talk is a great way to open the dialogue and listen and talk to each other. I hope that we, as Black men, engage our communities more and more to change them for the better.”
Richmond, who is fresh off delivering an address at the opening night of the Democratc National Convention last week, said he relished the opportunity to take part in something that he likened to the rite of passage of men speaking freely at barbershops.
“For generations, Black-owned Barber shops in this country have always served as a safe space for Black men of all ages to engage in enlightening, entertaining and challenging conversations,” Richmond said in a statement e-mailed to NewsOne. “Although COVID-19 has prevented us from physically hosting Shop Talk at barber shops across America, I’m honored to bring this cherished component of Black boyhood and manhood to the main stage during a time when we must all lean on each other as brothers.”
A media advisory about “Shop Talk” said “guests will participate in a roundtable focused on issues impacting Black men in Wisconsin and around the nation. During the discussion, they will have the opportunity to hear from Wisconsin residents about this week’s police shooting of Jacob Blake and the impact it has had on their communities.”
The Biden campaign’s director of strategic communications said that “Shop Talk” had already been in the works well before the historic nomination of Kamala Harris to be the Democratic candidate for vice president. It is just one of several other campaign initiatives designed to get out the vote that are expected to be launched heading into fall.
“We always strive for authenticity when engaging our key constituency groups by meeting people where they are and facilitating spaces for empowering and forward-looking discussions. Shop Talk is one of the new Biden-Harris coalition programs that was created for Black men, and led by Director of African American Engagement Trey Baker,” Kamau Marshall told NewsOne in an email. “To have that space is an example of how our campaign is bringing likeminds together to stand up for the issues they care about the most. By selecting a state to anchor the conversation each week, we’re confident that these gatherings will energize more Black men to support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris — the candidates that will undoubtedly champion their safety, economic prosperity and physical and mental well-being.”
People interested in watching “Shop Talk” can sign up for it by clicking here. A link for the live event will be sent to registrants.
Biden’s campaign has always made a concerted effort to target Black voters, but it has seemed to double down on that commitment in recent weeks. That includes earmarking a significant chunk of a massive $280 million ad campaign to specifically appeal to Black audiences.