Building on what they call “positive gains made with Black voters,” the Republican National Committee is opening a Black American Engagement Center outside Atlanta in College Park, Ga. The RNC insists that it is serious about engaging in strategic and sustained Black voter engagement.
Speaking with NewsOne, RNC National Spokesperson and Director of Black Media Affairs, Paris Dennard, said the re-opening of party offices branded as “community centers” is a sign of that commitment.
“We use the summit centers as an opportunity for us to do specific sustained engagement,” he explained. “This Wednesday, we’ll be in College Park re-opening. And I use the term re-opening because while we are in different locations, this is not just the first time we’ve been present.”
Dennard explained the party had a Black outreach center in Mableton and another city in Georgia. The Republican party opened a similar center earlier this year in Cleveland. McClatchy previously reported the leases on the prior centers expired at the end of the 2020 election cycle. Dennard said the party’s engagement will run through the 2022 midterm cycle.
He also noted that the party recently opened a center to engage Asian and Pacific Islander voters in Georgia. According to Dennard, these centers serve as a place for potential voters to gather, engage and connect with the party.
“We know that there are Black Republicans, and we are not a monolith when it comes to our vote bloc,” he said. “And so we use it as a place where people could come and get information.”
For some people, the phrase “community center” might bring to mind a recreation center or other community space with room for athletics and community programming. When asked why the party uses such language, Dennard said they wanted communities to see the space as a resource. “We don’t want people to look at them as just a stuffy office where you just come, and there’s a table and chairs, and all you do is phonebank,” he shared.
A part of the party’s Black voter engagement includes running an ad campaign in local Black outlets ahead of center openings, like the Atlanta Daily World. Dennard stressed the party is serious about earning the Black vote.
“We want to create and highlight the contrast between what we see now under the Biden Harris administration and having Democrats in total control of the government on a national level,” he said. “We look at issues.”
But Black voter engagement requires more than a verbal commitment. Mondale Robinson, the founder of the Black Male Voter Project, says both parties talk a good game but where they stand on the issues matters.
“I think everybody should court Black voters,” Robinson told NewsOne. “The problem with the Republican party in this country is its platform.”
According to Robinson, platforms are a statement of party values, and the Republican party hasn’t demonstrated itself to Black communities.
Founded to engage Black men directly, instead of assuming Black women’s labor would bring all the boys to the yard, Black Male Voter Project steps in for genuine with Black men and meeting them where they are. He sees his effort as a complement to efforts led by Black women to create more empowered voters to make decisions based on the issues that matter.
While he questioned the sincerity of a party that cannot rein in elements that promote racist revisionist history, Robinson said Democrats should be worried. Robinson made the rounds last week speaking about Black voter discontent with the current administration and congress.
“They didn’t go to the polls for Biden, they went for what was possible — what kind of life we could have with the Build Back Better plan, and we’re not seeing that,” he said in an interview with Zerlina Maxwell.
Robinson said it would be a mistake to write off disenchanted Black voters as being apathetic or disengaged. Speaking specifically about Black men, he said there is a level of concern and activity within everyone.
“Any inroads the Republicans make is because of the Democratic lack of activity on a platform that they built and told us was possible,” Robinson concluded.