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Democrats Hold Unprecedented Virtual Convention From Milwaukee

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes rocked a pair of Air Jordans (and a tan suit — wink, wink) for his DNC speech Aug. 18. | Source: Pool / Getty

UPDATED: 10:50 a.m. ET, Aug. 21 —

From the colorful brilliance of a Kente cloth stole to singing songs of protest to even the ghetto fabulousness of a pair of Air Jordan 12 Retro “Taxi” sneakers, Black people and Black culture were nearly impossible to escape at this year’s Democratic National Convention (DNC). In fact, it just may have been the blackest DNC ever.

That fact was no more apparent than when the country witnessed Black history being made in real-time as Kamala Harris accepted the Democratic nomination to be vice president as Joe Biden‘s running mate on Tuesday. That made her the first Black and South Asian woman nominated to a major political party’s presidential ticket.

With such an emphasis on Black voter outreach amid nationwide protests against racism, it was no wonder the DNC this year featured what appeared to be more Black folks than in the previous installments. It didn’t seem like that would be the case when the DNC first released its schedule of speakers, though.

That initial roster only listed 11 Black people, including musical performers, to be featured in the week’s programming. Alongside that scant docket of Black folks were names like Michael Bloomberg — who is infamous for his support of the racist stop-and-frisk policing practice — adding insult to the metaphorical injury sustained at first glance of what seemed to be a diversity-challenged convention schedule.

But since the convention kicked off Monday night, viewers have been treated to a virtual parade of African Americans taking the online stage — both renowned and everyday citizens — making their cases for why Biden deserves to be the next president of the United States. Some of those names have included distinguished leaders like Barack Obama, Colin Powell, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser as well as Gwen Carr (Eric Garner‘s mother) and the family of George Floyd.

Originally, the DNC’s first incarnation of its official convention schedule was conspicuously missing names such as Stacey Abrams, someone who consistently has been both described as a rising star in the Democratic Party and was long rumored to have been courted by Biden to be his vice-presidential running mate. Her apparent inexplicable exclusion came across like a snub of sorts.

But there she was on Day 2, appearing on TV and computer screens nationwide while imploring the importance of voting and to elect Biden and remove Donald Trump. She also brought attention to the disproportionate effect that the collision of multiple factors has especially had on Black lives in 2020.

“America faces a triple threat: a public health catastrophe, an economic collapse, and a reckoning with racial justice and inequality,” Abrams said. “So our choice is clear: a steady, experienced public servant who can lead us out of this crisis just like he’s done before, or a man who only knows how to deny and distract; a leader who cares about our families or a president who only cares about himself.”

Abrams’ words, as well as her inclusion at the DNC, probably elicited a collective sigh among those who quickly spoke after it appeared that Abrams would not be speaking at the convention.

To be sure, there were still more people that NewsOne expected to be included, such as budding activist LeBron James (Steph Curry and his wife and children more than made up for it), established agitator Colin Kaepernick and the founders of the Movement for Black Lives (to name a few).

With that said, it’s clear the DNC has made an intentional effort at presenting an image of racial inclusion at a time in the nation’s history when circumstances suggest otherwise.

Trying to increase appeal to Black voters is a concerted strategy by Biden’s campaign, which has already earmarked a generous portion of its $280 million ad campaign for Black media. And it’s for good measure, too, since Black voter participation fell in the 2016 election compared to the historic levels in which they cast ballots for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

It’s a simple math equation: If more Black people vote Democratic, chances of Biden beating Trump increase exponentially. With the inclusion of a growing number of Black folks, the DNC is surely counting on that to be true.

Keep reading to find some of the Blackest moments at this year’s Democratic National Convention.

1. Day 4: Stephen Curry, his wife Ayesha Curry and children Ryan and Riley

Democrats Hold Unprecedented Virtual Convention From Milwaukee Source:Getty

NBA champion Stephen Curry and his wife and their two young children offered a rousing endorsement of Joe Biden during their appearance on the final night of the DNC.

“We want to ensure that our kids live in a nation that is safe, happy, healthy and fair and so this election,” Curry’s wife, Ayesha, said in the pre-recorded video.

“We’re voting for Joe Biden,” Steph then says.

“Every election is important. This upcoming election is especially important. One, because the social injustices right now, racial inequality, but also because we have children,” Ayesha added.

2. Sen. Cory Booker

Democrats Hold Unprecedented Virtual Convention From Milwaukee Source:Getty

Former presidential candidate and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker had some jokes before turning to the very serious topic of Trump’s failures.

“Last week, Donald Trump said ‘our economy is doing good,’ while 40 million Americans are at risk of losing their homes, 30 million aren’t getting enough food to eat and 5.4 million people have lost their health care because of this crisis,” Booker said during his DNC speech. “He has failed us.”

3. Sarah Cooper

Democrats Hold Unprecedented Virtual Convention From Milwaukee Source:Getty

Sarah Cooper, a Jamaican American who is also a comedian and author who recently rose to prominence in part for her hilarious ability to imitate Trump, also garnered a coveted speaking spot at this year’s DNC.

“I’ve heard Donald Trump say some pretty unhinged things. I’ve heard them over and over and over again,” she said. “But nothing is more dangerous to our democracy than his attacks on mail-in voting in the middle of a pandemic.”

4. Keisha Lance Bottoms

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms used her DNC speaking slot to emphasize the importance of voting by paying tribute to the “civil rights icons” who paved the way for more Black people to get elected to major public offices.

“People often think they can’t make a difference like our civil rights icons, but every person in the movement mattered—those who made the sandwiches, swept the church floors, stuffed the envelopes,” Bottoms said. “They, too, changed America. And so can we! The baton has now been passed to each of us.”

5. Day 3: Kerry Washington

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Actress and activist Kerry Washington served as host of the third night of primetime programming for this year’s DNC. She didn’t pull any punches when expressing the urgency of the moment.

“We fight for a more perfect union because we are fighting for the soul of this country and for our lives, she told America in between introducing speakers. “And right now, that fight is real.”

6. Maya Harris

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The DNC took the time to introduce the country to Kamala Harris’ family, including her younger sister, Maya Harris.

7. President Barack Obama

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The mostly one-sided feud between Donald Trump and Barack Obama is well documented, but the first Black president did his part during his DNC speech to try to even the rhetorical score (or, at least, the score on rhetoric).

Emphasizing “the stakes in this election,” Obama said he never expected his policies to be continued under a Trump administration.

“I did hope,” Obama said, however, “for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously. That he might come to feel the weight of the office. And discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care. But he never did.”

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Then, in case there was any confusion about how he really felt, Obama spoke in the plainest of terms.

“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,” he said. “And the consequences of that failure are severe.”

8. DeAndra Dycus

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DeAndra Dycus, the mother of a quadriplegic child who was shot by a stray bullet, spoke out against the rampant gun violence in America and said she was supporting Joe Biden because he supported common sense gun legislation.

“I want a president who cares about our pain and grief,” she said during her brief address. “Joe Biden has taken on the NRA twice and won. And he will do it again as president.”

9. Day 2: Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes

Democrats Hold Unprecedented Virtual Convention From Milwaukee Source:Getty

The DNC was supposed to take place in Milwaukee before the coronavirus pandemic forced it online because of social distancing guidelines. Perhaps it was because or in spite of that fact that Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes delivered his keynote address Tuesday night while wearing a very clean pair of Air Jordan sneakers. (He was also wearing a tan suit — wink, wink.)

His footwear may not have been seen by people watching him speak online, but photographers at the Wisconsin Convention Center snapped photos of Barnes walking to the podium in a pair of Jordans, which is a tradition of sorts for the Dairy State’s first Black lieutenant governor.

What’s Blacker than wearing Jordans along with a tan suit to the Democratic National Convention ? Barnes is also a graduate of Alabama A&M University, a historically Black college (HBCU).

10. U.S. Virgin Islands delegates

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Yes, the DNC and Biden made sure to include voices and representation from the U.S. Virgin Islands, where local Democratic State Chair Cecil Benjamin was joined Tuesday night by other Virgin Islands delegates to help nominate Joe Biden to be the Democratic nominee for president.

11. Louisiana’s delegates

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Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond was joined by New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell Tuesday night to announce pledged delegates for Joe Biden to be the Democratic presidential nominee. Cantrel is the first Black woman elected mayor of The Big Easy.

12. Colin Powell

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Colin Powell, the first Black person ever to be U.S. Secretary of State,  was one of a growing number of Republicans who spoke at the DNC in support of Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy. Tuesday night was the most recent instance of him pledging to vote for Joe Biden, meaning, like in 2016, he again will not cast a ballot for Donald Trump.

13. New York Times security guard Jacquelyn Asbie

New York Times security guard Jacquelyn Asbie Source:Youtube

Jacquelyn Brittany, a guard at the New York Times building whose chance encounter with Joe Biden in an elevator went viral, nabbed some precious speaking time Tuesday night at the DNC and doubled down on her “love” for the Democratic nominee.

Biden snapped a selfie of the two of them in a New York Times elevator after she told him, “I love you.” The photo quickly went viral. Fast forward nine months later and Brittany was the first person Tuesday night to nominate Biden for president.

14. Tracee Ellis Ross

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Actress and activist Tracee Ellis Ross facilitated the second night of the DNC and offered some memorable talking points, including this gem:

“As a Black woman, I find myself at a crucial intersection in American politics. For far too long, Black female leadership … has been utilized without being acknowledged or valued, but we are turning the tide. Hello, Kamala,” she said.

15. South Carolina Senate candidate Jamie Harrison

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South Carolina Senate candidate Jamie Harrison Tuesday night announced his state’s delegates from the historically Black campus of South Carolina State University.

“This proud HBCU has contributed 22 general officers to our Armed Services,” he said.

16. North Carolina delegates

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Longtime Democratic activist Cozzie Watkins announced the North Carolina delegates during the virtual convention Tuesday night.

“I’ve been doing this a long time so let me just be plain,” she said. “Black people, especially Black women are the backbone of this party … and if we don’t show up Democrats don’t get elected.”

17. New York delegates

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Registered nurse Scheena Iyande Tannis, an immigrant who said she was worried about her own children’s health despite working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, announced the New York delegates during the virtual convention Tuesday night.

18. Rep. Terri Sewell

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Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell delivered her DNC address in front of what will likely soon be renamed as The John Lewis Bridge in Selma. 

19. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester

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Delaware Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, one of the Black folks who were originally scheduled to speak at the DNC, used her speech to underscore the historical importance of the 2020 election.

“In some history class in the future, children are learning about this moment … our grief, our worry,” she said. “But they’re also learning about a man named Joe Biden, about how he restored decency to our government and integrity to our democracy.”

20. Barack Obama

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In a throwback, the DNC on Tuesday night played a video showing former President Barack Obama addressing the 2004 Democratic National Convention. That speech served as a springboard for what eventually became his historic presidential bid to become the first Black commander in chief of America.

21. Stacey Abrams

Democrats Hold Unprecedented Virtual Convention From Milwaukee Source:Getty

Just when it appeared that Stacey Abrams might be left out of the Democratic National Convention, organizers handed her a keynote speech slot that she used in part to bring attention to the disproportionate effect that the collision of multiple factors has especially had on Black lives in 2020.

“America faces a triple threat: a public health catastrophe, an economic collapse, and a reckoning with racial justice and inequality,” Abrams said. “So our choice is clear: a steady, experienced public servant who can lead us out of this crisis just like he’s done before, or a man who only knows how to deny and distract; a leader who cares about our families or a president who only cares about himself.”

22. Day 1: Rep. Bennie Thompson

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Democratic Convention Chairman and Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson officially closes out the first night of the virtual convention on August 17, 2020. 

23. Marley Dias

Marley Dias, a 15-year-old “literary activist” clad in a Kente cloth stole, used her DNC speaking time on Monday night to promote the joys of reading.

24. Michelle Obama

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Four years after Melania Trump plagiarized Michelle Obama, the former first lady borrowed some of Donald Trump‘s own words to underscore his disastrous failures during her Democratic National Convention speech.

“Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country,” she said Monday during the opening night of the DNC, adding that he’s had plenty of time to get it right.

“He is clearly in over his head. He simply cannot be who we need him to be,” she added before delivering her own “Obama out” mic-drop moment: “It is what it is.”

25. Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond

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Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond won the unofficial award for the best backdrop of the DNC’s opening night by speaking in front of a mural that spelled out the word “love” and included an image of Coretta Scott King. Richmond is also an HBCU graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. also graduated from.

26. Kamala Harris

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Kamala Harris, the presumptive Democratic nominee for vice president, addressed the Democratic National Convention during its opening night Monday in a video recorded montage that served as a prelude of sorts to her scheduled speech Wednesday night when she will formally accept the Party’s nomination.

Biden announced last week that he had chosen the only Black woman in the U.S. Senate to be his running mate.

27. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser

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Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser delivered her DNC speech at her city’s Black Lives Matter Plaza, where several streets are emblazoned with the social justice group’s name. Bowser said Trump would further try to militarize the nation’s cities if people didn’t vote for Biden.

“He sent troops and camouflage into our streets. He sent tear gas into the air, and federal helicopters, too,” Bowser said Monday night about Trump. “I knew if he did this to D.C., he would do it to your city or your town. And that’s when I said, ‘Enough.’”

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28. Democrats Hold Unprecedented Virtual Convention From Milwaukee

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George Floyd‘s brothers, Rodney Floyd (left) and Philonise Floyd, delivered an unexpected address during the opening night of the Democratic National Convention in an effort to both bring attention to the police violence that claimed their loved one as well as to make sure victims’ names are remembered.

Philonise Floyd said his brother “should be alive today” and that “it’s up to us to carry on the fight for justice. Our actions will be their legacies. We must always find ourselves in what John Lewis called ‘good trouble.’ For the names we do not know, the faces we will never see.”

29. Rep. James Clyburn

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South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, who once reportedly dubbed Biden an “honorary Black man,” spoke about the apparent racial reckoning taking place and juxtaposed that with his state’s history of slavery as well as the Charleston Church shooting in 2015.

Using that as context, Clyburn said America must elect Biden.

“Much like the country as a whole, we are stepping out from the shadows of our past and beginning to lay the groundwork for a more just future,” Clyburn said. “It won’t be easy. We can only succeed if we move forward together. So we will need a president who sees unifying people as a requirement of the job.”

30. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson and Eric Garner’s mother Gwen Carr

Democrats Hold Unprecedented Virtual Convention From Milwaukee Source:Getty

The opening night of the DNC featured a video conference call between Joe Biden and (from left) Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson along with Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr

31. Rep. Gwen Moore

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Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore delivered a fiery speech to open up the Democratic National Convention on Monday night and gave a special shout out to the first Black woman vice-presidential candidate on a major Party’s ticket.

“What better way to gather than all across America to nominate my beloved friend Joe Biden to be the 46th president of the United States of America, with my VIP VP nominee sista Kamala Harris by his side?” Moore asked rhetorically Monday night.

32. Billy Porter

Musical Acts Perform For The 2020 Democratic National Convention Source:Getty

Singer and actor Billy Porter performed a rendition of the protest song, “For What It’s Worth,” which was originally recorded by music group Buffalo Springfield. Images of Black Lives Matter protests flashed in the background as Porter performed alongside guitarist Stephen Stills, who wrote the song.

33. Leon Bridges

Musical Acts Perform For The 2020 Democratic National Convention Source:Getty

On the opening night of the DNC, Soul singer Leon Bridges performed his new single “Sweeter,” to honor George Floyd and other victims of police brutality.

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