Hillary Clinton had as much African American support as one could possibly muster in Atlanta, and yet it still wasn’t enough to calm the naysayers. Clark Atlanta hosted Clinton’s African Americans for Hillary on Friday, Oct. 30. The event was introduced by social media princess Karen Civil and was serenaded by Kelly Price and the CAU Mass Choir. The afternoon opened with Atlanta’s mayor, Kasim Reed, alerting the crowd that Atlanta was prepared to support Senator Clinton in 2016. Reed received a bit of assistance regaining the crowd’s attention from Usher. The R&B superstar made a brief appearance to solidify his support for Clinton before waving to the students and returning backstage.
Next, former NBA all-star Grant Hill, who just became part owner of the Atlanta Hawks, stepped up to share a personal story detailing Senator Clinton’s empathy for African Americans. Hill explained that his mother left New Orleans to attend college at a time when she was one of the few black students at a predominately white prestigious university. His mother felt alone and often considered giving up and going back to New Orleans. Although Hill’s mother’s college roommate was white and more comfortable in their environment, she championed her roommate by encouraging her to stay in school and persevere until she earned her degree. Hill’s mother’s college roommate happened to be Hilary Rodham Clinton. Hill’s conclusion that Clinton has a heart for minorities was actually magnified at that moment because the story felt personal and made Clinton more accessible to the audience.
Hill was followed by several state officials and Atlanta’s own Monica Pearson who addressed the crowd and pledged her support for Clinton. Throughout the afternoon it was repeated that Atlanta has over 700,000 unregistered voters of color and many of them are African American. A challenge was raised to change those unregistered voters to registered voters and, hopefully, supporters of Clinton’s presidential bid. Finally, Rep. John C. Lewis escorted Clinton out to an excited crowd filled with mostly students, Atlanta’s political elite and select supporters and donors. Lewis didn’t hesitate to recount the statistics on voters and remind the crowd that he was left bloodied on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, fighting for the right for minorities to vote.
Clinton greeted the crowd by addressing Clark Atlanta, Spelman and Morehouse students warmly. Unfortunately, prior to getting into her speech she was interrupted by #Blacklivesmatter chants from a small group of young people. Eventually supporters in the crowd became irate and began chanting back “Let her talk!” Lewis attempted to appease the crowd but eventually the #Blacklivesmatter crew had to be escorted from the room by security.
Clinton did her best to engage the audience agreeing that #Blacklivesdomatter and insisting that she planned to immediately tackle issues of student loan inflation and other issues in education. Clinton’s speech felt very much like it had been molded specifically for a #Blacklivesmatter audience and that’s the way it was supposed to flow. Much ado was given to job placement for prisoners once they’d returned home from paying their debts to society and Clinton even acknowledged that the percentages of African Americans in prison compared to the overall population was discouraging. I’m not sure if I were attending her rally in New Hampshire if I would’ve heard her suggest that inmates guilty of road crimes should be given lighter sentences. Then again, perhaps she would’ve stated the same statistics, it just wouldn’t have been met with such applause. Clinton spoke passionately about officers being held accountable by utilizing body cameras, and exclaimed the African American community should accept the police as they learned to respect the community.
Clinton’s speech felt very much like a single Mom billboard with three latchkey children in an urban neighborhood. At the very least, overly crafted for an emotional audience. If the goal was to align Atlanta’s privileged set behind a chosen democratic presidential candidate then African Americans for Hillary Clinton was successful indeed.