The gavel comes down on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention at 4 p.m. Tonight’s prime-time lineup includes Sen. Cory Booker and first lady Michelle Obama, but here’s your inside look at the African American speakers you may not know.
Rev. Leah D. Daughtry
The Rev. Leah D. Daughtry has been tapped to serve as the CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee twice and for good reason. A fifth-generation pastor, she has a long history as a leader in the Democratic Party, serving in various senior posts at the Department of Labor during the administration of President Bill Clinton. There she had oversight of a $35 billion budget.
The Brooklyn, New York, native last served as CEO at the 2008 Democratic National Convention Committee when then-Senator Barack Obama accepted the party’s nomination for president. The following year, the Dartmouth graduate was selected in 2009 as Resident Fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, where she focused on the role faith and values have come to play in American politics. Ordained in 2002, she is pastor of The House of the Lord Church in Washington, D.C.
Jelani Freeman is the very best kind of success story. At age 8, he entered the foster care system in Washington, D.C. after being abandoned by his mother, who struggled with mental health issues. His father was in prison. After high school, Freeman attended SUNY Buffalo then earned a master’s in history from American University. In 2010, he graduated from the Howard University School of Law.
He has spent his career working in government, starting with a fortuitous Senate internship for Hillary Clinton, who cited Freeman in her 2006 book ”It Takes A Village.” He currently serves as an appellate attorney for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and credits his mentor with his decision to go to law school.
On Tuesday, he will be a featured speaker addressing a subject close to his heart — bringing opportunity to kids at risk.
Thaddeus Desmond is a product of a good village. Born in Philadelphia to parents who struggled with addiction and could not care for him, he was placed in the foster care system. When he was 6, his social worker adopted him. Influenced by his background, he went on to graduate from Millersville University and received his MSW from Smith College School of Social Work.
Desmond is a social worker for the Support Center for Child Advocates, where he works with abused or neglected children in Philadelphia’s beleaguered child welfare system. He has relationships with his birth parents and is devoting his career to issues of child advocacy.
He will speak in his hometown at the DNC on Tuesday.
To describe Anton Moore as a community hero is not hyperbole. Raised in the Tasker Homes Housing Projects of South Philadelphia, he has seen firsthand how gun violence decimates and despairs a community. Through the nonprofit he founded, Unity in the Community, Moore strives to bring awareness and education to youth on gun violence. In addition to food and clothing drives, there is an annual summer concert and block party attracting national artists spreading a message of peace and unity. Moore feels confident that these efforts have helped to bring the crime rate in South Philadelphia down by 34 percent this past year.
Mr. Moore will speak at the DNC on Tuesday.
David C. Banks
David C. Banks is helping to grow the next generation of strong men. As President and CEO of The Eagle Academy Foundation, he is responsible for the successful leadership and management of a network of innovative all-boys public schools in New York City. Eagle’s message: excellence, both in character and scholarship, opens doors and provides a bridge to equality.
Prior to becoming principal of Eagle, Banks, who received his Juris Doctorate from St. John’s University, served as the founding principal of The Bronx School for Law, Government & Justice, a theme-based high school. As a result of his leadership, Bronx Law is now housed in a $75 million, state of the art facility, representing an unprecedented partnership between the criminal justice community and an inner-city high school.
Students from The Eagle Academy will bring remarks on Tuesday.
Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard
When Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard went to Bible Study at mother Emmanuel Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C. on Wednesday, June 17, 2015, they never dreamed that they would leave having survived a massacre. During the now infamous meeting, a first-time attendee massacred nine people, including Sanders’ aunt and son, after praying with them for over an hour.
Sheppard managed to save the life of her granddaughter by encouraging her to play dead. The shooter stood over her and told her that he would let her live to “tell the story.” The devastation in the wake of this horrifying event contributed to the ongoing narratives of two important issues in America: race and gun violence. In the wake of the tragedy, a long-standing symbol of racial division, the Confederate flag, was removed from the state capitol grounds.
Sanders and Sheppard will speak at the DNC on Wednesday.
Henrietta Ivey, a health care worker, is helping lead the Fight for $15 Organizing Committee. The Michigan native works two minimum wage jobs to provide for her family. She joined the Fight for $15 because she believes strongly in raising the minimum wage to a livable amount.
Ivey’s support for Clinton was bolstered after meeting her earlier this year at a Detroit conference. “Meeting her face-to-face and telling her my story and my struggle as a low wage worker was just a very emotional and heartfelt meeting,” she said. “I just feel in my heart that this is the person who needs to run the United States of America.”
Ivey will speak at the DNC on Thursday.
–shannan l. hicks
Shannan L. Hicks is an attorney and librarian. Follow her @shanhicks.