Racial Justice Advocates Get in Gear at “Driving Change” Panel

By Dom Apollon Jan 20, 2009

"The Alliance for Justice held a panel discussion, "Driving Change – The Role of Activists During the Obama Administration" yesterday at UDC’s campus. And while, people of color were given mostly passing reference by the panelists and audience questions, there was without question useful information and perspectives for racial justice advocates to be thinking about beyond today’s post-(symbolic)victory celebrations. I’ll give you two thoughts in brief, besides the session’s overarching theme that you likely already know better than most — the real work now begins to make Obama follow-through on all of his grandiose promises for change and hope. #1) Van Jones commented that without question, "we need to hold him accountable," but that doesn’t mean "kick him accountable". It needs to be "hold" him accountable, the Green for All executive director repeated on stage while making a self-hug gesture. "We need to keep reminding Obama of who he is. That doesn’t mean we can’t protest from time to time, or give him any eye rolls." Essentially, we have to ask ourselves, "are we trying to call him out, or call him up?" From my perspective, there is plenty in his books, speeches, interviews, and other public statements to suggest that in his heart, Barack Obama can take bold action that will significantly advance racial justice. How will we choose to motivate and inspire him to do so? #2) CARE USA’s JoDee Winterhof addressed the issue of our access to the new administration, which has proclaimed it will be by far the most open government in our nation’s history. Given the urgency with which we need to act while trillion-dollar federal spending packages are taking shape ("we need to build this boat while we sail it" in Winterhof’s words), you and your organizations will need to take continued stock over the next few weeks to see where these hundreds of thousands of new applicants will land in the federal government. You may actually already have more access to the Administration and governance than you think. How will you make sure the stories of ordinary people of color make it into their consciousness?