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Mayor Pete Buttigieg continues to pitch black voters

Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call
Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call

(WASHINGTON) — South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg walked silently by the White House to attend civil rights leader Rev. William Barber’s “Moral Witness Wednesday,” an interfaith event held near the White House.

Barber is the latest African American faith-based leader Buttigieg has met with this month in his continued efforts to gain traction in the African American community. The candidate has acknowledged that he is having a tough time connecting with black voters despite outreach efforts, op-eds, radio and television appearances and speeches to predominantly black audiences.

On Wednesday, he hoped his presence, rather than his words were enough.

At the event, Buttigieg told a crowd of reporters who had surrounded him that he was there for the event as a “silent witness.” He didn’t speak much at all, but shook hands with several African-American religious leaders. The mayor has held events in historic African American cities such as Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Charleston, South Carolina.

Earlier Wednesday morning, Buttigieg published an op-ed in the Charleston Chronicle titled “Buttigieg’s Message Ahead of the BET Black Economic Alliance Forum,” a publication that is geared toward African American readers. The first sentence in the piece focused on Juneteenth, a date that commemorates that the last of the nation’s slaves finally learned about the end of slavery in the U.S.

Buttigieg wrote, “Black Americans are not yet fully free when Black unemployment is still almost twice the national average, when the average Black eighth grader reads at a level far below their white peers.”

Buttigieg proposes a “Douglass Plan for Black America” named for Fredrick Douglass and modeled after the “Marshall Plan.” Under his Douglass plan, it calls for a 21st Century Voting Rights Act, helping black entrepreneurs have access to capital and criminal justice reform.

In the past week, Buttigieg met with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and visited with Raphael G. Warnock who is the pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Ebenezer, which Buttigieg visited, is known to be the spiritual home church of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Also in Atlanta, the South Bend mayor spoke directly to African American leaders at a Democratic National Committee event. Later in the day, he held a “grassroots fundraiser” in the city where African Americans, despite being a majority of the population, were in the minority at the venue.

This continued effort of reaching African American voters in South Carolina, will spill over to the weekend where Buttigieg will attend the Fight For $15 march in “The Holy City” of Charleston. During his last visit to the city, the South Bend mayor spoke to mostly white audiences asking for help “shaping the base of supporters we are building to not only help this campaign but to also shape it,” he said. “To find people who perhaps do not look like you.”

To reach those voters he’s held an event at South Carolina State University, a historically black college founded in 1896, appeared on The Breakfast Club, a nationally syndicated hip-hop radio show hosted by three African-American hosts Angela Yee, DJ Envy and Charleston native Charlamagne Tha God, spoken at the DNC’s African American Leadership Summit, and held a private meeting with Stacey Abrams.

He will continue his appeal to black voters later this summer by making an appearance at Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition convention on July 2 in Chicago.

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