The President’s Agenda and African Americans—A Report

December 5, 2011; Source: PoliticoThe impending national elections next year mean that the nation’s incumbent President is going to try to make the case that he delivered on his campaign promises. Toward that end, the White House just issued The President’s Agenda and the African-American Community, a 44-page report describing what the Administration has accomplished in President Obama’s first term and what it will continue to pursue in his second—if he gets re-elected. The President remains immensely popular in the African-American community, though he rubbed Congresswoman Maxine Waters and others the wrong way when he told the Congressional Black Conference to “stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying” in a September speech. It wouldn’t surprise the White House much if some observers characterize this report as a campaign document, much like our characterization of the White House report on rural issues a few months ago.

This report was issued to accompany the African American Policy in Action Leadership Conference held at the White House last month, where 160 invited leaders interacted with top Administration officials. Top presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett was the keynote speaker for the program, a positive sign for nonprofits. Jarrett has strong nonprofit credentials from her work in Chicago. But the crucial role of the nonprofit sector in crafting as well as delivering programs and services to lower income African-American communities is only lightly covered in the report. Among the programs in the President’s agenda that depend on the capacity and mobilization of the nonprofit sector include the $75 million for comprehensive responsible fatherhood initiatives, $40 million for job training opportunities to help non-custodial parents, the President’s leadership in settling the black farmers class action lawsuit, the $165 million Second Chance Act grants for prisoner reentry programs, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program aimed at redeveloping foreclosed housing, and more. It would be good for the Administration to begin recognizing in these quasi-campaign, quasi-policy reports not only the programs that the federal government has implemented emanating from the White House but also the crucial role of the nonprofit sector in bringing them to fruition.—Rick Cohen