PHILADELPHIA- First Lady Michelle Obama got the party started with a rousing speech, then came the mothers of Sandra Bland and Hadiya Pendleton—Geneva Reed-Veal and Cleopatra Pendleton Cawley. While President Barack Obama and Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. spoke before millions, Reverend Ira Acree and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle sat among America’s most influential leaders.
Hillary Clinton made history at the Democratic National Convention by becoming the first female to be nominated for president, but Freeman-Wilson joined Chicago’s prominent Black leaders and activists as they turned out in full force to support a candidate who fittingly hails from the Windy City. They brought to Philadelphia heavy hearts and strong convictions from stories that have made national headlines in recent years.
They were all part of an intense four-day gathering of politicians, activists and delegates who witnessed Hillary’s camp pull out all the stops to stage a national political convention where ordinary citizens made emotional appeals for tougher gun legislation, civil rights and better economic opportunities that have eluded many disenfranchised citizens for years. Many speakers also rebuked the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, accusing him at times of being divisive, racist and unfit to be America’s president.
The convention comes at a time when racial tensions and political clashes are shaking America to its core. Though she leads in major polls, Hillary is relying on the Black vote as she struggles to gain the trust of young voters and supporters of Vermont senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Many of his supporters are still reeling after Wikileaks released a flood of emails showing former DNC chairman, Debbie Wasserman Schulz, trying to weaken Sanders in order to elevate Hillary for the Democratic nomination.
On July 26, Hillary’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, stood behind his wife in a powerful speech that showed the softer side of his wife. The next day, President Obama praised Hillary as a fighter who is ready to lead America.
“You know nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office,” he said. “Until you’ve sat at that desk, you don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis or send young people to war. But Hillary’s been in the room; she’s been part of those decisions. She knows what’s at stake in the decisions our government makes for the working family, the senior citizen, the small business owner, the soldier, and the veteran. Even in the middle of a crisis, she listens to people and keeps her cool and treats everybody with respect. And no matter how daunting the odds; no matter how much people try to knock her down, she never, ever quits.”
Vice President Joe Biden also spoke, as did scores of activists and relatives who lost their children to mass shootings in Orlando and across the country.
Former New York Mayor and billionaire, Michael Bloomberg, who once considered running for president as an independent, also gave a speech that expressed his endorsement of Hillary.
Held at the Wells Fargo Center located just seven miles from the 262-year-old Independence Hall, the convention was also a boost for many women who have been inspired by the political success of Hillary as she gets closer to the highest office in the nation.
The convention may have been held in the City of Brotherly Love, but Blacks who traveled some 760 miles to see history in the making help turn one of the nation’s biggest political events into an all- Chicago affair. It was a powerful reminder of the role Blacks in Chicago and America are playing to help Clinton fend off Trump, who has been criticized for running a divisive campaign in the bitter race to the White House.
“When someone is cruel and acts like a bully, our motto is when they go low, we go high,” stated the First Lady in her speech during the opening night of the convention.
For millions of Blacks, it was the beginning of the final stretch to elect Hillary—a candidate who shares strong ties to Black communities in America, along with her husband. Hillary got here largely with support of Black voters, and Blacks are expected to put Hillary over the top in November with hopes that she would be the leader who will help address long-standing problems in the Black community, including unemployment, poverty and police brutality.
In addition to the support from Black Chicago leaders, what millions saw for four consecutive days was the importance of the Black electorate to Hillary and how it has carried her as she weathered controversy throughout these primaries.
“Hillary can be trusted,” Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. said, “to understand the historic dimensions of the agony, hope and promise of Black Lives Matter. She knows our scars and suffering.
“From Trayvon Martin to Michael Brown and Alton Sterling, shootings of young Black men must stop. And we deeply regret the killing of police officers with powerful assault weapons. That resonates in our soul. We must choose reconciliation over retaliation and revenge.”
On different levels, the convention was the voice of the poor, the handicapped and women struggling to succeed in a country dominated by male presidents. But, the long-standing plight of Blacks falling behind a nation that has prospered at their expense has produced a weariness that has helped Hillary understand and connect to the common voter.
Reed-Veal moved thousands with a speech that reminded millions where America is when it comes to seeking justice for victims who died at the hands of police.
“I watched as my daughter was lowered into the ground in a coffin. She was gone. No, no. Not on administrative leave, but on permanent leave.”