This past Sunday, Detroit Branch NAACP president Reverend Wendell Anthony said, at the 64th annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner at Cobo Center, “All roads go through Detroit.” He was referring to the 2020 presidential election.
Ironically, presidential candidates Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker were in attendance and were past keynote speakers.
Additionally, Democratic 2020 presidential candidate and U.S. Senator from California Kamala Harris delivered the keynote address this year. She began by first paying respect to federal judge and civil rights icon Damon J. Keith, who passed away last month at his home in Detroit.
“He was a brilliant, Howard-educated lawyer with an unwavering commitment to fairness and the willingness to speak truth,” said Senator Harris who also graduated from Howard. “His rulings advanced the cause of equality and his legacy will have a lasting impact on Americans for generations.”
Harris, 54, gave a fiery campaign speech that outlined her agenda and goals for the country if she is elected. She also continued her frontal assault on President Donald Trump’s policies and leadership. She condemned the president for attacking communities of color and denigrating African countries with “foul language no president should speak.”
“Let’s speak truth here today. This president isn’t trying to make America great; he’s trying to make America hate,” Harris said. “So, it is critical to our security, our dignity and our unity as a nation when I say: ‘We need a new president.’ It’s time we had leaders who bring people together rather than rip them apart and a leader who speaks out on hate and all its forms.”
“Let’s speak a truth” was the common theme for Harris’ 30-minute speech. She said it repeatedly and tied it to policies she intends to implement as president.
Harris promised a tax cut for middle- and working-class Americans who cannot afford to pay for unexpected expenses. Families making less than $100,000 a year would receive $6,000 that they could access at up to $500 a month. She said she plans to pay for it by repealing Trump’s tax cut that benefited wealthy individuals and corporations.
Senator Harris also questioned the integrity of American elections, claiming the Florida and Georgia elections were unjustly decided. She said she would introduce a new voting rights act that would automatically register people to vote, make election day a national holiday and fight back against Republican efforts to suppress the vote.
“Let’s say this loud and clear: without voter suppression, Stacey Abrams would be the governor of Georgia. Andrew Gillum [would be] the governor of Florida,” Harris proclaimed.
To combat gun violence in the country, Harris said she would give Congress 100 days to enact gun control that would expand background checks, take licenses away from gun dealers who break the law and stop domestic abusers from getting guns. Otherwise, she will sign an executive order to accomplish her goals on gun laws.
A former prosecutor, Harris said she wants to increase criminal justice investigations into the patterns and practices of those in law enforcement, and enforce current and future consent decrees with city police departments. She also wants to end the cash bail system ,which hits poor and minority communities especially hard.
All eyes will be on health care for next year’s election as Harris plans to implement Medicare for all so that everyone, especially African Americans, who are the fastest growing group of uninsured in America, have access to affordable health care. More than 30 million Americans are uninsured and Harris believes that number will grow if Trump succeeds at trying to “destroy” ObamaCare.
“Health care should be a right, not a privilege of just those who can afford it,” she said. “Dr. King said, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane,’ and he was right.”
Harris, who launched her campaign in January, is the first Black woman to join the Democratic race. She was one of the earliest high-profile Democrats in what has become a crowded field of more than 20 presidential hopefuls in the 2020 race for the White House.
She remained in Detroit through Monday to campaign, visiting a Dearborn public school Monday afternoon, then speaking at an American Federation of Teachers town hall at Marcus Garvey Academy on Detroit’s east side. Harris addressed the concerns of teachers around the nation as many have to work multiple jobs to pay their bills and often pay for classroom supplies with their own money.
“As president, I will make the largest investment in teacher pay in our country’s history and close that gap,” she said. “I want to give the average teacher a $13,500 a year raise.”
With Michigan being viewed as a battle state for the 2020 election, people are wondering if the NAACP was endorsing Harris.
“We don’t do that,” said Rev. Wendell Anthony. “It doesn’t hurt to come to Detroit on the way to the campaign trail. Good things happen to people who come through here.”
The NAACP identifies itself as a non-partisan organization and does not publicly endorse candidates. However, Harris’ appearance in Detroit strengthens Michigan’s role as a key state for presidential candidates in the 2020 election cycle.
“We’ve invited a whole lot of folk over the past. We have a blessing and a burden this year. We have so many good people running, and the burden is that there can only be one.”
Other Democrats who have campaigned in Michigan this year include former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, U.S. Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and New York businessman Andrew Yang.