Frederick Douglass asks in his “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro”: “Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?” Through my career as a civil rights leader, a successful entrepreneur giving back to my community, and being actively involved in critical Black institutions, such as the NAACP, NAN, National Urban League, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and three leading HBCUs, I have always worked to further expand freedom and justice for Black Americans, who have experienced systemic barriers since our country’s founding. These struggles have always been at the forefront of my mind and my work.
In this critical election, where our world is buffeted by historic changes, and as our current president condones prejudice every day, we need a proven leader with a plan to lead us through the chaos this administration will leave behind and, in its place, intentionally rebuild our institutions and policies that will empower and uplift our people and our communities.
I’ve seen a lot of leaders in my time, leaders who have helped my community grow, and leaders who have sacrificed and fought their whole lives to change policies that have hurt my community.
Pete Buttigieg is the leader we need right now with the best plan to empower Black Americans.
In 2012, he took over leadership of his hometown of South Bend, Indiana, with a plan to turn around a Rust Belt city that had been dismissed as “dying.” And then he rolled up his sleeves and worked with his community to revitalize his hometown. He created a small business incubator on the historically Black West Side and installed WiFi in parks and public housing to expand opportunity for all the city’s residents. Working hand in hand with churches and nonprofits, he helped bring early childhood education to neighborhoods that needed it most and raised the minimum wage for city employees. And committed to safety and transparency, Pete’s administration worked to hold the police accountable with new training and technology, like body cameras, and partnered with community leaders to keep young people out of the criminal justice system.
Real challenges remain. But eight years later, South Bend is a city transformed. If you drive through South Bend on your way to Chicago, where I was born, you will see a city that is no longer a former shell of itself.
Now, Pete is bringing his vision and leadership to the contest for president of the United States.
Building on the work he has begun in South Bend, Pete has put forward a Frederick Douglass Plan, crafted with the aid of civil rights leaders, advocates, and business leaders, including input from the Douglass family itself, tackling institutional racism in our country. From injecting capital into the Black community to reforming broken criminal justice and health systems, the Douglass Plan is a sweeping strategy to combat systemic racism and unlock the full potential of Black America. While all of the Democratic candidates recognize the importance of addressing these challenges, Pete is the only candidate who has put forth a plan to actively reverse the harms that have compounded over centuries.
When it comes to empowerment through education, Pete’s administration will invest $50 billion to transform our HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions and help further level the playing field between them and other world-class institutions. As a Morehouse Man and board member of two HBCUs, I know firsthand the extraordinary role these schools play in educating the next generation of Black leaders.
To uplift aspiring entrepreneurs, Pete will triple the number of entrepreneurs from underserved areas within 10 years, creating over 3 million new jobs. Having founded multiple businesses, I know how many great ideas will be unlocked with greater access to capital.
The Douglass Plan further recognizes that the neighborhoods we live in still determine so much of our success in life. So many families have had their opportunities circumscribed by the pen of a mortgage lender; 74 percent of neighborhoods that were redlined in the 1930s remain low-income to this day. My development firm, Greenlining Realty USA, has been actively working to counter the effects of redlining in the West Woodlawn community on the South Side of Chicago where I grew up. So I am particularly gratified that Pete is proposing a 21st Century Community Homestead Act that would dramatically expand people’s ability to acquire properties and build wealth instead of being forced out by gentrification.
Whether he’s proposing to invest in Black America, rising to meet the climate crisis, or combating hate and gun violence, Pete has proven he has the right vision for our country. But perhaps equally as important, he has the leadership qualities to deliver on these promises.
Meeting with him recently in Atlanta, I found him to be not only brilliant but genuine, an authentic leader who values honesty and transparency and seeks to build consensus. When his efforts in South Bend faced opposition, he worked to bring community leaders, residents, and other stakeholders along.
As we continue our work to extend the principles of political freedom and natural justice, so that Black Americans are fully empowered in our country, Pete has proven himself to be the leader with the best plan that we need right now.