Blog Posts Related to the African American Community

  • African American History Month: Celebrating Two Landmark Anniversaries in American History

    Every February, we celebrate and reflect on the great contributions African-Americans have made to our country. This year, African American History Month celebrates two landmark anniversaries in American history, with the theme, “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.”

    On January 1st, we observed the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and this August will mark 50 years since the 1963 March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. We will spend the month of February highlighting these monumental moments and honoring the causes of freedom and equality that inspired them.

    In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln, adding momentum to signal the beginning of the end of slavery in America.  One hundred years later, Americans from all corners of the country, representing every race and religion, came together under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to peacefully march through the streets of our capital and call for equality under the law for all citizens.

  • Young Men from The Institute for Responsible Citizenship Visit the White House

    I4RC1

    Twenty accomplished young men from the Institute for Responsible Citizenship (I4RC) speak at the White House about responsibility, respect, personal faith, their anxities about their future. (Photo by the White House Office of Public Engagement)

    Last week I had the privilege of spending an hour with twenty accomplished young men from the Institute for Responsible Citizenship (I4RC). I4RC is a competitive two-year program that prepares high-achieving African-American men from across the country to reach their career and character potential. These young men took a break from their summer internships in Washington, DC to meet with myself and other African-American White House staffers.

  • President Obama Creates Initiative to Improve Educational Outcomes for African Americans

    President Barack Obama signs the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans Executive Order (July 26, 2012)

    President Barack Obama signs the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans Executive Order in the Oval Office, July 26, 2012. Standing behind the President, from left, are: Patricia Coulter, CEO National Urban League of Philadelphia; Rep. Danny Davis, D- Ill.; Reverend Al Sharpton; Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Benjamin Jealous, President of the NAACP; Ingrid Saunders- Jones, Chair of the National Council of Negro Women; Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa.; Kaya Henderson, Chancellor of DC Public Schools; and Michael Lomax, President of the United Negro College Fund. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    On Wednesday, during his remarks at the National Urban League conference in New Orleans, President Obama announced an Executive Order to improve outcomes and advance educational opportunities for African Americans. On Thursday, he signed that Executive Order surrounded by some of the key leaders who have been at forefront of promoting those priorities.

    The President has made it a top priority to provide a complete and competitive education for all Americans – from cradle to career.  The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, created by this Executive Order, will work across Federal agencies and with partners and communities nationwide to produce a more effective continuum of education programs for African American students.  The initiative aims to ensure that all African American students receive an education that fully prepares them for high school graduation, college completion, and productive careers.

    In the nearly 60 years since the Brown v.Board of Education decision put America on a path toward equal educational opportunity, America’s educational system has undergone a remarkable transformation.  Many African American children who attended substandard, segregated schools in the 1950s have grown up to see their children attend integrated and effective elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities.  Nonetheless, substantial obstacles to equal educational opportunity still remain in America’s school systems.  Disproportionately, students of color, including African Americans, lag in equal access to highly effective teachers and principals, safe schools, and challenging college-preparatory classes.  And they experience school discipline and referrals to special education at higher rates than their peers.

    Improving the educational outcomes of African Americans will provide substantial benefits for our country, like increasing college completion rates, employment rates, and the number of African American teachers.  So, through this Executive Order, President Obama is taking an important step to promote a more promising future for all Americans.

    For more on the Initiative, please click here

    Valerie Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to President Obama.

  • Dr. Jill Biden Views the AIDS Memorial Quilt

    Dr. Jill Biden views AIDS Memorial Quilt

    Dr. Jill Biden views sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt with Julie Rhoad President and CEO of The NAMES Project Foundation, at The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. July 25, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Yesterday, I had the opportunity to view some panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt with Julie Rhoad, the president and CEO of The Names Project Foundation, at The National Building Museum.

    I was so moved by what I saw.  Every piece of the AIDS Memorial Quilt tells a poignant story – and is a powerful reminder of the many lives lost to this epidemic

    First displayed on the National Mall in 1987, the quilt now contains the names of more than 94,000 of individuals who have died of AIDS on more than 47,000 panels.

    This week, as the 19th International AIDS Conference is in the United States for the first time since 1990, panels of the quilt have been shown on the Mall and at more than 50 locations throughout the D.C. area.

    The quilt is a powerful reminder of how far we have come.  As President Obama said on World AIDS Day, we will win this fight.

  • President Obama Speaks to the National Urban League

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Urban League Convention

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Urban League Convention at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, La., July 25, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Last night, President Obama addressed the National Urban League, and discussed his Administration's work to help strengthen our nation’s communities and support a strong and growing middle class.

    Helping build strong communities has been a part of the Urban League’s mission since its founding, the President said:

    For nearly a century, the National Urban League has been inspiring people of every race and every religion and every walk of life to reach for the dream that lies at the heart of our founding -- the promise that no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you came from, no matter how modest your beginnings, no matter what the circumstances of your birth, here in America, you can make it if you try. 

    The President explained that although this dream has never come easy, it’s this very promise that drew him to his work rebuilding neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago, and later, into politics.

    That idea that everybody should have a fair shot, not just some -- that this country is special because it has grown this magnificent middle class and has provided ladders of access for those striving to get into the middle class -- that's the idea that drove me. That's the idea that has driven the Urban League. That idea that everyone should have equal opportunity -- that's what brought me to Chicago. That belief that this country works best when we are growing a strong middle class and prosperity is broad-based -- that's what led me into politics. 

  • African American Women's Forum

    Today, the White House hosted an African American Women’s Forum, bringing women from across the nation together for an opportunity to discuss issues that are important to women in the African American community.  First Lady Michelle Obama surprised guests to provide some of her thoughts on the theme, “Mother, Sister, Daughter, Leader,” an idea she fully embodies.

    Many topics were discussed including education and college affordability.  One of the panels at the forum focused on the Affordable Care Act and how it will affect African American women. The Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, discussed the importance of prevention for women and emphasized this point by leading the group in an exercise activity! Jocelyn Frye, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Policy and Projects for the First Lady, provided insight on current and future projects Mrs. Obama is working on, and Deputy Adminstrator Marie Johns led a panel on the economy and education. Gene Sperling, Assistant to the President and Director of the National Economic Council, analyzed the current economic status of African American Women in the United States and shared his plan to enact more meaningful fiscal change in the community as a whole.

    Heather Foster is an Associate Director for the Office of Public Engagement.