Black Belt Region farmers and I joined a video panel discussion about voters of the Middle Georgia area. Part of an election series for the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), this eight-person panel included both Black Democratic and Republican party supporters.
And at times, things got a little heated. But the point was to gain a better understanding of where each of us stood as the national competition attempts to win over American-American voters during this year’s election. WSJ’s national politics reporter Joshua Jamerson conducted the discussion at Thomas Public Library in Fort Valley, Georgia. He wanted to find out who is voting for President Donald Trump and Democratic candidates like Elizabeth Warren, Joe Bidden and Bernie Sanders. He also wanted to know what national, global issues were of top concern for each of us.
Like I said, our conversations got intense. Some of our ideas and responses were shocking. Others more thought-provoking. Interestingly, three of the eight panelists I joined are Trump supporters. Even though Trump’s bigotry toward Blacks and other people of color has spanned for more than four decades.
In addition to trying to understand why some of us are backing Trump and others specific Democratic presidential candidates, the panel discussed changes we wanted to see more of on the local level — like adequate funding to public education, better support to sustain Black farms and solutions to voter suppression. Historically, the political culture in the South gave enormous power to local political structures. Traditionally, little local power rested in the hands of rural Blacks.
So after the Civil Rights Movement, the fight to keep the hierarchical, discriminatory power structure in place has continued with the community’s elite. And I was sitting next to and often collaborate with Black farmers and residents who are still experiencing lack of inclusion in local decision-making processes. This panel gave me great insight into how diverse the Black vote is today and the range of topics that can potentially make or break a candidate from earning our vote.
One thing was for sure: No Black vote is the same heading into this election. Even among the Democratic candidates. Like this compelling interview opportunity, conversations about the black vote, rural poverty and the plight of the Black Belt Region have become trending topics around the nation. I’ve had the privilege to bring new perspective to these topics through the Wall Street Journal and these national publications as well:
- THE NATION: “Appalachia Gets Special Funding. The Black Rural South Deserves it too.”
- THE NEW YORK TIMES: “Something Special is Happening in Rural America”
- THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: “5 black-owned businesses killing the agriculture game right now”
- ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION: “Connecting Rural Health Equity with Community and Economic Development”
- THE HOMECOMERS: “On the Richness of Rural and a New Generation of Farmers”