While it is easier to pack a room when Stacey Dash, Herman Cain or T.W. Shannon come to town, the catalyst of growth for the black conservative movement in America is much deeper.
Leading up to the May 20 primary, I had a unique opportunity to showcase the efforts of the Georgia Republican Party’s Minority Engagement Initiative to my counterparts in Washington, D.C. Trailed by a reporter from the Associated Press, we embarked on a series of roundtable discussions with clergy, small-business owners, activists and black conservative advisory council members to discuss growth and opportunity, and catalog the explosion of conservatism in the black community.
Our day began at Mount Zion First Baptist Church in Smyrna. Founded in 1877, Mt. Zion is home to some of Cobb County’s oldest black residents. Led by former Cobb Ministerial Alliance President John Hearst, Mount Zion understands the importance of political awareness, involvement and engagement. For Pastor Hearst, an unapologetic Christian conservative, there’s no difference in the values of the Republican Party and what he teaches and preaches every Sunday morning.
LATER IN THE evening, we gathered at Superior Eatz – a black-owned restaurant in the historic Auburn Avenue section of downtown Atlanta – to discuss economic development and job creation. The meeting began with a tour of the newly opened facility and a personal story from the owner about her transition from construction worker to the catering and hospitality industry. According to the owner, the Republican-backed tax incentive programs that led to the construction of her restaurant made living the American dream possible.
The next stop was a planning session for a black conservative conference in the fall, centered around historically black colleges and universities. After Morehouse College added a Republican Club on campus, the word spread to HBCUs around the country that it’s OK to be a black Republican. To leverage that excitement for the good of the movement, we are working with Morehouse College alumnus Harold Booker; Morehouse College Republicans Chairman Michael Roundtree; and former Fulton County GOP Executive Director and COO of Engaged Futures Claire Barlett to play hosts to a Black Conservative Leadership Conference in Atlanta this fall. The black conservative movement is sweeping through HBCUs across the country and the Georgia Republican Party wants to be instrumental in providing the framework and resources necessary to ensure success.
WE ENDED THE day with a Black Engagement Advisory Board meeting at the Georgia Republican Party Headquarters. Joined by Georgia GOP Chairman John Padgett, the board – which includes RNC National Black Advisory appointee Camilla Moore – reviewed the new Walk App, which harnesses top-notch technology to assist grassroots activists in their get-out-the-vote efforts. Our team not only has the right message but also has the appropriate technology to reach, engage and involve black conservatives throughout Georgia.
From faith to empowerment, and from technology to leadership, the Georgia Minority Engagement initiative revolves around giving black Georgians the tools they need to grow, thrive and prosper – politically and economically.
While black-tie galas and celebrity speakers are nice, they merely create a following that’s a mile wide and an inch deep. Our goal at the Georgia Republican Party is to set in motion a movement that outlasts us. To do that, we must continue to be a party that’s multifaceted, dynamic and malleable. We always must desire to be more than just a one-trick pony.
(The writer is director of minority engagement for the Georgia Republican Party.)