Some local African American leaders vouch for Bernie Sanders

At a recent press conference, four leaders spoke to press about why they are supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders.

A grassroots campaign does not take place in a grand ballroom. It typically doesn’t sell out arenas or stadiums. Usually you will be hard-pressed to find donors that can give more than twenty dollars of their paycheck. But that seems to be why Sen. Bernie Sanders and his message attract so many supporters. The Vermont senator is resonating with so many people in his bid to win the nomination of the Democratic Party.

African Americans in Central New York are a segment of the wave of Sanders supporters that have grown throughout his campaign. In a press conference held today at the Spa at 500 on West Onondaga Street, black leaders in Syracuse came together to show support for their candidate. The old Victorian home, which now houses a salon, includes an enlarged banquet style room in the rear. With a simple sign hanging from the back wall of the room, “2016 Bernie: Running for the 99%,” each of the four dignitaries spoke to media members about their feelings for Sanders.

“I support Bernie Sanders because he is the only candidate that has been an advocate for the African-American community long before running for president,” said Maurice Brown, a student at Onondaga Community College.

Brown is also a U.S Army reservist and a Sanders delegate from the 24th Congressional District in New York. He is one of the youngest delegates in the state, and hopes that he will be voted in to attend the National Convention if Sanders defeats former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Presidential Primary Election on Tuesday. Brown said he believes that Sanders resonates with the military community in addition to African Americans as a whole.

“Bernie and I are pro-veteran and pro-solider, but anti-war,” Brown said. “Within the last few years Senator Sanders tried to push health care reform for the VA (Veterans Affairs), but it was shot down by the Republicans because they believed it cost too much. Bernie gets it, even though he was not a veteran himself.”

Other African-American leaders from Central New York also spoke, such as Leeland Whitted, a professor of social sciences at Broome Community College, and Yusuf Abdul-Qadir, the CNY chapter director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. Whitted has been canvasing for Sanders in the Southern Tier of New York state and believes that the senator’s consistent track record of fighting for various causes over time shows that he cares about American struggles.

“Bernie Sanders is the only candidate bold enough to reject the status quo and struggle for a restructuring of our society where everyone can achieve the American dream,” Whitted said.

Abdul-Qadir, who has been part of United Nations negotiations in his past career, said he feels that this election holds great importance in our country. He said he believes that Sanders is the quality choice for not only African Americans, but for the entire country.

“This election is not only important for the African American community, but for our entire nation in terms of its standing in the world,” Abdul-Qadir said. “We are at time where we cannot afford incrementalism, especially amidst great divides racially and economically. I was energized by the crowd at Senator Sanders’ recent rally in Syracuse, because we need those people involved in the political process.”

The panelists' anecdotes echoed similar sentiments that many Sanders' supporters have shared throughout the election cycle. Though there has been criticism in debates and on social media that Sanders is out of touch with African Americans, Brown thinks Sanders has cared about racial issues for decades.

“Senator Sanders marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he was arrested for protesting segregation in Chicago, and there is a video of him condemning the Prison-Industrial-Complex as early as the 1990s,” Brown said. “Bernie has been fighting for me for so long; I’m going to whatever I can to fight for him too.”

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