November 9th, 2011
05:48 PM ET
Washington (CNN) - While President Obama has enjoyed relatively strong support from the African American community, grievances have been palpable over the disproportionate affect the weak economy has had on the black community.
Today the White House chose to address many of the concerns directly, hosting the first African American Policy in Action Leadership Conference. Cabinet officials and top White House staff sat on panels enumerating the president’s efforts and achievements that affect unemployment, health care and education among the areas of greatest issue.
Like going to church, there were moments of praise and prayer during the meeting. Congenial, but serious, the room of community and civil rights leaders, academics, faith leaders, and elected officials sought insight on how policies will address the most harrowing issues their communities face. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said the growing poverty in his city has exceeded New York City’s in number of hungry children.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius told the group that 20 percent of African Americans don’t have health insurance. Her opening remarks highlighted the dichotomy that exists in American health care services: “We have some of the best health care in the world, and some of the worst care in the world,” said Sebelius, pointing out that at issue is access for many of the poor and people of color.
Timed to the conference was the release of a new policy report outlining how administration policies impact the African American community. Sebelius touted the extra one million children who she says currently have access to health care as part of the Affordable Care Act.
Despite the challenges, 86 percent of African Americans recently polled by NBC/Wall Street Journal/theGrio.com are still satisfied with how the president is handling the economy.
The most memorable moment during the conference came when the president paid a visit to the group just before lunch. “We’ve been through tougher times…our parents have been through tougher times,” said the president. His then called for faith and unity as he and the administration move forward.