Black organizations applaud Biden’s State of the Union, push for more

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Black leaders are applauding President Biden for the achievements he highlighted during his State of the Union address Tuesday, while also underscoring the need for action.

“President Biden presented a vision for the future that spoke to many issues that are top-of-mind for Black Americans including police reform, voting rights, bolstering our economy, addressing climate change, and ensuring affordable and accessible health care,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson in a statement.

Johnson said it showed Biden’s “renewed commitment” to addressing racial inequities but that there needs to be more than words, particularly when it comes to police reform.

“Black America is grieving and continues to experience profound injustice at the hands of our nation’s broken systems,” said Johnson. “Far too many Black people have lost their lives due to police violence and yet I cannot name a single law that has been passed to address this issue.”

Congressional Democrats have called for police reform since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020, even introducing legislation named after Floyd.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants, end qualified immunity, and prohibit racial and religious profiling by law enforcement officers.

Though the legislation has stalled in Congress, with Republicans arguing the bill goes too far, Biden signed an executive order last year that bans federal officers from using chokeholds and restricts no-knock warrants.

David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, a leading Black LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, said in a statement Biden should also prioritize “investigating police departments that have failed to hold accountable or investigate the deaths and hate crimes committed against the Black LGBTQ+/SGL community.”

That includes decriminalizing sex work, Johns said, and passing vital legislation such as the John Lewis Voting Advancement Act, the Equality Act, the PReP Access for All Act, the Women’s Health Protection Act and the REPEAL HIV Act.

“Our ability to thrive in our communities is not a partisan issue,” Johns said. “Defending democracy requires all hands on deck. We urge President Biden and his administration to take bold action to ensure that the Black LGBTQ+/SGL community is safe and able to participate in democratic institutions and practices like schools and voting.”

Voting was a particularly important issue for Black organizations during the 2022 midterms, when allegations of voter suppression and intimidation were widespread.

But Alicia Garza, principal of the Black to the Future Action Fund, said it’s the power of Black voters that has set the agenda to move America forward.

“Black voters are setting the tone for the priorities of this Administration,” said Garza. “Last night, President Biden laid out a vision – and that vision was shaped by Black voters. We’ve pushed hard, and we know the Administration is listening. We can’t stop now.”

“It’s time to ‘finish the job’ and build the power to translate policy into real progress, felt by each of us in our daily lives,” Garza said.

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