A Black man from Washington, D.C. who moved to Iowa on a football scholarship in the 1970s had the vision to give voice to the Black and Brown community in one of the whitest states in America.
Now, the Brown & Black Forum is the fourth oldest presidential forum in the country, according to its co-founder Wayne Ford, and it's giving voice to a new generation, Gen Z and Millennials.
“I recognized Generation Z and the Millennials, and it’s their time,” Ford told BET. “Us baby boomers had our time, but it’s their time now.”
For the first time ever in its history, the Brown & Black Democratic Presidential Forum will broadcast live across all of VICE News platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and VICE.com.
Ford credits his son, Ryan Ford, of Cashmere Originals, with the vision to focus the Forum on the younger generation through a media platform they love.
“It was my son who said, ‘Daddy, stay with the times,” Ford told BET. “He said, ‘Daddy, you had a good run, but you’re a baby boomer. What’s going to make this live longer than you is connecting to the younger generation.’”
Ryan presented the idea to partner with VICE TV, calling it “edgy, just like you, Daddy,” Ford recalled.
Ford agreed that VICE TV is exactly what the Forum needed.
According to a press release sent to BET, in addition to streaming live, VICE TV will broadcast the day’s events in a news special at 9 p.m. ET/PT, featuring the best moments of the Forum and highlights from the candidates.
This year marks the eighth year of the Forum and the largest in candidate participation in its history, the press release states.
Participants include Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, businessman Andrew Yang, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and former Maryland Congressman John Delaney, the Forum’s press team confirmed with BET.
The Forum’s focus is on bridging the gap between LatinX and African-American communities across America to mobilize and motivate Brown and Black communities to participate in the political process. The Forum will generate much-needed dialogue around five pillars of focus: Criminal Justice, Immigration, Education, Economic Development and Health.
In 2020, Millennials and Gen Z will make up 37% of the electorate and will be one of the most racially and ethnically diverse generations of voters in American history, according to the press release.
Ford recalled the first time he invited a presidential candidate to Iowa before the official creation of the Brown & Black Forum. “It was in 1976 at a nightclub in the hood” and Jimmy Carter attended, Ford told BET.
“I thought, ‘My God, I got something going on,’” Ford said.
He did it again in 1984 when Jesse Jackson ran for president.
“Now, we got a Black man running and I’m at the right place at the right time so I’m going to start the Black and Brown Forum,” he said.
The Forum was originally called Black & Brown and was later changed to Brown & Black “because we recognized there would be more Brown people in America than there would be Black people,” Ford explained.
Jackson attended along with all the “presidential candidates (at the time) and the rest is history,” Ford said.
VICE News as the go-to news destination for the growing demographic of Gen Z and Millennials, partnered with Cashmere Originals and the Brown & Black Forum, to offer the only forum of this election cycle dedicated to giving a voice to some of the most underrepresented communities in America, the press release states.
“The baby that I’ve grown since 1976 in a nightclub has grown to be the fourth oldest minority presidential forum in the country,” Ford proudly told BET. “I’m a Black man from Washington, D.C., and my dream did me well.”