The Republican National Committee hosted its second annual Black Republican Trailblazer Awards luncheon, which aims to honor the past and build the future with a new generation of Black Republicans. This year the RNC held the event at the historic Howard Theatre.
RNC chairman Reince Priebus in his remarks said that he wants African-American party members to be proud of the GOP and stressed the importance of remembering that it has stood for freedom, equality and opportunity since its inception.
Describing his efforts to expand the party's base to include more people of color, Priebus told the audience that it was more grind than glory, but pledged to work "like a dog" every day to grow the party.
"We're hiring people to work in the community who are from the community so they can get to know people and build relationships where they live, work and worship," Priebus said, citing the RNC engagement offices opened in some states last year.
Honorees included William Brooks, who has worked in the White House Office of Budget and Management and the Labor Department under former presidents Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; retired Judge Sara Harper, the first African-American woman to serve on the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve judiciary and a former NAACP chapter president; and Louis Sullivan, M.D., founding dean of the Morehouse School of Medicine and a former secretary of Health and Human Services under President George H.W. Bush.
"There were times when to be a person with Black and Republican in that same phrase, your mama looked at you cross-eyed, your daddy kind of thought you weren't his, but you were convicted and you were committed to a deep set of principles and for that I thank you," Texas Education commissioner Michael Williams said of the honorees in his keynote address.
This week the RNC also launched its first media buy in Black and urban media outlets and markets to celebrate Black History Month. The radio spots pay tribute to the three luncheon awardees and will air in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Cleveland and Detroit. Print ads will honor former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott; Mayor Mia Love of Saratoga Springs, Utah; the late-Sen. Hiram Revels; and Frederick Douglass.
But according to the Democratic National Committee, such tributes are meaningless if GOP policies are not aligned with African-Americans on voting rights and other key issues.
"The RNC’s Black History Month event and ad buys ring hollow since their party has continually opposed policies that give all communities a fair shake and allows everyone’s voice to be heard," said Kiara Pesante, the Democratic National Committee's director of African-American media. "While Democrats will continue to work with communities of color to make sure no one is left behind, no number of events or amount of ad buys will mask the out-of-touch Republican agenda that has made it harder for many working Americans.”
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(Photo: the Republican National Committee)