On Wednesday, June 13, the White House, in conjunction with Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hosted an African American Regional Policy Forum at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. This forum is part of an ongoing series of regional discussions held in communities nationwide. Each forum is intended to connect Administration Officials from a wide range of policy areas with African American civic, elected, and faith leaders to discuss issues critical to the African American community and the nation.
Many organizations were represented at the forum, including the National Council for Negro Women, U.S. Treasury Department, Delta Regional Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Education, and USDA. Individuals representing the organizations served on panels to discuss how their organizations could assist individuals and answered questions that came from the audience. Many state and local government officials and faith leaders were present to listen to all the speakers and ask questions.
“This was an unprecedented event held in the state of Mississippi due to the number of agencies representing the Obama administration. Administration officials discussed the efforts the Administration have taken and hope to take effect during this Administration to make sure the African American community is adequately served and provided with information that they can use to better help their communities. The forums that have taken place are so important because the African American community, particularly in Mississippi, suffers due to poverty, education level, unemployment, lack of health insurance, health literacy issues, as well as rural health care quality and access. Although the African American communities are faced with these harsh realities, the forum was a success and opened up dialog about how we can work together to solve the problems that exist,” said Trina George, Mississippi State Director for USDA Rural Development.
In addition to the open sessions, forum attendees had the opportunity to break off into the “Open Spaces” sessions, where they met with one of the leaders from the various organizations in smaller groups to ask questions and relay concerns they had about their communities. The event was a great success because it provided an avenue for participants to listen, ask questions, and address their concerns directly to representatives from the Obama Administration, which many individuals will not or never have the opportunity to do. These forums allow Americans to be informed about what is taking place and what programs are available to them to help their communities.