Five Democratic presidential hopefuls are making appearances in Atlanta this week.
They’re speaking at a conference attended by thousands of young African-Americans from across the country.
In a candidate forum organized by the Black Church Political Action Committee, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said black voters often underestimate their clout at the polls.
“Why are Republicans and Russians doing so much to try and subvert the number of African-American voters? It’s because they recognize our power often more than we recognize our power,” said Booker.
Rashaad Khaalid from Prince Georges County, Maryland, attended the forum. He has cousins who live in Newark, New Jersey, where Booker was once mayor and continues to live.
“When he’s in town on the weekend, they do see him the neighborhoods,” said Khaalid. “The fact that he’s still amongst with the people, just as Jesus was — how he was amongst with the people, that says a lot about his integrity and character.”
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro said many in the black community don’t get an effective “first chance” in life because of failing schools and neglected neighborhoods.
“I’ve put out a vision on education, on housing, on job opportunities, on police reform of how we can ensure that no matter who you are and what your skin color, in this country you can succeed,” said Castro.
Sound Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg called for action to the everyday gun violence that often affects communities of color and mass violence.
“This is an epidemic. And we have to act,” said Buttigieg. “You know I was in high school when the Columbine school shooting happened and we said we were going to do something about guns in this country. That was 20 years ago.”
Erica Johnson is attending the conference from Philadelphia and said she was impressed by Buttigieg.
“His connection to wanting to make change in neighborhoods, as far as our legislation is concerned, as far as gun control is concerned,” said Johnson. “It’s just refreshing to hear from a younger candidate as well.”
Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are set to appear at the Young Leaders Conference on Saturday.