As President Biden’s approval ratings falter nearing the midterm elections, many Black Americans expressed they don’t believe the Biden-Harris administration has moved on the promises they’ve made to the Black community. On the contrary, the Biden administration has made great progress addressing Black issues. In fact, an entire team is dedicated toward addressing initiatives and is spearheaded by a Black man appointed specially by the President: White House Senior Advisor for Public Engagement Trey Baker.
Baker, native of Grenada, Mississippi, witnessed the effects of injustice and economic inequality as it is prominent across the south. Baker said criminal justice was especially important to him as he noticed the ways in which the system took advantage of Black people.
You see the criminal justice system, the prison system where you see Black men and Black boys being undercut left and right. You see people get it taken advantage of by the system because they don’t have access to counsel or they don’t have the money to be able to defend themselves. You want to be able to help to undo that. So, having the opportunity to work for a president who has subsequently stopped contracting with privatized prisons, someone who has shut down no-knock warrants from the federal side, that’s the kind of work that really made me interested.
Baker decided to pursue a career in government as way to help his community. He realized the way to help people is to know the law and be in a position to change said law. He graduated from, HBCU, Tougaloo College. He continued his education going on to receive his J.D. in Civil Rights and Litigation at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. He began his outreach to the Black community as City Manager for Grenada then expanded his work to a wider population, he served as Biden’s National Director of African American engagement during his presidential campaign.
We took as many ways possible to connect [Biden] to the community. We went out and just made relationships with each of the communities that we ran. We took a very localized approach to it. I think that that’s what made our campaign so good because we went into these communities, we knew the people, and we really developed relationships that were lasting up. We still have these relationships. We really took a localized approach to say, ‘Okay, we’re going to know the stakeholders in this community. We’re going to know what they need, what makes them tick, what they need done better in their community.’
Though the pandemic made these campaign strategies virtual, an even larger amount of Black people were able to engage with the initiatives Baker and Biden created. They hosted the Shop Talk roundtable series featuring Black government officials and Black celebrities to have barbershop talk about issues Black people are facing. The Make It Happen Monday consisted of a virtual discussions between Black entrepreneurs to determine the best ways the Biden administration could close the racial wealth gap. Finally, the Soul of the Nation gospel concert was an effort to connect the administration to Black faith-based communities.
Now working as White House Senior Advisor, Baker said his responsibilities are a continuation of his work from the campaign but brought to the national level.
In the campaign, you want to help people and tell them this is what we’re going to do to make change in your community. Now, in the administration, you get to actualize those promises. You get to actually put the policies in place that you talked about for us years.
I mean, a great example is that during the campaign, the president talked about nominating the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. And now you know as well as anybody it’s something that he is going to act upon - that he would nominate the most qualified juror that he could find and that person was going to also be a Black woman.
One of Baker’s greatest responsibilities is communicating the work accomplished by the administration to the Black community. “You know people right now have been going through tough times and they looked to leadership as being responsible. I believe that the more and more people would know about what’s been done - the more they see it in their regular lives, people feel better about the work that’s being done,” said Baker.
Baker’s outreach tactics include stakeholder calls with Black leaders and organizations from all over the country which is summarized in a weekly newsletter, trips to meet Black communities directly and reaching out to Black news media including radio shows like The Breakfast Club.
Baker says the work the administration has done so far can be considered as ground for making history. The Biden-Harris administration has successfully reduced food insecurity, extended grants to small Black businesses, provided over $3 billion to HBCUs and lowered the cost of healthcare for Black communities among other initiatives completed under the Advanced Rescue Plan (ARP).
When people step back and they look at the soul of this administration, they’re going to step back and they’re going to see that whether Biden in a year’s time nominated more Black women, eight or so, to the circuit court of appeals than any other president or any of the presidents combined in the history of this country. They’re going to see the president nominated a black woman to the Supreme court.
I would like people to take away is that it would have done everything it could to advance and make better the lives of Black people from creating wealth to protecting them - it provided for a fair and affordable housing across the board. Folks will sit back and be able to say I was a part of this administration that did for the Black community the things we said we were gonna do and the things that we need to make our community better.
Looking forward, Baker said he and President Biden will continue working restlessly to ensure a voting rights bill passes as well as Biden’s Build Back Better plan which will provide financial relief to middle class America.
Baker works with the president consistently to discuss how to undo the ways white supremacy has systematically oppressed Black people. If you thought there wasn’t someone in the White House fighting for you, think again. Baker and his team will continue to ensure the Black community, nationally, is taken care of.