My Week at the RNC Convention
By Lyndale Pettus
Photographer /Film Maker
The political bid for the next president of these United States has officially started with the Republican convention kicking off in Ohio this past week after the city of Cleveland had been rewarded with its first ever NBA basketball championship.
Republican delegates and supporters had converged on the city in grand fashion along with new potential voters from other parties looking to convert or voice their disdain with the rhetoric that has been added to the 2016 political scene.
With the fire and brimstone dialog of Donald Trump as the first ever candidate as an outsider in the American political system, the city of Cleveland prepared in every way possible to insure the overall safety of the candidates and general public. Security was at a high threat level, due to all the violence that we have been witnessing in our country and on the global landscape.
There were protesters every day with only one real skirmish between police that saw some arrest but not on the massive scale most would think would happen due to all the negative rhetoric and mean spirited attacks on many groups that have been the focus of the Trump campaign.
This was my first political convention and I have to say it was memorable and will forever be etched in the images I captured and the conversations I witnessed and had with everyday people that make up our country.
I have to start with my own affiliation as an African American Democrat from Pittsburgh, Pa. living in Florida. I had witnessed political movements through the ‘60’s seeing the fight for equality and the right to vote. This was something special for me to see that the GOP has thousands of delegates and only a few dozen African American delegates in the party.
I had the opportunity to speak with several new dynamic young leaders aligned to the GOP party, whom are fighting for a lot of the same things most people in urban America are demanding from both candidates. To stop all violence in our communities no matter who delivers the blows, reform the prisons for too many men of color are locked into the system, and the need for more jobs in those communities.
I met with organizers from several cities and both parties that had this as their main concern. From the two women, both Republicans one representing Chicago’s 3rd Ward committee-woman and her crosstown district colleague from Chicago’s 7th ward – both of whom were clearly very passionate about the violence and lack of jobs that has plagued there neighborhoods for decades.
There was also the four women who drove up on the last day from Baltimore to attend a town hall meeting of community leaders at the Holy Trinity Church & Cultural Arts Center to see if this is the candidate who could be the change agent to embrace the organization Black Girls Vote, whose mission is to uplift the community by inspiring voting age Black women to educate women about using the political system to change policies for better communities. These ladies had the opportunity to bump into Don King at the convention and have a longwinded conversation that inspired them even more.
Throughout the week I was photographing and meeting new young leaders tired of the same old stale rhetoric.
I bumped into a couple of young leaders on my second day of the convention behind the scenes of the protest and pomp and glory of the GOP. They had a meet and greet at the elegant Black owned venue, C’est La Vie Restaurant, talking about their initiatives and expectations from a Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton presidency.
One of those organizations at the event has at its helm Ashley D. Bell, a young man beyond his years as a leader and activist. His organization, 20/20 Leaders of America, had in attendance the honorable mayors of Baltimore and the District of Columbia. Also in attendance was Dr. Ben Carson and past presidential candidate Herman Cain, along with other key supporters from the Black Republican Caucus.
The 20/20 Leaders of America, LLC (“20/20 Club”) is a diverse, bipartisan group of Black mayors, city, county and state officials, prosecutors, defense attorneys, political strategists, police chiefs and other law enforcement from across the nation that have partnered with National Black Police Association, the National League of Cities Black Caucus, Insight America, and IMPACT.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn the event was sponsored by Floridian, Sean P. Jackson, chairman of the Black Republican Caucus of South Florida and his colleagues from Florida. He is another young leader representing the GOP and three of Florida’s major counties – Palm Beach, Broward and Miami Dade.
I want to add that this was a historical moment for me as a citizen/photographer that I had to attend.
The stakes are too high; I had to see what’s next for our country and also to capture the visuals and see what the public and the man/woman on the street is really saying.
From my perspective as a Black man in America, I saw for the first time there are new political leaders that are not letting their political affiliation block them from fighting for the common sense solution of ending the issues that have faced our communities. I believe that we may be witnessing a new shift in both parties with the new young leaders who are willing to partner and collaborate to stop and revise the old political strategies.