Democratic National Committee vice-chair rallies area Democrats; urges participation on local and national levels.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Local Democrats got an extra spark for the 2020 presidential election last week.
Michael Blake, vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee, delivered a fiery message at the Volusia County Democratic Black Caucus’ Second Annual Black & Blue Gala on Aug. 3. It was held at Bethune-Cookman University’s Center for Civic Engagement.
Blake also is a New York Assemblyman from the 79th district in the Bronx, New York.
The gala is the annual fundraiser for the Volusia County Black Democratic Caucus, which aims to get local African-American Democrat candidates and other Democrats elected to local, state and national offices.
Time to fight
The audience was encouraged to be ready for a fight in 2020.
“We must be ready for a fight. We are fighting for the direction of our country. We are fighting for the soul of our country. Maybe we have forgotten how to fight. We fought during slavery, Jim Crow and civil rights,” Blake told attendees at the event.
“We are fighting the prison industrial complex, voter suppression, inequality, injustice and more. We are the Democratic Party. We fight for the people. That is who we are and what we do.’’
Calls Trump racist
Along with the 2020 election, Blake addressed Amendment 4; the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas; racism; and voter apathy. President Trump wasn’t sparred in the congressman’s speech.
“People from New York and New Jersey aren’t surprised. We know what he is. He is a racist, criminal, misogynist, xenophobe and more. We know what was passed on in his house. When those around him won’t speak up, we must,’’ Blake stated.
Focus on every seat
Volusia Democrats were encouraged to get voters out to the polls for all elections.
“We can’t just focus on the White House. We must focus on the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, every state House, every state Senate, every county and every city seat.’’
Voting rights were also a topic of discussion.
“It’s was a victory in this state when Amendment 4 was passed. Now you see there are those who want to change how it’s implemented. Every time Blacks, women or Latinos try to advance, they try to change the rules,” Blake shared, referring to the amendment that automatically restored the right to vote to more than 1.4 million ex-felons in Florida.
It was passed on the ballot during the 2018 midterm election. However, Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation in June that requires felons’ fines to be paid before their rights can be restored.
During his speech, Blake also paid homage to the victims of the mass shooting in El-Paso the morning of Aug. 3. During the mass shooting, 22 people were killed and more than two dozen were injured.
The incident sparked a debate on gun control.
“We must reflect upon the magnitude of what happened. It’s an act of domestic terrorism. This person was reported to have a White Supremacy manifesto, which is anti-immigrant and anti-Latino,” Blake said.
“We must hold accountable those elected officials that we have voted for. If they aren’t advocates for gun control change, then vote them out. No matter your background, you shouldn’t have to worry about coming home safely after leaving your home.
Worked for Obama
Blake was born in the Bronx, New York to Jamaican immigrants. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University in Journalism.
Before politics, he worked as a television news producer.
Blake was trained by President Barack Obama and worked in his administration as associate director of Public Engagement and deputy associate director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Prior to those positions, he was deputy director of Operation Vote for Obama’s 2012 campaign and Iowa deputy political director for Obama in 2008.
‘Don’t be on the sideline’
In addition, Blake urged people to not stand by idly while injustice and intolerance is happening.
“We can’t be selective. Don’t be on the sideline while crimes are happening against women, Blacks, Latinos and people of different faiths. Speak out against homophobia, the racist border wall and people with disability who are being mocked,” Blake stressed.
He further stated, “Not standing for the national anthem might not mean that you don’t love this country but you’re just tired of seeing Black and Brown people are being shot and killed by police unjustly.”