“Warren never reached out to us, seems never to have visited a Black church in Cambridge”
On the morning of Super Tuesday, I was done talking with my spouse as to why she should cast her ballot for Senator Elizabeth Warren for President of the United States. However, I knew her hesitation and frustration. Like many Black Cantabrigians, there was no outreach by Warren or her campaign to a community historically identified as loyal voters.
“Warren never reached out to us, seems never to have visited a Black church in Cambridge, never asked for Black support, just took it for granted. All of that would be constructive advice for Elizabeth if she were to consider another presidential run, and for a Senate re-election too,” a Cambridge resident emailed to me wanting to remain anonymous.
Although Warren has resided in Cambridge for more than two decades, many African American residents didn’t know Warren lived in Cambridge until February 2019 when she revved up her campaign. Warren rolled out a detailed campaign. However, when it came to reaching out to Black Cambridge, she was MIA.
Warren traveled across the country, shaking hands with potential voters and making her signature pinky promises with little girls. She proved not only her electability to the American public, but she also disproved the gender nagging query about her likability. Warren received coveted endorsements from several prominent Black activists and politicians because her campaign espoused a diverse and an intersectional justice platform. Black women for, a progressive group of Black trans and cis women, gender non-conforming and non-binary activists, and U.S. House of Representatives Ayanna Pressley of the majority-minority 7th District, which includes part of Cambridge backed Warren. Warren received endorsements from organizations like the Center for Urban and Racial Equity, and Black to the Future Action Fund, and help from big celebrities like John Legend and Janelle Monáe.
Of the presidential hopefuls left to cast a ballot for on Super Tuesday, in my opinion, there was no better candidate than Warren to champion women and LGBTQ issues, income and wealth inequality, gun and criminal justice reform, climate change, and student loan debt. Where many disagreed with Warren’s Medicare for All plan, I had confidence she would either convince the American public over time or change it. After all, Warren had both a plan and a solution for just about everything.
Warren’s disconnect with Black voters, in particular, is not that she came across inauthentically from the heart; but rather that she came across totally inept in how to reach people on the ground. Cambridge, however, could have served as her training ground.
The problems, divisions, and increasing polarization in the country that Warren wanted to address as president reverberate in Cambridge, too. The top three concerns in Cambridge are access to quality public education, racial profiling by police, and affordable housing.
For example, Black students at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, the only public H.S. in Cambridge, for years have asked to reform the school’s curriculum toward a more racially just pedagog and for equal access to A.P. classes. Area 4 (now known as the Port) was once a predominantly Black poor and working-class enclave that’s now gentrified by the biotechnology and pharmaceutical boom. And, while we all know of the 2009 incident with renowned Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates being mistakenly taken as an unknown Black man breaking and entering into someone’s home that happened to be his, profiling persists. Cambridge now has a more diverse police force.
Warren never reached out to Black churches, and I am glad she didn’t. The perception that all white politicians need to do are merely show up the Sunday before election day Tuesday we cast our ballots are not only a hackneyed campaign strategy, but it’s also a clear indication that these politicians have nary a clue, nor a sincere concern for the parishioners they stand before. However, had Warren just popped her head in one of the regular monthly Interfaith Leadership Breakfasts, which brings all faith leaders together throughout the city, she could have mobilized a vast ground movement.
Warren missed opportunities to create a sisterhood with Black women. While affordable housing is a problem in Cambridge, so, too, is homelessness, many of whom are women of color and their families. The YWCA Cambridge houses many of these women. Warren could have used her knowledge derived from these women’s experiences as part of her stump speech as to how a resource-rich city like Cambridge is tackling the problem.
Also, as a voting bloc, Black women know their strength. We take pride in our agency and voting-mobilization strategies that Warren never tapped. Our voting-mobilization strategies in 2017 save the Alabama Senate from Republican candidate Roy Moore, a pedophile and slave apologist.
In trying to reach Black voters during her campaign in Las Vegas, Warren stopped at Ella Em’s Soul Food restaurant in North Las Vegas, but she never stopped by The Coast Cafe in Cambridge, one of the best soul food restaurants in all of New England.
In advocating to get the Black vote out for Joe Biden in the Palmetto State, which he won, Democratic Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina said: “I know Joe, we know Joe, but most importantly Joe knows us.”
We Black Cambridge residents can’t say the same of Liz.
You can reach Rev. Irene Monroe at: @revimonroe