President Biden and VP Harris reach out to Black voters in Philly

Biden and Harris were joined by Black elected leaders, including Mayor Cherelle Parker, Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta and Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, as they made their case to voters.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

President Joe Biden hugs Vice President Kamala Harris during a campaign event at Girard College, Wednesday, May 29, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

What questions do you have about the 2024 elections? What major issues do you want candidates to address? Let us know.

Pennsylvania has become a regular stomping ground for President Joe Biden, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

But the nation’s two top leaders appeared in a rare joint campaign visit to Philadelphia to shore up the Black vote.

From education to infrastructure and economics, the duo made their rounds to convince the American people that they were the right candidates for the job. And they are taking their message directly to Black voters.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The President and Vice President, joined by members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), gathered to officially launch their new initiative, ‘Black Voters for Biden-Harris,’ at a rally at Girard College in Philly.

The crowd at the rally
A ‘Black Voters for Biden-Harris’ campaign event at Girard College in Philadelphia, May 29, 2024. (Courtesy of Norman De Shong)

The re-election effort’s push to get the Black vote is part of a national organizing plan to increase outreach to Black voters, which they say “are the backbone” of their campaign and were instrumental in their 2020 win.

Biden referred to his opponent, former President Trump, as unhinged and a loser at one point in his speech.

“Because Black Americans voted in 2020, Kamala and I are President of the United States, and with your vote in 2024, we are going to make Donald Trump a loser again,” said Biden as the crowd applauded and chanted, “four more years.”

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden at Girard College in Philadelphia on May 29, 2024. (Courtesy of Norman De Shong)

Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta was among those in attendance, which included Maryland’s first Black governor, Wes Moore, Philadelphia’s first Black female Mayor, Cherelle Parker, and other prominent Black figures who came to support Biden and Harris.

Key administration initiatives they say helped Black people include expanding the Affordable Care Act, which saved millions of Americans an additional $800 a year in premiums. Biden touts investing $16 billion in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and keeping his promise that no one should be in jail for using or possessing marijuana. “I pardoned thousands of people incarcerated for the mere possession of marijuana,” Biden said.

Biden also doubled down on his fight to provide student loan forgiveness and said it will benefit Black borrowers the most, “So far, I’ve relieved student debt for nearly 5 million Americans — a significant number are Black borrowers so you can chase your dreams, start a family, buy a first home, start a business, and so much more.”

Kamala Harris speaking at a podium
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at Girard College in Philadelphia on May 29, 2024. (Courtesy of Norman De Shong)

Biden and Harris both acknowledged that the gun violence epidemic seen across the country is one of the nation’s biggest challenges. “Knowing that today in America gun violence is the number one cause of the death of the children of America, not car accidents, not cancer, (but) gun violence,” said Harris, who also said, “Black Americans are ten times as likely to be the victim of gun homicide.”

Girard College is a boarding school for students in 1st through 12th grade.

16-year-old student Jasmin Clark knows the challenges she and her classmates face each day.

Clark worries that enough is not being done to help students like her. “As soon as we go to Girard, we encounter real-world experiences as Black people and as Black kids that go to a predominately black school,” said Clark.

Jasmin Clark
16-year-old Jasmin Clark attends a Biden-Harris campaign rally at her school on May 29, 2024. (Amanda Fitzpatrick/WHYY)

She further explained that in order for Democrats to get her vote when she’s 18, the administration will need to level the playing field for students like her.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

”I feel like as Black kids and Black people, we have to work twice as hard than the average white person. We should go into our future looking in a bright way, not ‘I have to work twice as hard to be on the same level,’” said Clark.

Harris said the administration passed the first major gun safety law in nearly thirty years to strengthen background checks and established the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, where they invested $1 billion to hire mental health counselors in public schools to help heal the trauma of gun violence.

Despite the achievements, for some, the message aimed at Black voters isn’t enough to secure the vote. “I came here today because I feel like we get the news in snippets I wanted to hear from the horse’s mouth. If Biden is going to win my vote, I want to hear what he actually has to say, ” said Southwest Philly resident Winston Cameron.

Cameron, a Black immigrant, said immigration is a key issue for him and wanted to make sure the campaign wasn’t trying to pander for the Black vote.

Winston Cameron
Undecided voter Winston Cameron attends Biden-Harris rally at Girard College May 29,2024. (Amanda Fitzpatrick/WHYY)

“He’s doing what good campaigns do, make a case and talk about the record that he’s had and lay out a future,” said Rep. Kenyatta.

“I think if people are being honest with themselves, there isn’t anyone listening to this right now who thinks that Donald Trump gives a damn about what’s happening to working-class people anywhere, especially working-class Black folks in Philadelphia,” said Rep. Kenyatta.

Philadelphia pastor and community leader Donald Moore attended the rally and said many young people have checked out of the political process.

“When I hear people say they are not doing enough for us, I have to push back. We can’t expect people to do more for us than we do or ourselves,” said Moore.

“There are some elected officials even in the Commonwealth that stated they no longer need to go after the Black vote, so the fact Biden and Harris recognize the fact that the Black vote matters, the Black vote has power and influence speaks to their level of influence and understanding so yes they are here to get our vote because our vote matters,” Moore said.

Donald D. Moore
Donald D. Moore, Pastor Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Philadelphia attends Biden-Harris rally for Black voters event May 29, 2024 at Girard College. (Amanda Fitzpatrick/WHYY)

The campaign hopes to keep the momentum going. Following today’s rally, Black leaders across the country will host events in the key battleground states to kick off a weekend of action, including Black church engagement in Arizona, new office openings throughout Georgia, a community-led block party-style celebration in Nevada, community hub events across barber shops and hair salons in Michigan, and more.

On Thursday, Black Voters for Biden-Harris will host a nationwide call with thousands of supporters with remarks from several national leaders.

Rep. Kenyatta said the administration’s joint visit shows our state has a strong role to play in the upcoming election.

“Pennsylvania is the center of the political universe. You don’t become President or Vice President without Pennsylvania,” said Rep. Kenyatta.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal