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Black leaders organizing summit to motivate Philly’s largest voting bloc

 Bilal Qayyum, center, stands with organizers of the Philadelphia Black Political Summit at a press conference at the African American Museum in Philadelphia (Katie Colaneri/WHYY)

Bilal Qayyum, center, stands with organizers of the Philadelphia Black Political Summit at a press conference at the African American Museum in Philadelphia (Katie Colaneri/WHYY)

With just two months left before the May 19 primary election, leaders of Philadelphia’s black community are working to motivate members of the city’s largest voting bloc.

Next month, the Philadelphia Black Political Coalition will host a two-day summit with the goal of creating an agenda of tasks addressing specific concerns from housing and economic development to education and infrastructure.

Bilal Qayyum, one of the summit’s organizers, said issues such as poverty and a struggling school system disproportionately affect the city’s residents of color, who make up 44 percent of the population.

“Better schools in the city of Philadelphia … benefit everybody,” Qayyum said. “More black folks working in the city of Philadelphia is going to create more income in the communities, eliminate the number of people living in poverty.”

It will be the coalition’s first summit in 17 years.

At a news conference announcing the event at the African American Museum in Philadelphia Wednesday morning, leaders made clear a lot is at stake in this election year for a city that is simultaneously poised for growth and struggling with change.

“You can’t just simply [assume] because it’s a black movement, so to speak, and you have black politicians, that they all share our thoughts,” said Bill Miller IV, an elder with the Philadelphia Council of Leaders. “It’s up to us to organize our community and make ourselves the viable voting bloc that we are.”

The key, organizers said, will be to hold accountable the winners of November’s general election. Following the summit on April 11 and 12, the coalition will ask candidates for mayor and City Council to sign their agenda and will follow up with a report card one year later.

While the coalition will not make any endorsements, organizers said whether candidates sign the agenda or not will speak volumes.

For more information about the Philadelphia Black Political Summit, visit blackpoliticalsummit.com.

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