April Ryan, is a White House correspondent, is the only female of color covering urban
issues from the White House, and has held her position since the Clinton era. Given her insight into the racial sensitivities, issues and attended political struggles of our nations last presidency, she is very well suited for her position as a kid from Baltimore. She is a mentor of aspiring correspondents and assist with up and coming broadcasters, and she served on the board of the White House Correspondence Association as one of 3 African Americans in its 100 year history.
April Ryan opened her talk with this presidency being an important and historic time in her life. She has been called unpatriotic and racists, but she said, “I’m a reporter and its been a blessing for a kid from Baltimore”. Even though it seems her work just started, she’s been working for the White House for 22 years. She was even told that, when Obama became president, she hated him, because she was asking the questions. Those questions were asked of 4 US presidents but knew what name 3 of them called her, Ryan gave a brief synopsis of her college years at Morgan State. She places moments in time with music during her college years at Morgan State where her mother worked for 42 years till her death. She knew there were problems, but we, as people of color, would make it through.
When she landed in the White House she then knew she had a responsibility. April Ryan talked of her house being a mini caucus and a component system that looked like a coffin. She listened to records of Dr. King’s speeches and babysat herself while her parents worked (That reminded me of my childhood). She really didn’t understand her responsibility as a journalist until getting to the White House, placed in the situation of not knowing who you are until placed in that situation. She spoke of Clinton and his forethought to deal with race, and look where we are today 22 years later. She talked of the newness of the president—Clinton and Bush--and Obama with his beautiful family and 2 dogs. The statement she made about it not being about the idea of me or you, it’s about (we the people who are still forming a more perfect union). Laws on the books were post racial, but Ryan says, “No, we are post Obama” which she included racial markers such as the president who freed the slaves, those who integrated the military and those who grappled with race and giving blacks the right to vote.
Civil rights and voting rights acts on the books still have issues, like being black with the right to vote in southern states of Florida and Georgia. Our rights extended to the brightest of such like Dr. Charles Drew doctor of the blood bank who was placed in the basement of a hospital after being in a car accident because he was not allowed to stay in a hotel. When brought to the hospital he was placed in the basement for black folk until a white doctor knew who he was and brought him upstairs where he died.
She talked about Smart phones being a voice for change because when we march, activism creates change. Her questions were about this community, urban America, black and brown America that has the highest number of negatives in every category, and it’s fact. She has been called a truth teller or a racist bigot who wants the president to go away. In 1619, 400 years ago, the first slaves were brought to this country in Jamestown, Virginia. As she spoke, Ryan had a side table of folks showing their dislike for this president by giggling and make side comments and adlibbing, telling them to “stop it” (and I was one of those). She asked folks if they heard the State of the Union Address and how this was the president, of all people, who turned away (and of course we said in unison, “yeah” and again she said “Stop it” and we laughed).
She commented on Karen Bass of the Congressional Black Caucus who stated, “As he acknowledged certain groups and anniversaries of certain groups, he forgot another anniversary--400 years a significant mark in history”. She didn’t know the gravity of this job until she realized she was there to inform people about what they normally wouldn’t know. She stated, “People without knowledge will perish” and there is an attack to silence the information we need and want. I learned something that I was astounded by, that Jim Crow was named after a black face minstrel program. The only way things change is through “we the people who are still forming a more perfect union react.” We are free in 2017, says Ryan, and she lives without fear, though she has security guards. She is not an activist but I activate by asking the questions and asking questions within questions. Change only comes when we are in the state of dis-ease and we activate, and she activates by sitting in the third row, smack dab in the middle, raising her hand, because the stakes are too high.
April Ryan concluded with “there are not that many people of color in the White House and I will not turn back now”.