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Why the heck are you going to the Republican Convention?

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From the moment, I began floating the idea that I would attend the Republican National Convention (RNC), progressive, mostly African-American supporters of the Winston-Salem Urban League began doubting my mental abilities. The retorts were swift, stern and sometimes funny.

You know they hate us right?

Hope you come out alive!

You aren’t one of them are you?

Have you been drinking?

Inevitably, I had to explain my reasoning. So I think it wise in my first blog about my trip to the RNC to do the same.

A political mentor of mine told me three things long ago that stuck with me. First, politics is the business of relationships, so forge as many as you can. Second, politics is about creating more friends than enemies. And third, in politics, war is always temporary, today’s enemy, is tomorrow’s friend.

She proffered this tutorial as I nearly refused to meet with a Republican official with whom I vehemently disagreed. I saw no point in meeting with him because he had repeatedly and publicly stated he was against the position I was there to advocate. His mind was made up. But to appease my mentor, I put on my best Cracker Jack smile, marched into his office and made my case. He seemed unswayed. He cordially thanked us and showed us the way out.

Futile.

Or so I thought.  A few months later, our legislation passed. When we checked the vote register, he had voted for our legislation.

I don’t know if it was my meeting or the meetings, phone calls and emails from other advocates that changed this Republican’s position, but I like to think that my advocacy played a role.

It is standard operating procedure for, for-profit companies to hire lobbyists to represent their interests to. When they do so, they lobby on both sides of the aisle because they know they need Republican and Democratic votes to win. The constituency that the Winston-Salem Urban League represents cannot afford powerful lobbyists.  So it is my job to make sure that their voices are heard.

The Urban League can educate elected officials on the needs of the voiceless in Winston-Salem.

If there are not enough middle income jobs, then both Republicans and Democrats should do something about it. If there is not enough safe decent affordable housing, then both Republicans and Democrats should do something be held accountable. If the criminal justice system unfairly targets or affects low-income African-American and Latino neighborhoods, then Republicans and Democrats should be concerned. If you are denied the right to vote, then every elected official should take interest.

As CEO of the Winston-Salem Urban League, a non-partisan organization, I have a unique opportunity and obligation to take these messages to highest ranking officials in each party. So that’s what I intend to do!

– James Perry

James Perry, CEO of the Winton-Salem Urban League is attending the 2016 Republican and Democratic Conventions and blogging about his experiences. Check back at http://wsurban.org/ceos-blog/ for more of his experiences.

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