Ahead of Nevada, S.C. primaries, Clinton courts African-American voters in Chicago

Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally in Bronzeville
Hillary Clinton spoke about police relations, gun control, equal pay, minimum wage and minority rights at a rally in Bronzeville (Raquel Zaldivar/MEDILL).

Story by Max Greenwood
Video by Kat Lonsdorf and Raquel Zaldivar

Hillary Clinton worked to solidify her support among black Chicago voters Wednesday at a South Side rally. She spoke alongside the mother of Sandra Bland, whose death in police custody last year added to outrage about police violence in the African-American community.

At the campaign stop in the predominantly African-American Bronzeville neighborhood, Clinton addressed police practices and called for stronger gun laws to reduce violence. She voiced anger about Bland’s death, last July,  in a Texas jail cell.

“We owe it to them to reform police practices, to make sure that no one like Sandra Bland is pulled out of the car for no apparent reason and thrown into a jail where she is found dead,” Clinton said, standing beside Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland’s mother.  “We owe it to the families of young men, like Laquan McDonald, and the other names that we know all too well: Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, so many others.”

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Hillary Clinton addressed a largely African-American audience at a rally in Bronzeville Wednesday. She spoke about police relations, gun control, equal pay, minimum wage and minority rights (Kat Lonsdorf and Raquel Zaldivar/MEDILL).

Clinton called for an end to racial inequality and gun violence, a message Ryan Johnson, 30, who attended the rally,  found particularly poignant. More than 370 people have been shot in Chicago in the first six weeks of 2016.

“She’s talking about gun laws, she’s talking about criminal justice reform and she’s definitely the most experienced candidate out there,” said Johnson. “Hillary is really using the right words to touch African-American voters, like, she understands where we’re coming from.”

Kim Hunt, a community organizer who works mainly on Chicago’s South Side, said she believes Clinton is the candidate most equipped to take on issues such as job creation in African-American communities. She hopes Hillary Clinton would take after the legacy of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

“Bill Clinton really pushed to make progress on a lot of race issues,” said Hunt, 53. “I think Hillary is going to keep that track record going, you know, she has the experience and she’s been fighting for a long time.”

Hillary Clinton addressed a largely African American audience at a rally in Bronzeville Wednesday (Raquel Zaldivar/MEDILL).

The Bronzeville rally is the latest in Clinton’s push to shore up African-American support ahead of Saturday’s Nevada Democratic caucus and the Feb. 27 primary in South Carolina, where minority voters make up a far larger portion of the electorate than in the earlier primary and caucus states, Iowa and New Hampshire.

Earlier this month, she visited Flint, Michigan, a majority black city that faced crisis in recent months after the revelation that its water supply was contaminated with lead. On Tuesday, Clinton met with Rev. Al Sharpton in New York, before holding a rally in Harlem.

But Clinton hasn’t been the only Democratic candidate to try to appeal to minority voters in recent weeks. Last weekend, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders pushed out a video of his 1988 endorsement of Rev. Jesse Jackson for president. And on Sunday, both Clinton and Sanders sat for a sermon at the same historic Baptist church in Las Vegas.

In Nevada, black and Hispanic voters made up 30 percent of the Democratic electorate in 2008. African-American voters in South Carolina are expected to make up at least half of the electorate.

In South Carolina, Clinton held a 34-point lead over Sanders among non-white voters, according to a CNN/ORC poll released on Tuesday, while Sanders had an edge among white voters in the state.

Stumping for Clinton Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis said the former secretary of state and her husband had a long history of standing up for the African-American community.

The Clintons “have had, and she has had, a long association with Black issues, with African-American issues, with poor people’s issues,” Davis told Medill Reports. “No one’s perfect, but Hillary Clinton has closely aligned herself with the issues that are important to black voters, and I think they know where she stands.”

Photo at top: Hillary Clinton spoke about police relations, gun control, equal pay, minimum wage and minority rights at a rally in Bronzeville (Raquel Zaldivar/MEDILL).