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Welcome, Mr. President, and thank you

Editor in Chief | , Publisher | , Elinor Tatum | 5/25/2011, 9:23 a.m.

Last week, Barack Obama made his first pilgrimage back to Harlem since he was elected president, a visit that garnered mixed reviews from people of color in New York and beyond. They felt that he came there, not to see and speak to the people, but to use the cachet of Harlem as the historical, cultural and intellectual capital of Black America. They felt he forgot about the people who actually live there.

But that is last week's news.

This week it is different--very different--and this time it appears that the president is coming to New York correctly. This may in some ways make up for what occurred last week.

On Wednesday evening, the Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network enthusiastically welcomed the president who addressed the crowd at the National Action Network's 20th anniversary celebration. This great and still-growing civil rights organization's convention was the president's first official trip since announcing his re-election bid, and his first time in front of NAN since becoming president. He spoke to the people--our people.

While the event was not in Harlem, he was speaking to the people of Harlem, N.Y., and all of the Harlems across the country. He went to NAN to speak to the grassroots activists--those who are on the front lines everyday fighting injustice.

He went to NAN, with an agenda, and definitely a purpose.

While this trip and appearance were no doubt set up months ago, there are those who may feel it is a direct response to the Harlem visit. I assure you it is not. I reiterate: The NAN appearance has been in the works for some time. However, we collectively hope and expect that this appearance will be informed by the reaction of the folks who have offered him his most vociferous support--Black folks.

Our people have stood by him in historic numbers while others have been more wavering in their commitment, so we hope and expect that the president understands that it is in fact our folks, the grassroots, who keep him strong.

We've always heard about how the president started his career as a community organizer, so the fact that he is coming back to his roots to speak to the soldiers of truth and justice is significant. In so doing he is giving them the armor and sustenance they need to go back into the trenches and fight another day.

He is doing the right thing.

And he is sending a message of inclusion and hope. In speaking to the men and women who are part of NAN, he is reaching out to those who are in the fight against police brutality, gun violence and educational and environmental injustice.

Many of these civil rights soldiers have been personally touched by tragedy and pain, which became part of their call to action. He speaks to them directly. He speaks to my generation and the next generation of civil rights activists--he speaks to the people tonight, and for this we applaud him.

While we may not agree with the president on every action he takes, and are quite willing to call him out when we believe he or his administration is taking the wrong action, we applaud him when he does the right thing. His visit today (Wednesday) is the right thing.

God bless you, Mr. President, and may you stay strong and focused. Your country needs you, and your community needs you as well.