District 87 State Rep. Karen Camper said her recent visit to the White House was certainly a thrill, but it’s the work that is to be done following her trip that has her “really excited.”
Vice Chair of the National Caucus of Black Legislators, Region 4, Camper was included in the African-American Policy in Action Leadership Conference held at the White House earlier this month. Clutching a White House embossed legal pad portfolio, she said, “I couldn’t leave without visiting the gift shop and getting something.”
A self-described workaholic, Camper was impressed by the depth of the organization in place and the apparent sincerity of the department heads that engaged conference participants.
“After the general overview of the report, we broke down into sections with each member choosing where they felt their best expertise, interest and experience fit and we got right down to work,” she said.
Each attendee was instructed to choose two work areas. Camper chose economic training and offenders re-entry.
“They go hand in hand,” she said. “Without small businesses, the black community suffers economically, job-wise and in the long-term effects of continuing behavioral cycles that leads to systemic poverty. A small job leads to a long-term plan. And if we do not get more black businesses open, we are not going to address the problems people face here. You got to eat, and small business is where the grocery lines really form.”
Camper, along with City Councilwoman Wanda Halbert, created a two-part Removing Obstacles to Employment in September and a Felony Re-Entry Jobs Fair in October that drew 3,200 participants.
The invitation to the White House conference was confidential.
“When I received mine I actually thought it was a general call, but found out it was sent for me and my colleagues specifically. A couple of days later a second email came instructing us to put together a list of people to contact to include on the conference calls. They are really serious about the president’s program with us, and we need to energize as much cooperation and ideas as we can. We should not let this opportunity pass by. People should download the report, read it and make sure everyone in their personal network gets a copy.”
Sounds good, but will people respond?
“I understand we have to fight hard against apathy,” Camper said. “It’s because black America has invested so much and proven without question that democracy can work, but every time we fight and make a breakthrough, and we have to fight tooth and nail and make every sacrifice, new barriers are put before us, laws are changed overnight and the rules keep getting moved.
“That’s why you have such anger in the ghettoes, they see the truth,” she said. “But I feel this is a sincere process and I am doing everything I can to assist in the president’s process. He needs our support if we are to gain anything for ourselves.”