There’s a direct path from the Jan. 6, 2021 attacks on Capitol Hill and the White House doubling down on outreach to communities of color. 

On that day, Erica P. Loewe was working for the most senior African American in the House of Representatives, South Carolina Congressman James E. Clyburn, and found herself trapped in his office. After Biden was elected, she went on to become the director of African American media. 

“It is not lost on me, the symbolism in we staffers pushing the table against the door to keep insurrections out, only to turn around and take a position here,” she said. “As a result of that election, I am now in this White House, providing seats at the table every single day.”

She spoke to Epicenter-NYC as she leaves her post to take up a new role as special assistant to the President and chief of staff for the White House Office of Public Engagement. Listen to the podcast conversation here

It’s worth noting that we here at Epicenter have benefitted from Biden’s focus on community media; the administration has regularly offered interviews with cabinet officials and invited staffers from both Epicenter and the larger URL Media network we are a part of to White House briefings. Because Epicenter, at just over three years old, is a relatively new news outlet, I checked with other media outlets on whether this is common. Not at all, they said. Biden has made diverse news outlets and journalists more of a priority. 

Edited excerpts of my conversation with Loewe:

“The president has a yearly State of the Union luncheon. Historically, presidents have not invited Black and brown media and it’s very small. It’s only like 12 reporters; you can only invite so much. I would say probably at least half of the people at that lunch table this year and last year were people of color. The president is very clear that we don’t have to always do what has been done. We need to make sure the community is represented there. There’s still more work to do, there’s no doubt about it. But the access is there.”

“It’s not going to be Community of Color Day. Everything that we talk about, everything we do, has a component where communities of color are prioritized and included. That’s not going to change. That’s happening this year. It happened last year. It’s going to happen next year.”

“One of the very first things the president did and said was, ‘I am making sure that the federal government reflects the diversity of America. If it does not reflect the diversity of America then it encourages a level of groupthink that historically hasn’t always been helpful.’ He has the most diverse cabinet in history. I was a White House intern under the Obama administration, which was incredible. I remember walking around then and walking around now. We have women of color in decision-making positions.”

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S. Mitra Kalita is a veteran journalist, media executive, prolific commentator and author of two books. In 2020 she launched Epicenter-NYC, a newsletter to help New Yorkers get through the pandemic. Mitra...

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