President Barack Obama met on Thursday with African-American leaders from various organizations across the country to discuss growing concerns regarding the nation's economic crisis.
During the gathering which focused on inequalities that at tearing apart black communities, Obama restated his commitment to increasing employment opportunities for those affected strongest by the economic downturn.
Among leaders in attendance were Rev. Al Sharpton; Avis Jones-DeWeever, executive director, National Council of Negro Women; Ben Jealous, president, NAACP; Judith Browne Dianis, co-director, Advancement Project; Melanie Campbell, president, National Coalition of Black Civic Participation; Rev Derrick Harkins, 19th Street Baptist Church; Ralph Everett, president, Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies; Wade Henderson, president, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; and Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, executive director, National Black Justice Coalition.
In a statement, Rev. Sharpton commented on his meeting with the President, saying the group focused on voting rights:
"I and other leaders had a very significant discussion with the President about concerns in the African-American community and the civil rights community in general and most specifically about voting rights.
"Just yesterday the state of Virginia House of Delegates passed strict government photo ID requirements for voting. As states around the country engage in what we feel are voter suppression methods, next week the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about Section 5 of the Voting Rights act."
Alluding to the issues of gun control and unemployment, Sharpton said many black communities go unnoticed but suffer a disproportionate number of casualties from gun violence. "The President engaged us in a spirited conversation and seemed to be listening intently," he said.
Sharpton added that in dealing with unemployment, which disproportionately impacts African-American communities, "we must deal with job creation and job programs."