WASHINGTON — Will Barack Obama get his swag back?
The president used his State of the Union address Tuesday to showcase his policies, but icons from the hip hop community tried to answer the swag question.
At “#BarackTalk,” titled after a Twitter hashtag about the event, a panel of speakers had mixed opinions of Obama’s first three years as president and weighed the prospects of his re-election in room packed with about 60 people at Busboys and Poets on 5th Street and K Street. The event was broadcast live over the Internet; organizers said the livestream reached 17,000 viewers.
Some panelists said they were confident that Obama could regain the energy of his 2008 campaign.
“He’s got the gray showing,” said Janee Bolden, managing editor of bossip.com, an online black culture magazine. “It’s definitely been a tough term, but at the same time I think he did something that the Bushes couldn’t do, which is put Osama Bin Laden on a platter.”
But Jamira Burley, an anti-violence activist from Philadelphia, however, accused Obama of neglecting the young voters who helped get him elected when he took office.
“He dropped the ball when he got elected,” Burley said, adding that young people have some of the highest rates of unemployment and are being disenfranchised by “voter suppression laws.”
Rob Biko, executive director of the League of Young Voters, criticized the laws, which require people to produce extra identification before registering to vote. He said the laws make it harder for minorities and young people to vote and urged the audience to fight against them.
“We’ve had our votes stolen from us before,” Biko said. “We’re not going to have it again.”
The event was organized by the League of Young Voters, a nonpartisan organization that aims to motivate young people to become politically active, especially voters who are not attending or did not attend college. Throughout the talk, the panelists encouraged viewers to vote.
Michael Skolnik, president of GlobalGrind.com, an online culture magazine, encouraged young people to vote, citing the influence they had in Obama’s 2008 campaign. “Regardless of whom you vote for, regardless of what lever you pull, recognize that as young people we can put some people into office,” Skolnik said. “We put Barack Hussein Obama into office, and we can take him out.”
After Obama delivered the State of the Union address, attendees of the #BarackTalk had more to say.
“Some of what this president said sounded like candidate Obama, so that gave me some hope,” said William Syms, a 27-year-old worker from Amnesty International.
Victor Sanchez from the United States Students Association praised the president for advocating for improvements to student loans and reductions in college tuition, but said he was disappointed that Obama did not talk about voter suppression. “I think that’s a big thing we need to talk about,” Sanchez said.