[INTERVIEW] Meet Kevin Lewis,<br />
Director of African American Media for the White House

Kevin Lewis

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really grow that relationship and to let people know that we’re in this together. The president is very concerned about the African American community and is in touch and is working towards solutions to the very real problems so many are facing; and we’re making real progress.

EBONY: And how do you – and the president – deal with criticism that there is not enough being done specifically for the African American community who has been hit hardest by the decline in the economy?

KL:  African Americans have historically been disproportionately impacted by the economy.  But from health care reform to education reform to even job creation, African Americans are benefiting from his economic policies. As result of the Affordable Care Act, Over 7 million African Americans will have health care coverage.  Over 400,000 young African Americans under the age of 26 are already covered under their parents plan. The American Jobs Act has incentives for employers to hire veterans and to provide training for young people who need jobs, which has worked very well in places like Georgia. The president has also made a huge push to get Congress to stop student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1.  One and a half million African Americans will benefit from this. These policies are working and they’re helping African Americans.

But when you’re the president, you have to be prepared for criticism. Everyone’s not going to agree with everything the president does. But they should know, and he’s proven that he's open to listening to ideas on either side of the aisle. Right now, the president is just really focused on improving the economy and developing the best policies for the country, including those who have been hit the hardest.

EBONY: What do you hope your impact will be on the African American community?

KS: I want to be sure I'm also bringing a lot more folks with me. As the liaison between the African American media and the White House, I would hope that more folks feel they have an ally in the White House.

Also, I’m really disturbed that there are less and less people applying for journalism programs and even less African Americans actually in journalism, but when you’re working from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., sometimes, it’s hard to get out and work with students and steer them towards this career.  But what I can do and really like doing is bringing journalism students from [Historically Black Colleges and Universities] to the White House press room.  It gives them a new perspective to know that someone with my background who had no thoughts that it was even possible to work in the White House is here.  Ten to 15 students have come from Howard University and Fayettville State University and they sit in on a press conference and they get to speak to our communications director and the press secretary, Jay Carney, and they speak to a White House correspondent and get to see what it's like to be on the other side as well. One group even got to cover the president at a briefing in the Rose Garden, which they absolutely loved. So, those are the kinds of things I want to keep on doing and keep on opening doors and opportunities for this next generation of Black journalists.

And we just want to continue making sure the president’s message gets to the African American community in every way possible, beyond word of mouth, including working with as many national organizations as we can and media outlets and working on the ground. And I’d also like to see a lot more African American outlets covering this White House. There are not enough present in the press briefings and they are a necessary presence. The community needs these journalists in here. Press briefings are open to the public, and I hope we have more African American journalists who can take advantage of that.
 

To keep up with what President Obama is doing in the African American community, visit WhiteHouse.gov/AfricanAmericans.

Brooke Obie writes the award-winning blog, DistrictDiva.com. Follow her on Twitter @DCDistrictDiva.