By AAMER MADHANI and COLLEEN LONG
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden welcomed Black leaders to the White House Monday for a jovial Black History Month celebration, where he called on Congress to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, and pass voting rights bills.
“I know progress can be slow and frustrating,” Biden said. “But I also know what’s possible if we work together, if we keep the faith, if we remember – changes and charges that are passed down to us.”
About 150 people including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, state and local elected officials, the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and other community leaders, were gathered in the East Room. Members of Biden’s Cabinet who are Black and other administration officials stood on stage as Biden called on them by name to express his gratitude.
Biden said he was happy to have the event in-person; the coronavirus prevented the event last year. He was joined by first lady Jill Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris, who said that the group was gathered at at a time when America’s democratic principles have come under threat as Ukraine is attacked by Russia.
“Black History Month was established to teach the history that too often has not been taught – the history of black excellence and leadership in America,” Harris said.
“And we are clear,” she said. “Black history is American history. It is living, breathing history.”
Biden was introduced by a high schooler named Cateo Hilton, who mentors younger students in Washington and will attend Delaware State University – news that prompted a standing ovation from the president, who grew up in Delaware.
In his remarks, the president called on Congress to confirm Jackson, who would be the first Black woman on the U.S. Supreme Court.
“She is an incredible woman,” he said. “She has done so many things.”
And he also asked for the passage of voting rights bills, an effort he pushed for but one that has so far failed in Congress.