Last summer, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., drew attention to discontent with President Obama in the black community when she asked the audience at a Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) town hall in Detroit to "unleash" her and the CBC on Obama.
Waters was trying to appease "a very angry, primarily black audience," CBC executive director Angela Rye explained during a CSPAN interview yesterday. "This was one of the scariest moments of my life," Rye said in an interview indicating -- though she downplayed the fact -- the degree of frustration with President Obama felt by the black community at that time. "I was scared for the members," she said, adding that she considered shutting down the meeting and calling "to have [the CBC members] escorted out by the police."
Rye denied that the audience was angry at Obama, despite the criticism of the president expressed by Waters and the crowd. "They weren't angry about the president, they were angry about the economy and the state of jobs or lack thereof in Detroit. It was scary," she said. "And I think the reason for that was I've never seen people so angry and so hurt and so frustrated and you went into Detroit for that jobs initiative, it was like a ghost town in downtown Detroit."
She explained that Waters "was trying to say, 'this is a conversation that needs to be had. It's a very difficult conversation. And if you all won't attack us because we're trying to speak up for you, that will certainly benefit you.'"
Obama responded by telling the Congressional Black Caucus to "quit complainin'" and "keep the faith" with him.
Waters admonished Obama again after that speech. "We helped him to get energized so he can deal with the concerns of the black community," Waters said. "I think he heard us - some of his words were not, I think, appropriate and surprised me a little bit, I was curious about him, but he certainly heard us."
Rye said that the public discontent in the black community resulted in the White House and the CBC getting on "the same page," as she noted the CBC's successful attempt to influence White House economic policy.
"What we saw immediately after our jobs initiative was a strategy formulated," Rye said yesterday. "In the American Jobs Act, all nine of the proposals that we presented to the White House are included."