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Black America in the Era of Trump

On a beautiful summer's evening in downtown DC, over sixty HKS alums descended on the Public Contracting Institute to listen to a panel on 'Black America in the Era of Donald Trump', moderated by HKS professor Leah Wright Rigueur, with panelists Heather Foster, Ashley Bell and Darren Sands. The event was the latest installment of Harvard Kennedy School's Race and American Politics Series, running since Fall 2015 - but brought to the nation's capital by the HKS DC Alumni Council and the team at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.


Ashley Bell was elected a Democrat County Commissioner in Georgia and President of the College Democrats of America before switching to the Republican Party. Following his role as National Director of African American Engagement for the RNC during the Presidential election, Ashley is now a Special Assistant at the U.S Department of State. He is founder of 20/20 Leaders of America, a national black and bi-partisan coalition of elected officials, and was also a 21st Century Leadership Fellow at HKS.

Heather Foster is a Vice President on the PreK-12 Education team at Widmeyer Communications. Over the course of her career, Foster has developed an expertise communicating public policy to civic, nonprofit, business and community leaders. Notably, Heather was a founding partner and director of strategic partnerships of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, the nonprofit inspired by President Obama’s Taskforce for Boys and Young Men of Color. She was an advisor to President Obama in the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Darren Sands is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News, based in New York. Darren has written for Black Enterprise, The Village Voice, Newsday, and The Boston Globe.

Professor Leah Wright Rigueur joined HKS as an Assistant Professor of Public Policy in 2015. As a dynamic, exciting addition to the faculty, Leah's research interests include 20th Century United States political and social history and modern African American history, with a focus on race, civil rights, political ideology, the American two-party system and the presidency.

The audience did not break their concentration throughout the 100 minute session, glued to the animated, nuanced and fascinating responses to issues including the 2016 Presidential Election, African American leadership in politics, as well as education, history, activism and campaigning.

Council President Jayme Johnson opened the event. George Arterberry - Executive Education alum and creator of the event's concept - closed and thanked the panelists, members and friends of the Council, and Ash Center co-collaborators, Melissa D'Anello and Dan Harsha. The Council is hugely grateful to the Ash Center for the partnership, and look forward to future collaborations in DC to benefit the HKS alumni community. A special thank you to generosity of hosts, the Public Contracting Institute, and to Lourdes Tinajero for her unwavering commitment to the Council.

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