Some tea party opponents contend that the grass-roots conservative movement is racist, but one activist is taking to the road to tell his fellow blacks that such allegations are wrong.
Tea Party Express member William Owens Jr. is modeling his bus tour of the eastern United States starting this month on the original nationwide Tea Party Express last year. Owens’ expedition from Buffalo, N.Y., to Atlanta, Ga., aims to show black Americans their common ground with conservatives.
“People need to know the issues,” Owens says in a video on his Community Faith and Policy website
. “People know their principles, but they don’t know what the issues are. The tea party is great. It’s done an awesome job, and I champion the tea party . . . but a lot of people aren’t coming to the tea parties.
“A lot of them are in inner-city America,” says Owens, who notes that communication with such audiences requires a certain approach.
Black Americans need to be engaged in a manner sensitive to their way of doing things, in venues such as barber shops, churches, and restaurants where they gather to communicate, Owens tells Newsmax.
“We go inside these places sometimes unannounced, and we start talking,” he says. “We are going to be streaming a lot of these events live online, so that we can connect communities to communities, and then it’s not just an isolated event.
“There really needs to be some healing in both communities, and the only way it’s going to happen is if we communicate.”
Online viewers will be able to share their feelings as events unfold, says Owens, whose trek will include stops in Washington; Richmond, Va.; and Durham, N.C.
“One of the sad things we have to admit here is there is a breakdown in communications between the white community and the black community,” he says. “We aren’t talking, we aren’t communicating.
“We want everyday people to communicate, to ask questions, and realize that we both celebrate those same ideas.”
Owens aims to educate people about hot-button issues.
“We then attach that policy to a candidate, whether they are Republican or Democrat,” Owens says. “Then we show how their voting is directly affecting their community economically and socially.”
The education helps people get past partisan habits such as voting straight Democratic because it forces them to weigh a candidate’s stances against their own principles, Owens says.
“It’s a fiery conversation at times,” Owens says. “It’s fun at times, but sometimes it’s not. We are finding people saying, ‘I didn’t know this was happening; you mean I voted for this,’ and so it is the same thing that’s happening in the tea parties.”
Many discussions address economic concerns, especially the jobs that President Obama said he planned to create, which have not materialized in urban areas, Owens says.
“What’s going on with all of these bailouts, billions of dollars?” Owens says. “They see all of the banks being bailed out, but not a lot has been going on with economic empowerment in these communities.
“What’s going on with the loans to the small minority businesses? They don’t see any of that.”
Owens also plans to use cell phone applications so people can contact their legislators about their stances on the issues. He also plans to have them sign a pledge to get facts on issues before voting.
Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist says Owens has established a model for conservatives to follow. Owens has spoken several times at meetings that Norquist convenes on Wednesdays, drawing as many as 200 conservative activists from around the nation.
Conservatives do not do enough between elections to appeal to blacks and make their presences known in the black community, Norquist says.
“It is very important that the Republican Party and the conservative movement speak to all people,” Norquist says. “I think it is especially important that we make the case that free markets and limited-government principles are best for all people at all times and to rebut the effort by the left to say big government has been good for African-Americans. And it clearly has not been.
“Woody Allen put it best when he said, ‘Eighty percent of life is showing up.’”
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