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Young, Black, and Done With Biden: The Issues That Could Decide the Election

Taking a ride through Detroit with the young Black Democratic voters who helped get Biden into office in 2020 — and aren’t so sure about doing it again

T roy, Michigan, is quintessential suburbia: strip malls, banks with drive-thrus, and jewelry stores. Though just 30 minutes outside of Detroit, Troy feels a world away from the Motor City, with its blocks of boarded-up houses and abandoned stores. The disparate environments speak to the systemic inequality that brought me here to talk politics and the bind that Joe Biden has gotten himself into. 

Inside Fresh & Pressed Juice, a brightly lit juice bar and cafe with a vibrant green ceiling, I talk with the impeccably dressed shop owner Kiara Smith and her husband, rapper Icewear Vezzo, who has braved the snow in a designer wool jacket. Over smoothies, Vezzo takes off like a rocket when I ask what issues he’d like to see presidential candidates address in the lead-up to November. 

Vezzo says that over the past several years he’s been paying attention to electoral politics more than ever. He thinks Biden’s deceitful and that likely Republican candidate Donald Trump is a blabbermouth; independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy is his preference over both men. He takes some local pride in Michigan being a battleground state because he says voters are “actually paying attention.”

“It’s not about a party. It’s about good, bad, right, wrong, period,” he says, diamonds dancing in his gleaming Cuban chain as he leans forward for emphasis. “We got good people in Michigan, no matter what political party they follow. There’s good and bad people everywhere.” Smith, sitting next to him in between managing her shop, says she agrees. 

The 34-year-old indie rapper grew up on the east side of Detroit in a house with three bedrooms and 10 people. In 2017, he was convicted on a gun charge and served 20 months. He’s been directly impacted by the systems that sustain inequality, which is why he’s so politically engaged, putting on holiday giveaways and food drives, as well as participating in community events with Detroit Councilwoman Mary Sheffield. I’d been told by his publicist about other noble deeds he didn’t reveal when I asked about his community work, a sign of genuine humility. 

As a prominent recording artist who also has an ear to the streets, he finds himself all over the city. He tells me about a recent discussion he had with college students and “some street guys.”

“You want to know what the conversation was about?” he asks. “The 1994 Crime Bill. You know who drafted that?” 

“Biden,” I answer.  

“Exactly. We pay attention to that. There was a mass incarceration of Black Americans. We see things like that and [our dissatisfaction with Biden] is not about ‘We got money [from Trump].’ A lot of people think we completely support Donald Trump,” he says. “We just believe in holding everybody accountable. It’s not fair to us to be told to believe that only one guy’s making mistakes, [and] only one guy is [making] smart decisions. They both got flaws.”

Biden is nursing a roughly 40 percent approval rating, second worst only to Jimmy Carter among first-term candidates in their third year of office. On Feb. 3, Biden won the South Carolina primary by a commanding 96 percent. About half of Democratic voters in the state are Black — though only four percent of registered voters turned out, the results are a much-needed positive sign for the president.

Such highlights have been few and far between for Biden of late. Many within his constituency feel he’s not up for the job again, especially young Black voters who believe the Democratic Party takes them for granted. In 2020, after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, millions of Americans demonstrated in the streets and demanded radical change, including defunding the police. But Biden has said that “the answer is not to defund,” and has budgeted more than $30 billion for his Safer America Plan, which includes initiatives to add 100,000 additional police officers nationwide. Though many are wary of a second Trump administration, Biden’s penchant for maintaining the status quo has left many young Black voters disillusioned with the prospect of voting for him. In the past few months, that dynamic has only intensified, with the sentiment that the blood of more than 26,000 dead Palestinian civilians is on Biden’s hands via his support of Israel’s military operations in Gaza. 

In 2016, Trump won Michigan by nearly 11,000 votes over Hillary Clinton. In 2020, Biden won Michigan 50.6 percent to 47.8 percent — though, in Detroit, he received fewer individual votes than Clinton four years prior. While 2020 exit polls tabulated that 92 percent of Black people in Michigan had voted for Biden, his current approval number with Black people is at just 62 percent, according to a January EPIC-MRA poll. A lot can happen by Election Day, but early national polls favor Trump. A Glengariff Group poll during the same month showed Trump is leading Biden 47 percent to 39 percent in Michigan (the first time Trump has led in Michigan in one of its preelection polls), and a Bloomberg poll postulated that Trump is poised to receive more Black votes than any Republican candidate ever: 14 to 30 percent, as opposed to eight percent in 2020.

The problem has not gone unnoticed in the White House. In a statement, Quentin Fulks, Biden’s principal deputy campaign manager, tells Rolling Stone: “Young Black voters are key to our reelection, which is why we’re investing earlier than ever to mobilize them around an agenda that is fighting for their future. We are laying strong foundations in place to energize and activate young Black voters around the issues they care most about, while highlighting the real threat Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans pose to their freedoms, our democracy, and their economic well-being.”

The coming months will show whether or not that’s mere lip service. According to the Detroiters I spoke to, the party’s political future depends on making young Black voters feel heard. Along with Vezzo, several Detroit-area organizers and politicians tell me the Biden-Harris ticket needs to strengthen its presence within the city and address housing and food insecurity, unemployment, and overall poverty — last April, the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn area recorded the second-highest inflation rate in the nation, at seven percent more than the prior year. Biden needs Michigan’s 15 electoral votes to win the election, and the people I spoke with say he needs to act like it.

“I’m here needing the Democratic Party,” says 24-year-old Detroit Action organizer David Parnell. “I need them and they need me for us both to live. The other side clearly doesn’t need me, to take my rights away from me.”

IN NORTHWEST DETROIT’S Old Redford neighborhood, I meet 269th District delegate Harrison Shelby at Motor City Java House. It looks like a cozy space — but then Shelby and John George, husband of shop owner Alicia, escort me to the back. Several rooms later, I realize I’m walking through a sprawling multipurpose complex.

George is the founder of Detroit Blight Busters, a nonprofit that aims to improve local neighborhoods. An upbeat man rocking a Tigers cap, he tells me his mission started in 1988, when he and some neighbors boarded up an abandoned house that had turned into a spot for people to do drugs. The foundation then bought more neglected properties, turning them into community space and low-cost living. The walls of the complex are covered by colorful art by painter Charles “Chazz” Miller and the students he teaches. It’s encouraging to see Detroiters renovating their communities, but it shouldn’t all be on them; local and federal governments need to provide more aid.

Eventually, Shelby and I have a seat in Artist Village Detroit, a space typically used for live-music and poetry events. Today, it’s quiet, and Shelby has enough pull to access the Village for our talk. 

Shelby is known around here as “Mr. Community” for his organizing endeavors, including his work with the nonprofit Detroit Action. As a delegate, he’s a liaison between elected officials and people in his community. Shelby says Biden is struggling with young Black voters because of a sense that the Democratic Party doesn’t address their concerns. “A lot of people are disconnected overall from government and voting,” he says. “I understand the disconnect. I think young people are more critical of the issues that are impacting them now, and they’re tired of ‘politicians’ only coming around when it’s election time. Oftentimes, we’re used as a pawn in this fight. Black women have saved party politics time and time again. And then we’re often left on the short end of the stick when it’s things that we care about.”

Shelby is right: Black women have been the Democratic Party’s most loyal supporters. They were considered the key to 2018’s “blue wave,” which resulted in more than 20 Black women being voted into Congress for the first time in history. In 2008 and 2012, 96 percent of Black women voted for Barack Obama, 94 percent of Black women voted for Clinton in 2016, and 93 percent voted for Biden in the 2020 election. In Georgia, where voter suppression may have kept gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams out of office in 2018, Black women spurred voting drives and voting-rights education. Georgia registered 800,000 new voters from 2018 to 2020, which helped propel Biden’s narrow 12,000-vote victory in the state.

“I did not vote for Trump. The only thing that I could appreciate was the stimulus checks that were given during the pandemic,” says Wayne State University student Ayanna Adams. David Rodriguez Munoz/USA TODAY

Ayanna Adams is a 29-year-old student at Detroit’s Wayne State University, where she’s the community outreach and engagement coordinator with the school’s Black Student Union as well as its Detroit Action liaison. She also serves in the Air Force. She laments that those around her gauge candidates on a superficial level: “I know a lot of younger people who are like, ‘I see a female running, I’m going to just vote for anyone female,’ or, ‘I’ll vote for anyone Black.’ Not knowing what their political stance is.”

That dynamic could play into Trump’s favor, and there have been rumors about him looking for a Black running mate. Trump’s actions have been seen as attempts to appeal to Black male voters in 2020, usually with ploys such as meeting Black celebrities like Kanye West and the late Jim Brown, and pardoning rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black. 

In a December 2020 op-ed, organizer Branden Snyder wrote that “while the Democrats have largely ignored Black men, Trump invested in these voters, at least superficially.” Snyder is the executive director of Detroit Action, a nonprofit that reached more than 200,000 working-class Black and brown Detroit-area residents and got 20,000 to complete a “Pledge to Vote” card in 2020. 

Parnell, Shelby, and Adams collectively agree that among Detroit’s biggest issues are housing and food insecurity, a school-to-prison pipeline, a 5.8 percent unemployment rate, and a $388.8 million Detroit Police Department budget. And they all feel Biden hasn’t done enough to address these issues.  

The city declared bankruptcy in 2013 after the auto industry hit an all-time low. The roots of poverty first appeared during Detroit’s economic peak in the 1960s, when the influx of people moving there for auto-factory jobs spurred landlords to raise the rent on Black residents, driving many into poverty. Housing fell into disrepair. Once the auto industry was decentralized and plants moved out, thousands lost their jobs throughout the Sixties and Seventies. Today, the city reels from the consequences of poverty with housing and employment shortages as well as violence. Though the city’s 252 murder rate last year was the lowest it’s been since 1966, the Motor City has a long way to go. 

In 2022, Michigan once again became a “triple blue” state when Democrats won the state House and Senate, joining Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. But the results of the Democratic majority have been mixed. Both Vezzo and Adams say they haven’t seen new policies reflected in their communities. “I [saw] a change in downtown Detroit as far as the way it looks,” Vezzo says. “I think my community is talked about but not thought about.”

But that’s not to say there have been no changes for marginalized groups. Shelby and Parnell extolled the protection of reproductive rights. Parnell is also overjoyed by Whitmer signing protections for the LGBTQ community, including an anti-discrimination law. “I probably cried that day I read that I couldn’t lose my job here because I’m trans,” Parnell says.

Parnell says they worry about the “fascism” that would arise from a Trump reelection. “There are people who think him being in the office would be funny, but that passiveness scares me,” they say. I’m kneeling back in a comfy office chair, but Parnell sits up while conveying how serious the stakes are. “We’re in a dangerous landscape when it comes to [Trump] having more power, on top of a rise in neo-Nazis, and white nationalism, both of which see him as the leader.” Parnell rues that “all branches of government” are plagued by people espousing “white Christian moral nationalism” who threaten abortion and LGBTQ rights. 

For now, Michigan’s “blue wall” protects those rights — but how long it will hold is anyone’s guess.

AFTER SPEAKING WITH SHELBY, I stand outside with him in Old Redford waiting for my Uber in the snow. He points out more “Chazz” Miller art on the side of one spot, and tells me about Sweet Potato Sensations, a Black-owned bakery that infuses sweet potatoes into every dish. Around the corner is the Obama Building: Built as a bank in 1917, it became a department store, then a vacant eyesore, until 2020, when a $3.6 million renovation turned it into a retail space with four affordable residential units. The building is owned by the Peter and Julie Fisher Cummings Foundation, which allowed a neighborhood advisory council to decide the name. 

Every president finds their name on schools and libraries, but it speaks to Obama’s stature in the Black community that he’s being honored at a retail-residential property. An audit of Obama’s legacy reveals a record on immigration and drone attacks that repels leftists, as does his decrying the term “defund the police.” Still, his eight years made Black voters feel more seen than ever by the establishment. Obama admitted Trayvon Martin could’ve been his son. Michelle Obama embodied a powerful Black womanhood we’d never seen in the White House. 

The Obama Building exists as a beacon of possibility, but the neighborhoods around it still represent the negligence of a system that, Detroiters say, Obama’s successors haven’t done enough to change. Aside from Democratic Councilwoman Sheffield and district delegate Shelby, who calls himself a “card-carrying Democrat,” none of the 34-and-younger people I spoke to in Detroit labeled themselves as leftists, liberals, conservatives, or otherwise. I got the sense that those seemed like labels of an ecosystem in which they don’t feel fully considered. They just want someone willing to offer radical change, from whichever side of the aisle. Shelby says, “Young people feel like the candidates and the elected officials that are currently out there are out of touch with what’s actually happening in our community.”

He suggests that the Democrats’ ignorance of the Black working class is a reflection of prior generations being comfortable with such treatment. “The older generation, they’re involved, but it’s not been effective and they’ve only been given the crumbs off of the table,” Shelby reflects. “A lot of times, they’re satisfied with just that. Whereas the younger generation is saying, ‘[It’s] not enough to be taking pictures with the elected officials or having those connections if it’s not being reflective of things that we need in our community.’”

Shelby says that while he has good relationships with the older generation, “young people are just more savvy about the process now.” He recalls being at City Council meetings where older Detroiters demanded things from council members that they should have been asking of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. And while leftists are in favor of defunding the police, he says, the older generation is more susceptible to Biden’s calls to “fund the police.”

“Older Detroiters are buying into the narrative that they need to feel safe, but what does public safety really look like and mean?” Shelby asks. “Safe communities don’t mean more police.” While Biden may poll well with older Detroiters, his policies just might not push far enough for young Black voters. The way he chooses to bridge the gap will determine how much voting power he garners in November.

While Shelby voted for Biden in 2020, he says that he hasn’t seen enough genuine representation in the Democratic Party. “I believe we needed someone to challenge Trump. And at the time, [Biden] was the person that could challenge him,” he says. “Now, I feel like my voice doesn’t matter in the party as someone that has skin in the game. I’ve sacrificed my time, my talent, my money, [but] I don’t feel my identity is reflected in the party. Only in a very token-ish way.” 

Parnell says they’d also like to see more representation for the LGBTQ community, or “these people are not going to be willing to join the fight.” 

SAUL WILLIAMS IS a 52-year-old L.A.-based musician, poet, and activist who crafted the protest anthems “Not in Our Name” and “Act III Scene 2 (Shakespeare).” In 2011, he signed his name to Occupy Musicians, a segment of the Occupy movement supporting economic equality. He thinks the Democratic Party hasn’t kept up with the radical desires of Black progressives, leaving them wanting more. 

“I don’t think that it’s ever been about a gamification of votes for Black people,” Williams tells me. “It’s not about the blue team or the red team. We go where justice is. And it just so happens that for a certain amount of time, we have seen something that has fallen closer to justice on the side of the Democrats. However, I would argue that there’s always been Black socialists, there are always trends towards types of radicalism that may have singled out someone like an Amiri Baraka or Sonja Sanchez in the past, where we find more people aligned with that sort of thinking.”

Williams says that during the 2016 election cycle, Sen. Bernie Sanders represented that radical streak. He ran for the Democratic nomination on a platform of “democratic socialism,” including universal health care, universal college education, Wall Street reform, increased LGBTQ rights, and immigration reform. His platform promises, if enacted into legislation, would have helped uproot America’s economic inequality. 

“I remember being around young people who were saying shit like, ‘I like that old man,’” Williams recalls. “Had nothing to do with [Bernie’s] age. It had everything to do with the fact that he was talking about something that people could relate to — not now, but then.” Williams says that for those same young people, Clinton’s primary win was “a marking point of when a lot of people were like, ‘You know what? The Democrats are fucking up. The Democratic leadership is a little too paternalistic.’” 

Williams feels like the Democratic leadership, previously Nancy Pelosi and now Chuck Schumer, have been “scolding” the Squad, the collective of progressive Democratic congresspeople comprising Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Cori Bush of Missouri, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Greg Casar of Texas, and Summer Lee of Pennsylvania. “The Democratic leaders are like, ‘Wait your turn, the time is not now, listen to Nancy, listen to Chuck, this is how we do it.’ I would say that that sort of paternalism in the Democratic Party has frustrated people.”

“It’s important for [Biden] to make the correlation of what they’ve done and how that impacts the day-to-day life of everyday Detroiters,” says Detroit City Councilwoman Mary Sheffield.

But that said, Williams isn’t voting for Trump: “I don’t know a nigga that would vote for Trump. You have to be far-fetched to believe that that’s going to save you. Never would I vote for that dude.”

After meeting with Parnell at Detroit Action’s Kettering headquarters, I get a ride to my hotel from Vanessa Velazquez, organizing director at Detroit Action. It’s snowing, and she takes her time driving down East Grand Boulevard, giving her more time to give me the lay of the land of Michigan politics.

It’s hard not to notice the steady shift in overall glitz as we near downtown Detroit. When I told Icewear Vezzo where the Detroit Action office was, he matter-of-factly said, “That’s the trenches.” Their command center sits next to two large, empty warehouses. 

I think about John George at the Java House; if there were more people with the means to invest in their neighborhood like he did, Detroit citizens could rebuild the city. I realize some people may vote for Trump on the false hope that he offers more windfall cash, and they can then turn one of these vacant buildings into their dream establishment. 

Many have attributed the 2020 stimulus relief checks and Congress’ Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to Trump. In December 2020, Trump signed a $900 billion Covid-relief package and a $1.4 trillion government-spending bill. The relief package included a second round of $600 stimulus checks to American citizens and a PPP program for small businesses. Ayanna Adams says she used the loans to fund her entrepreneurial endeavors, including a cleaning service and notary business. 

“I did benefit from the money, and I was able to put my business in the next level [where] some grants weren’t applicable for me, [and] I needed help with payroll for the two employees that I had. But there were a lot of people who abused that,” she says. “I did not vote for Trump. The only thing that I could appreciate was the stimulus checks that were given during the pandemic.”

Along with people like Adams who took out legitimate loans, there were more than $200 billion in fraudulent loans given out to people who frivolously spent the money, such as Pretty Ricky singer Baby Blue, who swindled more than $24 million. Rappers like Los Angeles’ YG and St. Louis’ Sexyy Red have said that people in their neighborhoods view Trump as a champion for the PPP loans, with the latter telling the Theo Von podcast, “We love Trump. We need him back because, baby, them checks. Trump, we miss you.”

Vezzo says that a cousin of his took out a loan for a tax business, and that he knows of “10 individuals” who started record labels with their loans. But he pushed back on the idea that the promise of more money is enough to sway Black voters toward Trump. “That’s saying we’re one-track-minded,” he says. “That’s saying we’re driven by money. That’s not fair to us.”

AS WE ENTER the election year, a new and more immediate concern has come into focus: Biden’s support of Israel’s military occupation in Gaza. At least 2 million Palestinians have been displaced from the IDF’s constant bombing. The people of Gaza are facing mass starvation and disease. It’s a brutal humanitarian crisis playing out live on social media, and pro-Palestinian protesters are stalking Biden at public events.

An October Data for Progress poll showed that 80 percent of Democrats want a cease-fire. But shortly after the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel should stop genocidal action in Gaza, White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters that “we continue to believe in the approach we have been taking.”

Vezzo says he’s seen an obfuscation of anti-occupation sentiment by people in power, bemoaning that “[if] somebody’s saying, ‘Stop killing civilians,’ they immediately say, ‘You’re antisemitic, and you’re pro-Hamas.’ What the fuck does Hamas got to do with me not wanting to see babies die?”

When asked how Biden feels about the violence in Gaza hurting his candidacy, an anonymous White House source tells me: “He approaches it, first and foremost, as commander in chief and someone who prioritizes American national security and global security. He also approaches it as a human being with deep empathy and respect for every person, and that’s what has been on full display throughout the situation.” 

Williams tells me Biden’s actions have demonstrated the antithesis of empathy. “There is a shift in the idea of the American dream,” he says. “The antiquated idea of power, which has everything to do with white men and patriarchy and capitalism, is not what many of us are dreaming of.” He believes Biden’s continued funding of Israel is deterring many potential voters. 

“What motivated people to vote last time was not Joe Biden,” he says. “We were voting against [Trump]. But it’s foolish to ask us to do that twice, especially now when we see how dismissive the Democratic Party is to brown and Black life. [People are wondering,] ‘What are we voting for if you can ignore us?’ That’s what’s driving more young people to move away from the Democratic Party. A clear majority of us have wanted a cease-fire for months.”

MY TIME IN DETROIT felt too much like home. The concerns I heard Detroiters express are the same things I’ve heard in my native Washington, D.C., and in New York, where I’ve lived for 11 years. Young people are worried about housing insecurity, food deserts, joblessness, a racist police system, and mountainous student-loan debt. Now, we’re worried about Biden’s complicity in Israel’s violent military action in Gaza. 

The best-case scenario for spurring change through electoral politics is to hope the right Democrat gets the party nomination, then hope they get elected, then hope they keep their promises. And even when they introduce radical legislation, they have to persuade enough of Congress not to knock it down just because. And while this wrangling continues on Capitol Hill, there are people in neighborhoods where presidential motorcades don’t go who are too worried about how they’ll pay rent next month to follow along with debates that don’t change their tomorrow. It’s an exhausting cycle.

Neither Biden nor Trump’s platform does much to change that sentiment, so, what are Detroiters going to do in November? It’s still too early to tell. No one I spoke to said they planned on voting for Trump, but no one gave Biden much of an endorsement.

“If I was forced to choose between Biden and Trump, it would be Trump,” Vezzo says, though right now he leans toward RFK Jr., the anti-vaxxer who switched from the Democratic Party to an independent run. Kennedy has stoked controversy for saying that “there’s no vaccine that is safe and effective,” writing in this magazine about childhood vaccines causing autism, and suggesting that Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people are “most immune” to Covid. He’s also suggested that “endocrine disruptors” influence “sexual” and “gender” confusion. As a third-party candidate, Kennedy has a remote shot at the White House without these absurd claims. But Vezzo says a candidate’s practical chance to win the election doesn’t affect who he’d vote for. 

As for Trump, Vezzo says, “I don’t agree with a lot of his ways. He’s rude, he says a lot of dumb shit. He doesn’t think before he speaks.… He talks so much that we know everything about him. And I think people would rather know their president than not.” 

It’s likely that Democratic delegate Shelby votes for Biden, but he says he’s thinking about how to run more inspiring candidates in future elections. “What do we need to do to recruit, develop, and run people who are going to be reflective of our values and build the political infrastructure needed to accomplish those wins?” he asks. “And not just at the highest levels, but from the local levels down to the precinct.”

Williams says he’s tired of the two-party system and wants people to mobilize a viable third party. “I’m at that point where we were during the Civil War, to run a cabinet,” he says. “‘Go ahead and bring me Claudia de la Cruz [and] Jill [Stein], put them all on one ticket, and let’s carve out the space of the third party. It may not win this time, but it’ll prove that a third party is viable and exists. That type of shit has to happen.”

Williams says that he knows people who plan to abstain from voting and understands their sentiment: “If you say voting third party or abstaining from voting only elects the right … I voted Democrat the last time, and as far as I can tell, this motherfucker is [right-wing] as fuck. So voting for the Democrats elects the right, too.”

David Parnell feels differently, noting the intent behind their organizing work. “For people who have completely divested from the two-party system and American politics: I literally can’t build power with you.”

In 2016, Jewell Jones became Michigan’s youngest person to be elected as state representative. He thinks Biden should “get out and move around” to engage his Black constituency. “With campaigning, it’s about dollars and doors,” he says. “Either you spend a lot of money or get in front of a lot of people.” 

Shelby agrees that Biden and Kamala Harris should make more efforts to show face in the community — and be considerate about it. “I talk with even elected officials and they say, ‘How can we get to you? How can we engage more young people?’ [I say,] ‘First of all, a lot of the times, you’re having coffee hours [during times when] people are working. How do you expect people to be engaged?’ And they have to think about their priorities, how they’re going to eat.” He lauds Councilwoman Sheffield’s Occupy the Corner events as an example of how a politician can genuinely engage with young people. 

In 2013, Sheffield became the youngest councilperson in Detroit history at 26. She says that before pursuing office, she was “disinterested” in electoral politics and created her Occupy the Corner events to meet people where they are. “We go into disenfranchised, underrepresented areas throughout Detroit, and we essentially bring city government to their front doors.” They provide services like utility-bill payments, job fairs, record expungement, and tax help. Sheffield works with prominent Detroit figures like Vezzo to ensure that young people will come out. 

She credits Biden for “establishing a presence” in Michigan over the past four years, being “instrumental” in helping Detroit get a new fleet of buses, and giving Michigan $826.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars, which she says have been spent on job training and expanding youth-employment program Grow Detroit’s Young Talent. Sheffield feels that along with providing more federal funding for housing insecurity, mental-health services, and overall economic opportunity, Biden could ingratiate himself to young Black voters by prioritizing “constant engagement and relationship building with our young people for them to be able to trust you. It’s important for him to make the correlation of what they’ve done and how that impacts the day-to-day life of everyday Detroiters.”

Parnell says they’re “excited and hopeful for more progressive [candidates]” in the future. But their advice for any candidate remains the same: “Ensure that your campaign will match your presidency, because lack of follow-through has already been the pattern everywhere. No more false promises. People are tired. Ensure that you are expanding the civil rights for everyone across the board and naming those people and bringing those stories to light, because they already feel invisible. Remind them that they’re not.”

2/20/24: This story has been updated to properly identify Jewell Jones.

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