New Year, New Understanding
With 2016 coming into focus, political strategist Kenya Parham works to position African-Americans for a successful future.
BY KIMBERLY BAILEY-TUREAUD
The dawning of a new year brings a fresh start. And as political strategist Kenya T. Parham sees it, the flip of the calendar is also an ideal time to take stock of the state of Black America.
Then again, working to advance the interests of African-Americans is a year-round endeavor for Parham. The daughter of renowned educators Dr. Thomas A. Parham and Davida Hopkins-Parham, Kenya hosts regular gatherings in Los Angeles that she calls “Parlay” — created “out of a desire and a need to have strategic conversations. It is not enough to write things on a sign and march in the streets any longer. Parlay is a think tank for conversations on what political and policy moves need to take place to advance the agenda for black folks. It is an active civic engagement laboratory.”
A veteran of several major political campaigns, Parham notes that the word parlay is a gambling term that means, “to take small earnings from one bet and leverage them for greater earnings on future bets. … I do believe it represents what happens when you organize your bets and you ante up as a community to try to have bigger gains, advancement and progress. I believe that every black person has capital to leverage for their win in life.” Las Vegas Black Image sat down for an in-depth conversation with the millennial generation thought leader.
Why does it seem that once-invisible racial lines have become more vibrant since President Obama was elected?
Race relations, and having contention with that, is not a new issue. The line has always been there, and for a long time we have been dealing with both covert and overt racism and microaggression. The advent of social media, and advancing technology, allows people to share their stories — and really gives black people control over their own narratives in documenting their experiences. So we are no longer having to respond to the refrain; we are creating our own messages. The United States [has become much more diverse], but the power structure still seems to be white ruled — resulting in a contentious society. Overall, President Obama has done a great job in placing African-Americans in positions of power — ensuring representation for black people and fueling progress.
Imagine that you’re the political strategist and advisor for black communities around the country. What would be your strategy to position a lifestyle win for black people?
We really need to make more of an investment in our youth — millennials and the young people now coming up. That doesn’t just mean a push for education. Education is fantastic and it opens doors, but it is not everything a child needs to survive in this world. We have to understand the power of civic engagement. The election of President Obama can most definitely happen again. Black women are the highest registered voting demographic out of all the ethnic groups in the nation. Black women have the power to influence votes in 11 key swing states by up to … 6 percent. Over 67% of all black women are registered to vote. What is encouraging is that we have the opportunity to continue to make our mark on American history. We have to be civically engaged, because all roads lead to civic engagement. Politics is life. Life is chess — not checkers.
For more information or to contact Kenya T. Parham, visit her website at: www.kparham.com.