Howard professor Stacey Abrams, MSNBC's Joy Reid

Former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, a Howard University professor, left, stands with MSNBC anchor Joy Reid after a conversation discussing the 2024 presidential campaign and Black economic wealth on Saturday, July 6, 2024 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Democratic South Carolina U.S. Rep. James Clyburn is credited with rescuing Joe Biden's 2020 presidential campaign by helping him win the South Carolina primary after encouraging Biden to commit to appointing a Black woman to the United States Supreme Court.

Biden overwhelmingly won the South Carolina Democratic primary with 61% of the Black vote, trouncing several other candidates. Most of those candidates dropped out of the running soon thereafter and endorsed Biden, who went on to become the Democratic nominee.

In the wake of the president's weak debate performance, all eyes are on Clyburn once again, to see and hear what he says about whether his good friend Joe should stay or go.

The same goes for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, the top House Democrat, who's also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Clyburn has chosen his words carefully, answering hypothetical questions cautiously. He supports Biden. He might support a mini-primary concept if Biden were to step aside. He would support Vice President Kamala Harris if that happened.

Jeffries has heard from love-Biden-but as well as love-Joe-stick-with-him congressional Democrats. Unless Biden changes his mind, Clyburn and Jeffries are with him.

So is the Congressional Black Caucus and some prominent Black women who made the case for Biden and Harris during Essence Fest.

Former U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Biden campaign adviser, told me that Biden's poor debate performance has caused more people to pay attention to the presidential campaign. In particular, the usually reliable Democratic Black base is paying more attention.

"Our base is starting to consolidate and come back home," Richmond said.

Essence Festival of Culture for GAM 070124 (copy)

The 2024 Essence Festival of Culture was held July 4 through July 7 at Caesars Superdome, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and other venues.

Several Essence stages had special program titles and purposes. But some of the "economic," "empowerment" and "wealth" programs were actually old-fashioned political pep rallies for Biden and Harris.

When California U.S. Rep. Maxine "Auntie Max" Waters, D-Los Angeles, had a chance to spice things up during her time on stage, she went right to the current core subject.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters talks about President Biden's age

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, gave President Joe Biden her full support during an event at the Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans on Saturday, July 7, 2024.?

"People are talking about Biden's too old," Waters, 85, told a crowd. "Hell, I'm older than Biden."

Biden is 81.

U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, who stood next to Waters, bowed and saluted her as the audience gave her a wild ovation that lasted several minutes.

Former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, the?inaugural Ronald W. Walters Endowed Chair for Race and Black Politics at Howard University, gave a history lesson about how far we've come and how much could be lost if Trump were to win.

MSNBC anchor and host Joy Reid rhetorically asked Abrams and an Essence audience why only White people are asking Biden to step aside. The crowd roared with laughter, recognizing a truth discussed in many Black circles.

They're not talking about all White people. The folks asking Biden to stand down are mostly wealthy White male donors who Biden called "elites" on Monday.

For months, a stream of commentators, pundits and donors have suggested that Biden step away from leading the Democratic party and the nation. The talk grew louder after Biden had what he called "a bad night."

No prominent Black elected officials — and no notable Black women — have called for Biden to step aside. The Black women I saw, spoke with and heard from at Essence aren't having that.

In 2020, Biden won between 87% and 92% of the Black vote, depending on which data you trust. Earlier this year, Biden was polling at 75% among Black voters. That's not enough for him to win. He needs more Black support.

Advocate, author and journalist Tiffany Cross and commentator Angela Rye, principal and CEO of IMPACT Strategies and co-host of the podcast “Native Land Pod”?with Cross, urged support for Biden, reminding Essence attendees that it was the Biden-Harris team that made two of the three stimulus checks possible, along with a Democratic Congress.

And, they added, it was the Biden-Harris administration that provided student loan relief.

"What's your number?" they asked the audience, referring to the size of their education-related debt.

One by one, Black women responded. More than $100,000. More than $150,000. More than $200,000. More than $300,000.

Most Black people reliably vote Democratic — when they vote. Those debt numbers seem like pretty good reasons to vote.

Influential Black women on multiple Essence stages extolled the accomplishments and impact of the Biden-Harris administration. Many more influential Black women were in the audiences — women who have text groups, who are church leaders and influencers at work, in the community and within their sororities.

A large percentage of Black voters need information, reminders and reasons to vote — and to get others to vote.

Biden made it crystal clear Monday that he's staying in the race.

Perhaps he heard Black women at Essence had a clear message for their president: Don't you dare drop out. We got you, Joe.

Email Will Sutton at wsutton@theadvocate.com.

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