Key role for Black policy leaders on Biden's transition team

Black policy leaders will play a pivotal role in President-elect Joe Biden’s transition, marking one of the most diverse agency review teams ever

Of the 500-plus team members announced this week, more than half are women, and Black men and women are leading more than one-quarter of the teams.

The diversity is significant because the teams will be responsible for evaluating the operations of federal agencies that have a broad impact on Americans' lives. And it's especially important because Biden will take office at a time when the United States is confronting a historic pandemic, joblessness and police brutality -- crises that have disparately impacted Black Americans.

“The agency review process will help lay the foundation for meeting these challenges on Day One," said Tony Allen, a transition advisory board member and president of historically Black Delaware State University. “We are building a team to reflect America and these Black leaders are dedicated experts in their fields.”

They were also instrumental in Georgia, a longtime GOP bastion where Biden holds a narrow lead.

Many of the review team appointees are graduates of historically Black colleges and universities.

They include Charmion Kinder, who will help lead or guide transition efforts at the Commerce Department. Kinder was a White House press aide to first lady Michelle Obama and served as a public affairs appointee at the departments of Commerce and Housing and Urban Development.

Patrice Simms will lead the transition effort for the Environmental Protection Agency. He is a prominent environmental attorney and legal scholar who was a deputy assistant attorney general in the Obama Justice Department's environment and natural resources division.

Civil rights leaders and activists have pledged to push Biden’s administration to create more progressive policies on criminal justice, housing, the economy and more.

Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, in a letter this week, congratulated Biden and Harris on their victory and sought a meeting to discuss “commitments that must be made to Black people.”

“Without the resounding support of Black people, we would be saddled with a very different electoral outcome,” Cullors wrote. “In short, Black people won this election. … We want to be heard and our agenda to be prioritized. We issue these expectations not just because Black people are the most consistent and reliable voters for Democrats, but also because Black people are truly living in crisis in a nation that was built on our subjugation."