On any other night, former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch would have gotten top billing but on Saturday night she helped provide a one-two punch of high profile speakers at the 82nd founders’ anniversary celebration of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat and party firebrand best known recently for calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, was the keynote speaker at a packed Durham Convention Center.
Waters, who was introduced by fellow U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., didn’t disappoint the banquet guests. She rolled through her greatest hits on Trump and his cabinet.
“This country is suffering from a chaotic and turbulent White House,” Waters said. “I’m going to take this president on. He has denied the issues and concerns of our community.”
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Waters, past chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Trump’s verbal attacks on the nation’s first African-American president, Barack Obama, have diminished the current president’s standing.
“He should be leaving Obama alone,” Waters said.
Her biggest salvo after firing away at Trump was aimed at Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. She called Carson a puppet of Trump to the delight of the crowd.
“He was treated so badly during the Republican primaries,” Waters said. “Trump talked down to all of them and him. Here’s is this neurosurgeon who is supposed to be so talented and smart and he’s taking all this abuse and and still wanted to be part of the Trump administration. I am going to talk to him about that when he comes before our committee.”
Waters spoke for about 50 minutes. Afterward, she stayed around and took photos with many who attended the banquet.
Kim Cameron, who has lived in Durham for five and a half years since moving from Wisconsin, was one of the first in line. She said seeing Waters and hearing her speak was energizing.
“It was awesome to hear her,” Cameron said. “She has the fire and energy to stand up for us. She was speaking to the choir about some things we already knew but at the same time I would like to have heard a road map for us to save democracy in our country and to stop the hate in our country so we can come together.”
Southern High School rising senior Bobby Bailey Jr. was one of the younger attendees. He said seeing Waters was an eye-opening experience.
“I wasn’t too familiar with her but my parents kept telling me she was a big figure and they showed me a video,” Bailey said. “It meant a lot being here to see her. Being young, I’m sometimes blind to politics because I don’t understand it a lot but she has sparked a fire in me to learn more.”
Bailey was honored during the banquet for his community service, as he has operated a book drive since he was in the sixth grade that has distributed more than 3,000 books to help other kids read.
Lynch was on hand to help honor her father, Durham’s Rev. Lorenzo Lynch, who was recognized by the Committee for his longtime service as a community leader. She did take the opportunity talk about how much she enjoyed being in Durham with her parents.
“I am glad to be back in Durham,” Lynch said. “Not that Washington isn’t a lovely place now. Washington is a place in need of some spiritual guidance.”
Dr. Howard Fitts Jr. also was honored for his community contributions. During his acceptance speech that he thought he was just being honored for his longevity. His joke brought a chuckle from the crowd.