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While hosting a reception for Black History Month in the East Room of the White House Thursday, President Barack Obama greeted the crowd with First Lady Michelle Obama by his side, and of course, he brought the jokes.

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“We know it is Black History Month when you hear somebody say, ‘Haay Michelle! Girl, you look so good!’” Obama said.

Addressing the crowd, FLOTUS kept it going, quipping,“he’s alright. You look good too, baby.”

The president, who met with more than a dozen civil rights leaders earlier in the day, turned the seriousness on, touching on how important it was that young people carry the torch in the present-day movement. During Thursday’s meeting, the president sat between Brittany Packnett, an activist from Ferguson, Mo., and iconic civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.). He commented on the intergenerational moment during the Black History Month reception.

“What’s so inspiring about these young people and their generation is that they don’t see black history as a relic; it’s not something to study in a book,” Obama said. “They don’t see themselves as distant from that history — they are participants, making history. It’s alive, something that we have the power and the responsibility to shape and to wield.”

Obama also discussed the history of African-Americans in the U.S. and in the White House.

“From our earliest days, black history has been American history,” Obama said. “We’re the slaves who quarried the stone to build this White House, the soldiers who fought for our nation’s independence, who fought to hold this union together, who fought for freedom of others around the world.”

A leader from Black Lives Matter Chicago respectfully declined an invitation to Thursday’s talk, writing in an op-ed on Truthout that the gathering was a photo-op that didn’t address the real problems.

“I could not, with any integrity, participate in such a sham that would only serve to legitimize the false narrative that the government is working to end police brutality and the institutional racism that fuels it,” Aislinn Pulley wrote. 

“If the administration is serious about addressing the issues of Black Lives Matter Chicago – and its sister organizations that go by different names across this nation – they can start by meeting the simple demands of families who want transparency, and who want police that kill Black people unjustly to be fired, indicted and held accountable. A meeting arranged to carry this out is one that would be worthy of consideration. Until this begins to happen on a mass scale, any celebrations of Black history that go on inside the walls of the White House are hollow and ceremonial at best.”

You can read Pulley’s full article here.



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