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  • Inside Karine Jean-Pierre’s historic first day as White House press secretary: ‘Representation matters’

    Inside Karine Jean-Pierre’s historic first day as White House press secretary: ‘Representation matters’

    TheGrio was in the briefing room to ask Jean-Pierre about the significance of her being the first Black American, gay woman, and immigrant to serve as press secretary.

    “Representation matters,” said Karine Jean-Pierre on a historic day at the White House during Monday’s press briefing, which marked her first official day on the job as press secretary. 

    As she noted at the podium, Jean-Pierre became the first Black American, gay woman and immigrant to serve as spokesperson for the president of the United States.

    Karine Jean-Pierre
    Newly appointed White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds her first news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on May 16, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

    Somewhat overshadowing the historic moment was the tragic racially-motivated mass shooting at a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York that claimed the lives of ten African Americans.

    Jean-Pierre humanized the moment, explaining that she, like most Americans, routinely goes to the supermarket — emphasizing the horror of the innocent lives slain during such an ordinary activity as shopping for groceries.

    On weekends, Jean-Pierre said, she often takes her 7-year-old daughter out with her to the grocery store, adding a personal touch to an otherwise horrific tragedy that targeted a community because of the color of their skin. Ironically, Monday’s press briefing marked a celebratory moment for Jean-Pierre and Black America – because of the color of her skin.

    After reading the names of the ten victims killed in the Buffalo mass shooting, Jean-Pierre then transitioned to acknowledging the historic moment that many in the packed room were awaiting.

    New Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Holds First White House Media Briefing
    Newly appointed White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds her first news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on May 16, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

    “In this role, in this room, standing behind this podium, I am obviously acutely aware that my presence at this podium represents a few firsts,” Jean-Pierre said. “I am a Black, gay, immigrant woman – the first of all three of those to hold this position.” 

    Jean-Pierre, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, also recognized that she stood on the “shoulders” of those who came before her.

    Monday was far from the usual back-and-forth between the White House press secretary and reporters. The room was packed with members of the White House Press Corps, photographers and even special guest attendees – Black staffers a part of the White House communications team who wanted to witness Jean-Pierre’s historic moment. 

    On her first day as White House press secretary, Jean-Pierre notably and painstakingly took a large number of questions from reporters. The briefing was longer than usual, lasting more than an hour. 

    New Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Holds First White House Media Briefing
    Newly appointed White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds her first news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on May 16, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

    After the briefing, Jean-Pierre participated in a routine White House Press Office debrief of the day’s briefing. Congratulatory words, laughter and emotions were both felt and heard emanating from the office. A few minutes later, the new press secretary took part in an impromptu photo shoot with The New York Times on the West Colonnade of the White House, which borders the Rose Garden and connects the West Wing and the Oval Office.

    During the briefing, several questions were posed to Jean-Pierre about this historic moment. TheGrio was in the room and asked the new White House press secretary about the significance of her being in the new space that she occupies.

    Q: April Ryan: “You’re making history now on so many levels. So many communities are so proud of you. We’re hearing it on social media everywhere. You’re the first. What does that mean for the broader community, particularly Washington – white-male dominated still even though we had the first Black president. The broader society that is the majority does not look like you. What does this say? Because it’s not window dressing. It’s more than that.”

    Karine Jean-Pierre: “It’s a very good question, April. I’m going to answer it in a kind of a personal way, if that’s okay since you asked it in a personal way. So I have not read a lot of the things that have been written about me because I wanted to focus on the work at hand. And I do believe it’s not about me, it’s about this place, it’s about the work that I have to do every day that we all have to do as a team to make sure that we communicate with you and communicate with the broader public.

    New Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Holds First White House Media Briefing
    Newly appointed White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds her first news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on May 16, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

    But there was something that moved me. And I think this speaks to what you’re asking, which is there was a story about my elementary school. I went to [Franklin Elementary School] in Hampstead, New York…they talked to the students about me and this moment and this administration too, which is very important because I don’t think I would be here [without President Biden]. Yes, I stand on so many shoulders. But it does matter who sits in the Oval Office as well. That is very, very real. 

    These kids wrote me a letter, snd in the letter they talked about how they can dream bigger because of me standing behind this podium. And that matters…representation matters and not just for girls, but also for boys. And so what I hope is that young people get to dream big and dream bigger than they have before by seeing me stand here and answer all of your questions and have a healthy dialogue, as I discussed. And so I think it is important. And so I appreciate the question. Thank you.”

    TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today!

    The post Inside Karine Jean-Pierre’s historic first day as White House press secretary: ‘Representation matters’ appeared first on TheGrio.

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