US Election 2016

US election: Black Republicans seek converts in Trump's 'war zone'

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Media captionBlack Trump supporter faces tough task

Guided by the belief that the Democratic Party takes the African-American vote for granted, some black Philadelphians are using the final days of the campaign to make the case for Donald Trump.

Inside the wood-panelled sanctuary of a small, North Philadelphia church, a group of men - and one woman - are busily folding handouts and talking strategy.

"I'm gonna be the one they attack," says Bruce Carter, gesturing to his T-shirt which says TRUMP in large red lettering. "They're comin' for me."

Calvin Tucker, a tall, nattily dressed Trump surrogate in a coat, tie and Make America Great Again cap, acts the moment.

"'Wow - you're supporting Trump?' … 'Man, what are you doing?'" he says, then answers himself: "Hey - we gotta try something different."

Parked just outside of First Immanuel Baptist Church is a line of vans and SUVs wrapped in various slogans, like "Black Republicans for Urban Communities", and "Famous Black Republicans" over photos of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.

Then there's the lead van, plastered with pictures of the billionaire candidate's face.

"TRUMP for Urban Communities," it proclaims.

In neighbourhoods that vote overwhelmingly Democratic, in a city that hasn't had a Republican mayor since 1952, the vehicles are sure to draw plenty of attention, especially since there are pockets of these predominantly African American communities where Mitt Romney did not receive a single vote in 2012.

"It's real simple," says Carter, the founder of Trump for Urban Communities. "Your district has some of the deepest poverty in America and you've only voted for the Democrat. So it's reasonable for you to try something different."

This has been Trump's pitch to black voters as well: "You're living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?" He's called the inner cities of America war zones, and blamed Democrats - who often hold local power - for the cities' decline.

Trump's 58% youth unemployment figure is inflated and critics say his characterisation of black life in America as "hell" is out of touch with reality. But the predominantly African-American neighbourhoods in North Philadelphia do have the highest rates of violent crime in the city. The streets are lined with empty homes and businesses. A 2012 estimate for unemployment among high school drop outs in the area came close to Trump's figure: 50%.

While the message has not resonated with most black voters - various polling around the country shows Trump's African-American support somewhere between 0% and 4% - Tucker heard it loud and clear. A lifelong Republican, Tucker was Trump's lone black delegate at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

As a loan officer and financial services contractor, Tucker loves what he sees as Trump's business acumen.

Back in September, Tucker moderated a panel discussion with Trump and black Philadelphian business owners as anti-Trump protesters demonstrated outside. At the time, Tucker thanked Trump for "being brave enough to come" to the neighbourhood.

"Typically, Republicans don't travel in the heart of the underserved communities and talk about issues," he says. "He's also talked about the solution, and the solutions are jobs and employment and opportunity and entrepreneurship - those are the kinds of things that our community needs to eradicate poverty and unemployment and reduce crime."

Ten minutes further north, the head of the Philadelphia GOP is leading a poll-watching training in the dim offices of an anti-violence non-profit called the Urban Crisis Response Center, which also houses a headquarters for the Trump campaign.

"I don't think we could have opened a Romney office [here]," says Joe DeFelice, Philadelphia's Republican Party chairman. He says black voters don't identify Trump as a Republican so much as his own brand of politician.

"Do I think he's going to win this neighbourhood we're standing in? No, I'm not naïve. I get it. Do I think he's going to do a hell of a lot better than Romney did? One-hundred percent."

Daphne Goggins, a North Philadelphia native and lifelong Republican, is in a bright orange "Hillary for Prison" T-shirt, handing out poll-watching packets The tiny former barbershop is filled with both the politically engaged as well as people with no love for Trump, just eager for the $100 pay.

"Donald Trump is already creating jobs in the black community," she points out.

Goggins resents the way that Democrats in Philadelphia have always been able to rely on the black vote, despite the fact she says most people she talks to don't even know why they vote the way they do. She is a social conservative - pro-life and against gay marriage - and wants lower taxes. Many black Democrats she speaks to agree with her.

"You're a Republican," she informs them.

Image caption Daphne Goggins

"We have a violence problem - the Democrats [have done] nothing to really address these murders," she says. "There's no legislation, there should be a curfew, something - we're losing our babies just like in Chicago.

"Black children are just doomed to die and that's OK with America."

Back outside the church, the Trump for Urban Communities group doesn't even make it into their vehicles before the fireworks begin.

"You've got to be kidding me," one woman snarls, brushing past the men and refusing to talk.

"Trump is evil, Trump do not care about us," a young woman in a denim jacket calls out. "He is ignorant!"

Two women in a passing car flip the Trump van off, then drive away as Carter knocks on the windows calling, "Sister! Sister!"

In a nail salon with a Clinton-Kaine sign in the window, the group finds a captive audience - women with their hands under heat lamps.

"Dallas, where I'm from, we're number two in poverty in the black community - it looks similar to this," Carter tells the sceptical salon customers. "I know he understands economic development and I know he understands business - that's why I support him."

"Where were you guys the rest of the year?" a young woman with her feet in a bubbling bath chimes in.

Tucker turns to her.

"This is hard work getting folks to listen to a different philosophy," he says. "You've heard all this Hillary Clinton stuff - what are they going to do for your community? That's why we gotta bring young people like you into this process, that think differently, that's going to ask the hard questions."

Carter pays for one of the women's manicures and they leave, to a chorus of anti-Trump shouts from a man across the street. Standing outside, Tucker says he knows no one in the shop will likely vote any differently.

"I'm not necessarily here to convert, I'm just here to educate," he says. "When you are 95% in one party, Democrats take you for granted. When you're 2% Republican, they say, 'You don't make a difference, therefore why should we provide opportunities for your community?'

In front of the Trump van, Carter looks around at the blighted buildings, the mattresses and smashed TV sets laying in a vacant lot - he catches a whiff of what smells like raw sewage seeping out of an abandoned building.

"There's no way you can walk through these communities and not get mad," he says. "Yes, the Republican party has failed the black community because they have given up on them. But Democrats - they failed them far worse. The blacks belong to them, but they get nothing for it. It's political slavery."