Washington (CNN)The Trump transition began its outreach to the African-American community Wednesday afternoon with an event billed as a "listening session" in Washington, led by former Apprentice contestant Omarosa Manigault.
NAACP, others attend Trump transition 'listening' session led by Omarosa
Manigault, newly tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to work on public engagement in the White House, was joined by other transition officials, including domestic policy chair Ken Blackwell and senior adviser Katrina Pierson. About 100 leaders from a variety of African-American organizations, ranging from the NAACP to fraternities and sororities, were in attendance for the meeting, which lasted more than two hours and was closed to press.
Bishop Harry Jackson, a conservative activist and evangelical leader, called the meeting a "starting point" for members of the community to discuss their priorities and state their agenda, praising the Trump transition's "openness" to listening.
"You have an outsider and an outside team. They're not going to do business as usual, they don't even know how to spell business as usual. For that reason, I'm optimistic," Jackson said, calling the meeting's atmosphere "very civil" and "a very sophisticated meet-and-greet."
Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau director and senior vice president for advocacy and policy, said the meeting "could be a great start."
"What happens at this point is in the hands of the administration," Shelton added.
Multiple attendees praised Manigault, calling her "very impressive" and "a great leader," noting that she asked follow-up questions, particularly about data and resources.
"It was clear that she is going to help keep some of the promises of the Trump campaign and bring those forward to be actual actions in the Trump administration," said Johnny Taylor, Jr., president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. "I think we're going to see some major strides in issues that matter most to our community."
The outreach comes after a less-than-warm reception for Trump from the African-American community during the election.
In a September church visit in Flint, Michigan, an African-American pastor interrupted Trump for getting too political when he started to attack opponent Hillary Clinton. Other attendees heckled the then-candidate. Trump later went after the pastor, calling her "a nervous mess" on Fox News.
On the campaign trail, Trump often described conditions in the black community in bleak terms, vowing to be a champion for African-Americans.
"The violence. The death. The lack of education. No jobs. We're going to work with the African-American community and we're going to solve the problem of the inner city," he said days before the election in Toledo, Ohio. "We're going to bring safety back. You can't walk out the street, you buy a loaf of bread and you end up getting shot. So we're going to work very strongly with the African-American community."
But Trump ultimately won just 8% of black voters, compared to 88% for Clinton.
Now, as the incoming administration prepares for inauguration, leaders are keeping an open mind.
"We want to see them move on issues that are important to the communities we serve. We want to make sure they recognize who we are and the conditions our communities are in," NAACP's Shelton said. "The presidential administration has an awful lot of power. They can decide to wield that power. We have to do everything in our power to make sure they understand what the challenges are in our community, and what we want to be able to address issues in our communities, as well."