_Tampa, Fla._ — From the minute she arrived Sunday morning at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Ingham County delegate at large Linda Lee Tarver has confidently displayed a button pinned to her shirt bearing one clear message: “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.”
Tarver is one of 59 Michigan delegates — 30 of whom can vote — filling the first rows of the RNC floor at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, located in the heart of the city.
Along with her place among Michigan delegates, Tarver is one of only 46 black Republican delegates at the 2012 Republican convention, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a nonpartisan research institute.
Compared to last year’s total of 36 black Republican delegates at the 2008 convention in Minneapolis, the 2012 RNC saw about a 20 percent increase.
There are 4,411 delegates and alternates attending the RNC.
Tarver serves as Ethnic Vice Chair of the Michigan Republican Party, working to reach out to people with different racial and religious backgrounds and introduce them to Republican principles.
In terms of diversity among delegates, Tarver said RNC officials originally had scheduled a black conservative caucus but had to cancel it because of weather conditions Monday.
Although Tarver said she felt labels such as gender and ethnicity generally should be set aside in politics, she said she was looking forward to hearing Utah congressional candidate Mia Love, who also is black, speak at the convention Tuesday night.
“It is important to show diversity, and we will have that at our convention,” she said.
Tarver said although some could view the diversity of the RNC lineup as a ploy to gain minority votes, she feels political science is just that — a science — and strategists will look at the demographics where Republican nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney struggles and aim to appeal to them.
“If that means we put African Americans, Hispanics, gun owners ... you name it (on stage) ... I am good with that,” she said.
Despite her disapproval of President Barack Obama’s victory in 2008, Tarver said she still was proud to see the first black president in the White House. Overall, Tarver said her identity is much more than her race.
“I’m proud to be a black woman, but I’m also proud to be a citizen of the U.S., a Republican, a mother, a wife, a sister and a friend,” she said.