Can Bernie Sanders connect with black voters?

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BURLINGTON (WCAX) Black voters could make the difference in the primary, especially in early voting states like South Carolina. But some minorities in Vermont have expressed for years that Senator Sanders has not been doing enough to cover race.

I sat down with a group of minority leaders in December who have concerns about not getting a seat at the table at the Sanders' Institute last fall.

"What we are asking are for those who say they stand for us, to," says Sha'an Mouliert of "I Am Vermont Too".

A diverse group of Vermont's racial justice leaders... asking for representation in this year's election.

Many here say they voted for Senator Sanders in 2016 -- because of his push for change. But, that year, he failed to convince the majority of black voters, he was best fit.

"The average black family has one-tenth the wealth of the average white family," said Sanders.

Friday, Sanders made another attempt to win over minority voters --

"That racial wealth gap must be repaired and institutional racism from one end of this country to the other must be rooted out."

Sha'an of the Northeast Kingdom says Sanders doesn't have a grasp of issues some minorities face, like racism and poverty. She says that's partly because of his upbringing in a progressive Brooklyn community.

"His privilege of feeling that based on that, I can translate that to any place... not understanding that people of color, people who have disabilities don't necessarily have that access. That when you layer over it, that you minimize what the movement actually is," says Mouliert.

Others criticize Sanders for not including those directly impacted -- in his fight for social justice.

"When you stand on the backs of people of color and some white people as well who come together and built these movements, then you have to be able to be called to the table and you have to be able to be held accountable for that," says Steffen Glenn-Moore of the NAACP.

Sanders' long-term goal is to unseat President Trump in 2020... but this group sees other hurdles.

"Bernie shouldn't be worried about whether or not he can beat Trump or not, he should be worried about beating the next rising star... and there are many," says Mark Hughes of Justice for All.

We reached out to Sanders' campaigns for comment, but have not heard back yet.