June 01, 2017
By Marc Morial
President & CEO, National Urban League
“At a time when people across the aisle have finally found some of the modest, yet promising, agreement that we need to fix our broken system, the Trump administration and Attorney General Sessions have thus far indicated that they want to double down on the failed policies of the past. Sessions seems intent on turning back the clock-threatening to increase the use of mandatory minimum sentences, criticizing consent decrees that improve police-community relations, and expanding federal use of private prisons. For the sake of our safety, our economic health, and the values we profess, we can't afford to go back. We must press forward with reforms.”
Sen. Cory A. Booker, “We Refuse to Turn Back The Clock: Advancing Criminal Justice Reform in The Face of Retreat,” State of Black America, May 2, 2017
Dear Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the 20th century called. It wants its failed, heavy-handed criminal justice policies back.
In a throwback to the George W. Bush administration, Sessions is widely expected to formally order all federal prosecutors to impose the harshest sentences for all drug offenses and offenders, including the return of the widely unpopular and discredited mandatory minimums.
This “dumb on crime,” bygone-era approach to criminal justice will catapult our nation back to the days of racially-infected mass incarceration, warehousing Black and brown bodies at a rate wildly disproportionate to their overall rate of population as a result of overzealously disproportionate law enforcement. It will perpetually ensnare nonviolent offenders, who have small chance of being rehabilitated while in prison, leaving them to face near-insurmountable obstacles and odds to fully re-enter society, while robbing already vulnerable communities of an ex-offender’s future potential as an employed and civically engaged citizen. It comes with a heavy price tag for taxpayers-both in terms of safety and cost-with study after study revealing a cynically slim return on investment, if any.
Sessions’ reversal of Obama-era policies that sought to correct the egregious wrongs of our nation's broken criminal justice system-such as reserving the harshest sentencing and enforcement resources for serious, violent, high-level offenders-flies in the face of promising consensus that has been steadily building among civil rights and social justice organizations, states led by Conservative governors, and across the partisan divide in Congress. It seems everyone, except the Department of Justice, understands that flooding our prisons-and keeping private prisons in business to warehouse the anticipated overflow from federal prisons-is not a solution that has, or will, make us safer.
According to data from The Sentencing Project, Louisiana has the highest state imprisonment rate, yet its governor recently announced a deal to reduce the state's prison population by 10 percent-an initiative that will save Louisiana taxpayers an estimated $78 million annually. Right now, four of the 10 top states with the highest incarceration rates are pursuing "smart on crime" criminal justice reforms that safely reduce our bloated prison population by focusing on alternatives to punishment and improved re-entry programs that increases the chances of ex-offenders never returning to prison.
And we should go a step further. How about working to keep as many people as we can out of the clutches of our broken, racially and socio-economically unjust criminal justice system in the first place? As a nation, we must agree to prioritize prevention and address crime before it happens. That means looking at-and effectively treating-the root causes of crimes. It means, among other things, housing the homeless, removing the heavy price tag and stigma around mental health and mental health services, feeding the hungry, ensuring a quality education in every zip code, and providing work tied to living and gender equitable wages.
The Department of Justice is moving in the wrong direction and a course correction is critical. The resistance, in all its forms and arenas, remains firm, especially among the states, which bear the fiscal brunt of policies that call for the indiscriminate filling of jails cells at a heavy cost to their budgets and the safety of their citizens. A growing number of states are reluctant to follow the Department of Justice’s lead, and we hope more states come to the realization that crime can be reduced through a variety of methods that don’t involve throwing the book at people who can be rehabilitated, while keeping the public safe.
We must resist the rollback. We must retreat from the failed policies of the past, not return to them.
June 01, 2017
Make no mistake about it, the city of Compton is moving forward and not backward and the decision before Hub City voters on Tuesday, June 6 is a simple one. Who is best to continue leading Compton forward in the 21st century?
Over the past four years, Compton has seen a renaissance and renewed interest in the care of the city and its residents from those in city hall. The city’s deficit was reduced from $43 million to $36 million. Balanced budgets have been passed. 2015 saw Compton’s lowest number of homicides in over 20 years. Compton no longer has hourly motel rentals in an effort to suppress human trafficking and prostitution. More options for healthy eating have made their way into Compton and jobs for residents are now mandatory for new businesses opening up in the city. Voters approved Measure P to aid in the fight against Compton’s notorious potholes and aging street infrastructure and even though personality politics have tried to block the voter’s will in fixing the streets, for the first time in a long time there is a plan and the money to back it to up to get the work done.
It’s for all of these reasons and more that we see no need in a change in leadership in Compton’s top office. Mayor Aja Brown has made good on her promises from four years ago and despite being fought every step of the way with baseless, unfounded and blatantly untrue accusations, has persevered and stayed the course to the betterment of Compton.
Mayor Brown’s opponent is simply unfit for the job and brings with him too much baggage and uncertainty. Charged with public corruption and with a trial expected to start later this month, former mayor Omar Bradley told a judge that he was running for mayor to make a living and take care of his family.
The salary for mayor in the city of Compton is $600 a month and has been since 2015 when the city council elected to end the decades old tradition of getting paid for attending commission meetings. Add to that Bradley’s recent controversial comments about women being unable to lead—that they just get in the way—and the real possibility of seeing a repeat of the Hub City Solid Waste scandal that cost the city over $22 million dollars and saw Bradley and several of his relatives receiving kickbacks, putting Omar Bradley back into office is a risk that Compton voters can’t afford in 2017.
The rumor mill is strong is Compton. There is no jail being built in Compton at the Old Brickyard site--UPS and a Best Buy distribution center are the anchor tenants. Mayor Brown hasn’t stolen anyone’s home--in fact after complaints from neighbors, the City of Compton stepped in and helped an elderly resident who was unable to care for his property get much needed assistance. Yes, Mayor Brown does live in Compton and is about to celebrate ten years in her residence. No she isn’t paid $60,000 a year. She makes $600 a month--which in our opinion is truly public service for the work that she has done.
Instead of feeding into and believing the rumor mill, Compton residents should attend or at least watch the weekly council meetings to see how their city is being governed by their five-member city council.
There is more to local elected office than just holding events for photo taking opportunities. The position is what you make of it. In the past four years, only one person on Compton’s city council has consistently brought forth new programs, policies, partnerships and funding to improve the quality of life for Compton residents and that’s Mayor Aja Brown. Mayor Brown’s colleagues should spend less time playing personality politics and standing in the way of progress for their residents and more time on developing policies and programs that benefit their individual districts. What they were elected to do.
We believe Mayor Brown is a cutting edge twenty-first century leader and the city of Compton needs a fresh infusion of visionary leadership. We encourage Compton voters to re-elect Mayor Aja Brown on Tuesday, June 6 and vote to finish the work.
May 25, 2017
By Raynard Jackson
NNPA Newswire Columnist
Once again the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has proven why it is the Hillary Clinton of the Civil Rights Movement.
The NAACP used to be a storied organization, that was a major player in the historic fight for full equality for Blacks in America; that was before they got bought out by the Democratic Party in the early 1970s; before they bowed downed to the alter of the homosexual community; and before they sold themselves to the likes of radical liberal, George Soros and his open borders crowd who believe that everyone has a right to be in the U.S., legally or illegally.
The equality that the NAACP once sought was not predicated on some “special” rights or entitlements that some groups wanted the courts to create out of thin air (gay rights). The NAACP and Blacks wanted the rights that the U.S. Constitution already said we were entitled to. In other words, the NAACP simply wanted the government to enforce the laws on the books, not create new ones.
Like Clinton, the NAACP can never seem to bring itself to accept responsibility for any of their own actions; and the plight of the Black community can always be blamed on others.
This Clintonian tick led them last Friday to fire their latest president and CEO, Cornell William Brooks.
Brooks should have never been hired for this post; the national board selected him three years ago, because they wanted someone that was easy to control.
Brooks was a horrible speaker and wasn’t as charismatic as some of their past leaders, but he was easily controlled.
Since the 1970s, the NAACP has only had two heads, who made any difference in America and the organization; those two people were Benjamin Hooks and Bruce Gordon.
Hooks was an icon of the Civil Rights Movement and a staunch Republican. Richard Nixon appointed him to serve on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the early seventies. He was the first Black to ever serve on this commission and is singularly responsible for the diversity in media ownership that we see today. Without Hooks, networks like BET and TV One never would have existed.
But somehow, the NAACP rarely mentions Hooks’ Republican ties in any of the group’s written literature, but I digress.
Maybe Hook’s speech at the NAACP’s 1990 convention is why they sanitized his Republican linage.
During the speech, Hooks said that, “It’s time today... to bring it out of the closet: No longer can we proffer polite, explicable, reasons why Black America cannot do more for itself…I’m calling for a moratorium on excuses. I challenge black America today—all of us—to set aside our alibis."
Bruce Gordon came from a family with deeps roots in the Civil Rights Movement, but he chose to make his mark on America by working his way up the ladder in corporate America. He became a high-ranking executive with telecom giant Verizon.
So, his appointment to lead the NAACP in 2005 shocked everyone, because they typically hired preachers or politicians. President George W. Bush had rightfully ignored the group and refused to attend their national convention until Gordon came on board. Gordon’s business background helped him to navigate the political battlefield and he was able to build a personal relationship with President Bush, to the dismay of his group’s board.
This friction led to his abrupt resignation in 2007. Gordon stated: “I did not step into the role to be a caretaker, to be dictated to…I stepped into the role to understand as best I could the needs of the African American community and then to propose strategies and policies and programs and practices that could improve conditions for African Americans…The things I had in mind were not consistent with what some—unfortunately, too many—on the board had in mind.”
The national board of the NAACP demands undying fealty and they love to micromanage their presidents; any attemps to cut their puppet strings and you become useless to them. God forbid a president makes a decision on his own or attempts to make the group more relevant to the 21st century.
I know many of their leaders from across the country and the tragedy is that most of them don’t even believe in the issues the national board has made a priority. Publically, many state NAACP leaders say one thing and privately they believe another.
How can the NAACP claim to represent the Black community when they are out of sync with what the Black community believes and wants?
Black community is very conservative. Blacks don’t support amnesty for illegals. Blacks are the largest voting block that supports school choice and vouchers! This, despite the NAACP passing a resolution last year at their national convention opposing school choice. And they wonder why they are no longer relevant to the Black community?
I dare the NAACP national board to choose someone like Condoleezza Rice, Shannon Reeves, or Jennifer Carroll as their next leader; if they are truly interested in regaining relevancy, that’s exactly what they’ll do.
Unfortunately, the NAACP national board is totally incapable of thinking outside the box or giving up control. The NAACP has become the retirement village for the Black bourgeoisie.
May 25, 2017
By Congresswoman Alma Adams
Summer internships are one important way that students can explore passions they want to pursue as a profession. They are exposed to a form of learning that goes beyond the books and may be the best chance they have to ensure they are making a wise investment. I am a strong believer in the notion that, in order to have your issues heard, you need to have a seat at the table; which is why I applaud HBCU students who are interested in pursuing government and policy and have worked with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to ensure they have summer internships opportunities on Capitol Hill.
Representative Bryne (R-Ala.) and I founded the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus in April of 2015; we knew there needed to be a platform to promote and protect the needs and interests of HBCUs around the country. After two years, the caucus now consists of nearly sixty members in both the House and the Senate, who recognize the importance of HBCUs and applaud their history of producing successful graduates. The more than 100 HBCUs nationwide only account for three percent of all institutions of higher learning in the U.S. yet they produce 20 percent of African American graduates with a bachelor’s degree and 25 percent of African American STEM graduates. This issue is personal to me, because I would not be here today if it were not for an HBCU that was willing to take a chance on me. I am a strong advocate for our schools because I know, firsthand, the impact they have on a student’s life.
During the summer of 2016, Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) and I partnered together to create the Bipartisan HBCU Internship. Our vision was to create a program that brought bright and driven HBCU students to Capitol Hill to intern in both a Republican and Democratic office. During its first year, two HBCU students, one from North Carolina A&T University and one from Johnson C. Smith University, traveled to Capitol Hill for the internship program. Each student spent four weeks in my office and four weeks in Representative Walker’s office to get a feel for the differences and many commonalities we share. They attended congressional hearings and committee meetings, drafted memos and constituent correspondence, and met with Members of Congress and their senior staff to learn from their experiences. Often, Capitol Hill internships are unpaid and the prohibitive cost of living in Washington, D.C. without an income excludes many qualified applicants from the opportunity. To ensure students of all backgrounds and economic levels can participate, the Bipartisan HBCU Internship includes a stipend to cover expenses during the eight-week program.
Upon completion of the internship, students left D.C. with writing samples, work experience, incredible memories, and personal connections to aid them in their job search after college. But it’s not just students that benefited from this experience, Democrats and Republicans alike got to hear directly from HBCU students about their campus life, challenges they face, and their pride in their institutions. Their presence made our fight for HBCUs personal and reminded Members of Congress that our similarities far outweigh our differences.
W.E.B. Dubois said, “Of all the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for 500 years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental.” HBCUs are rooted in the tumultuous history of race in America but their contributions to modern society go far beyond their humble beginnings. HBCUs play an integral role in educating students of color and, with increased advocacy and a seat at the decision-making table, their reach will continue to grow.
Congressman Walker and I are proud to continue this internship for a second summer to increase the diversity of opinions and experiences on Capitol Hill and to build a pipeline of HBCU students to Washington, D.C.
Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12) is a two-time graduate of North Carolina A&T and a retired professor of Art Education from Bennett College. Adams founded the first-ever Bipartisan HBCU Caucus and is one of the leaders of the Bipartisan HBCU Internship. For more information about the internship, please visit Adams.house.gov.