Tag: James Bell

New report closely examines racial and ethnic incarceration disparities in each state

MASS INCARCERATION/RACISM
A new report examines the rates of incarceration for whites, African Americans, and Hispanics state-by-state, finds three contributing factors to the racial and ethnic disparities in those rates, and makes some recommendations for reform. (Sentencing Project, 6/14)

Truly meaningful reforms to the criminal justice system cannot be accomplished without acknowledgement of racial and ethnic disparities in the prison system, and focused attention on reduction of disparities. Since the majority of people in prison are sentenced at the state level rather than the federal level, it is critical to understand the variation in racial and ethnic composition across states, and the policies and the day-to-day practices that contribute to this variance. Incarceration creates a host of collateral consequences that include restricted employment prospects, housing instability, family disruption, stigma, and disenfranchisement.

Related: In the most recently released video of WRAG’s Putting Racism on the Table series, James Bell, J.D., founder and executive director of the W. Haywood Burns Institute, discussed mass incarceration and how structural racism, white privilege, and implicit bias collide within the criminal justice system.

OUR REGION, YOUR INVESTMENT | Our Region, Your Investment is gaining traction with local investors, with a recent $500,000 investment from the Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation. Says Joshua Bernstein, president of the foundation (Daily, 6/16):

The Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation is working to address the deficit in housing affordability in the D.C. area. An investment in the Enterprise Community Impact Note aligns our investment strategy with our mission and leverages our impact.  We are grateful for the opportunity that Our Region, Your Investment has created to invest funds in ways that promote additional investment in housing solutions.

COMMUNITY/LGBT/PHILANTHROPY | Following the recent tragedy in Orlando, a number of WRAG members have organized efforts to provide support to victims and their families or share valuable resources with those serving LGBT communities. Wells Fargo has announced a donation of $300,000 toward victims and community recovery through the OneOrlando fund, set up by the City of Orlando and administered by the Central Florida Foundation. The Council on Foundations has shared a resource guide created by Funders for LGBTQ Issues featuring Orlando’s local LGBTQ social profit organizations and fundraising efforts for the victims, and the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region has also shared resources for those who want to help.

EDUCATION/DISCRIMINATION/VIRGINIA | Students at Alexandria’s public schools are bringing to light what they describe as “excessive, discriminatory and reckless approach[es] to discipline” from the school system. Today, The Kojo Nnamdi Show explores those claims and the research that supports their argument. (WaPo, 6/3 and WAMU, 6/16)

Related: On Thursday, July 7, the third installment of WRAG’s Public Education Speaker Series (supported by The Omega Foundation and the Tiger Woods Foundation) tackles the topic of racial and gender disparities in school discipline, with Professor Anne Gregory of Rutgers University. WRAG members can click here to register.

ARTS/CULTURE African American Museum prepares for ‘a mini-inauguration’ (WaPo, 6/15)

PUBLIC HEALTHGun Violence ‘A Public Health Crisis,’ American Medical Association Says (NPR, 6/14)


Going back to school is tough at any age, but imagine going back to the 10th grade at age 68! This grandfather shows us it’s never too late.

– Ciara

Putting Racism on the Table: How I was affected

After each session in the Putting Racism on the Table series, I asked a participant (or sometimes two) to reflect on the session and its more personal meaning for them. This time, I wanted two folks – one white, one African American – to reflect on the overall series. While no one person can speak for the entire group, I thought it would be illustrative to know if both people felt like they benefited from attending. Did they both have “aha” moments, moments in which they had greater clarity, or did they gain a totally new perspective?  Will this have lasting benefit for the attendees? I appreciate Julie Wagner of CareFirst and Terri Copeland of PNC sharing their views below.

– Tamara Lucas Copeland


by Julie Wagner
Vice President, Community Affairs
CareFirst

Could there have been a better time for WRAG’s Putting Racism on the Table series? With tragic events across the country highlighting racial bias and injustice, and national political discourse rife with bigoted remarks – it’s clear that conversations about racism and how to address it must continue at every level.

I appreciate this opportunity to thank and congratulate Tamara Lucas Copeland and the dedicated foundation and corporate leaders who developed the series. As Tamara reminded the group at each session, “the first step of leadership is understanding.” The series ended this month with an inspiring presentation by Dr. Gail Christopher of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. Dr. Christopher’s presentation on the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation work she leads was the perfect ending for the series, and a natural pivot to take attendees from learning to action.

On a personal level, I feel fortunate to have been able to attend all six sessions. I have always considered myself a progressive woman, but the series made me reconsider whether the glasses through which I view some important issues are, in fact, a little more rose-colored than I thought. Many issues were elevated, including the racial bias and devastating affects behind mass incarceration: one out of three black men will face incarceration in their lifetime. Wow. While I wasn’t naive to bias and injustice in the criminal justice system, James Bell’s presentation gave me a much clearer view. The importance of feeling a sense of belonging to achieve success was also brought up. What makes someone successful? I thought I understood. I believed that if a student went to a good school, they would thrive with the right supports. But as Professor john a. powell noted in a University of Texas at Austin example, graduation rates were low when students felt that they were the “other” and did not belong, and they dramatically increased when the school addressed these issues. While I had “aha” moments, I recognize that these were “of course” moments to many series participants. For example, I didn’t appreciate how rarely children of color have teachers that look like them. During our discussions, fellow attendees noted high school and college as the first time they had a teacher of their same race. I was also struck by the blatant media images that reinforce the “white as the ideal” narrative discussed by Dr. Robin DiAngelo. A poignant example included a print ad for a line of handbags that both literally and figuratively placed minority women in the background.

The gatherings spurred conversations at work, and with my family and friends. I find myself scrutinizing advertising, television, news, and my initial interpretation of events and the interactions of others more closely and with a more informed interpretation. So, I think the view through my rose-colored glasses is in a little better focus. I am still optimistic, but that optimism is informed by a clearer view of the systemic barriers which our grantees face in their work to eliminate health disparities.


by Terri Copeland
Senior Vice President and Territory Executive
Community Development Banking, East
PNC Bank

WRAG’s six-part series, Putting Racism on the Table, has sought to shine a light on the key elements of racism – including the unconscious biases and structural nature of racism that can often be found deeply embedded in individuals, companies, the justice system, and governments at every level. The series has  made me focus more intensely on both the far-reaching intended and unintended consequences of racism. Putting Racism on the Table has also made me think more deeply about the role that I play.

The series has not only given me a new lens with which to view the world as it pertains to my work, it has also impacted me personally. A few weeks ago, I had an unexpected overwhelming experience as I sat in the Pittsburgh airport waiting for my flight to depart. I’d purchased the book, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, figuring I’d use the time to catch up on some reading. I was not prepared for the emotional response it produced, as I read the author’s account of how he dealt with his son’s pain when the verdict came back not guilty in the Michael Brown case. I cried uncontrollably at that young boy’s pain and, more importantly, his sudden disillusionment.

I think I was just reacting to all of the pent up emotion that has come to the surface with the multiple police incidents that have occurred across America, and also due to the laser focus that the Putting Racism on the Table series presented on topics that have been hidden and unexplored for so long. A friend recently described her own anxiety as she watched her 7-year-old nephew running, as most children at this age are prone to do. She began raising her nephew a year or so ago, and she experienced firsthand what most African American mothers and fathers all over the country live with on a daily basis – the fear that his actions could someday be misinterpreted  by law enforcement – an instance of running- while-black, perhaps. She talked about the pain of knowing she will soon have to explain to him why he must stop immediately if ever confronted by the police. He’s seven. Is this the America we want to live in?

Still, I can’t let go of the notion of a world in which all men and women are created equal. My soul cries out for a different America. While I know this vision will take time, I know there is a role for me to take on in bringing it to life. As a crusader. As an advocate. As one who will talk about the racism that affects our region and country, and take part in addressing it. I’m glad that so many of my counterparts in the region have also taken on this role. Putting racism on the table is only the beginning.


Although the learning series has ended, let’s keep the conversation going. Please tweet me @WRAGPrez if you have thoughts on how to broaden the learning and build on the momentum. Stay tuned for the release of the remaining videos in the series.

Region tops areas for entrepreneurship

ECONOMY/REGION
According to a new report, Washington, D.C. takes the top spot in the country for entrepreneurial cities. Maryland and Virginia ranked high at the state level (DC Inno, 6/3):

This is actually the second year in a row that the D.C. area has been top ranked in entrepreneurship, but the overall growth of entrepreneurship in the U.S. is notable, with only four cities earning a lower score than last year, and some cities dropping in rank despite higher scores only because others jumped ahead. And while D.C. was the center of entrepreneurship in terms of city rankings, Virginia and Maryland were numbers one and two respectively when it came to comparisons by state, no doubt aided by the gravitational pull of the D.C. metro area, along with some impressive numbers out of Baltimore.

CHILDREN/POVERTYThe Families That Can’t Afford Summer (NYT, 6/4)

SOCIAL JUSTICE/MASS INCARCERATION | Despite research showing that employment leads to lower rates of recidivism, many returning citizens are met with endless barriers to joining the workforce. (Atlantic, 5/31)

Related: Following the Putting Racism on the Table session on mass incarceration, Graham McLaughlin of the Advisory Board Company and returning citizen and business owner Anthony Pleasant discussed their personal insights into the justice system and the many challenges facing returning citizens. (Daily, 4/25)

PHILANTHROPY
– MacArthur to Give $100 Million to 1 Group to Solve 1 Big Problem (Chronicle, 6/2)

– Could the future of philanthropic giving lie within a mobile app? (Co.Exist, 6/3)

ENVIRONMENT/RACISM | For some African Americans, a long history of racial discrimination has prevented them from feeling as though they can fully embrace the U.S. park system. (City Lab, 6/2)

TRANSIT/REGION
– WAMU takes a look at how Metro’s SafeTrack plan will impact the District’s 8,500+ public school students throughout the summer and early fall. (WAMU, 6/6)

–  Metro’s SafeTrack Is Underway: Here Are Your Transportation Alternatives (WCP, 6/3)


Dear middle school pen pal from Turkey whose letter I never got around to responding to – I failed you miserably.

– Ciara

Watch Putting Racism on the Table | A Case Study: Mass Incarceration

PUTTING RACISM ON THE TABLE/WRAG
The fourth video in the Putting Racism on the Table series is now live! The video features James Bell, J.D., founder and executive director of the W. Haywood Burns Institute, discussing mass incarceration and how structural racism, white privilege, and implicit bias coalesce in the criminal justice system. After you’ve had a chance to view the video, we encourage you to share your thoughts via Twitter using the hashtag #PuttingRacismOnTheTable, or by commenting on WRAG’s Facebook page. We also suggest checking out the viewing guide and discussion guide to be used with the video. Both can be found on our website.

HOUSING/PHILANTHROPY | Noting the perceived roadblocks to affordable home ownership for low-income residents, WRAG president Tamara Lucas Copeland calls for philanthropy to seed an X Prize to spur innovation in the housing field. (Daily, 6/1)

HOMELESSNESS/DISTRICT | The D.C. Council has unanimously passed a revised version of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s homeless shelter plan. (WCP, 5/31)

HEALTH
– One paragraph that puts the white-black life expectancy gap in (horrifying) context (Vox, 5/31)

Related: Dr. David Williams, quoted in the above article, provided the keynote speech at WRAG’s 2015 Annual Meeting in a presentation titled, “The House that Racism Built.” You can view his presentation here.

– Preliminary numbers compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 2015 show a reversal in a years-long decline in American death rates. A rise in deaths from Alzheimer’s disease, drug use, firearms, hypertension and stroke, injuries, and suicides are among reasons for the uptick. (WaPo, 6/1)

EDUCATION/EQUITY Reports: Homeless, foster kids face enormous hurdles in trying to get to college (WaPo, 6/1)


Could you have taken home the top prize in the recent National Geographic Bee’s final round? 

-Ciara

When mass incarceration hits home

by Graham McLaughlin, Managing Director, The Advisory Board Company (a WRAG member), and Anthony Pleasant, Owner, Pleasant Assembly

Putting Racism on the Table is a six-part learning series for WRAG member philanthropic CEOs and their trustees to explore key elements of racism together. Last week, participants looked at a case study on mass incarceration with speaker James Bell, J.D., founder and executive director of The W. Haywood Burns Institute. Today, Graham McLaughlin, a managing director for The Advisory Board Company and supporter of Clean Decisions (a local business helping returning citizens transition from prison to outside life), and business owner and former Clean Decisions employee Anthony Pleasant, candidly share their respective experiences with navigating the justice system and discuss the challenges still facing returning citizens once they have served their time.


L to R: Anthony, Graham, and CEO/owner of Clean Decisions Will Avila.

Graham
I used to think socioeconomic class drove many bias issues and race was just a correlated factor. Then, I began living and spending the majority of my time with formerly incarcerated black and Hispanic men. In our first month together, I had more direct encounters with police and was treated with more suspicion (by everyone) than I had experienced in my entire life.

It is a world of continual negative feedback. It is a world, in words and actions, that calls you a monster every day. Some of the guys have tattoos, dreadlocks, and could be considered physically imposing. Others are clean cut and dress conservatively. They all face the same daily negative feedback.

Why does this happen? Why do three in four of our city’s black men serve time in prison – a larger percentage than in South Africa during apartheid? One explanation is that the power structure at all levels has extraordinary powers of discretion, and black (and Hispanic if they don’t just keep their head down) men are feared due to biases drilled into us from birth.

Studies show, police target minorities in warrantless searches, preschool teachers suspend black children at three times the rate of whites, prosecutors try black children as adults at a rate 18 times greater than that of white children, judges sentence blacks to 10 percent longer sentences than whites for the exact same crime, and put black children in prison six times as often for the exact same crime. Thurgood Marshall summed up why we have a perpetuating cycle of discrimination when he noted “the basis of the decision to single out [racial minorities for searches] is less likely to be inarticulable than unspeakable.”

And it doesn’t stop once you’ve served your time. When released, you are discriminated against in various areas, from employment, to housing, to civil rights, and live with the shame and stigma of being known for some of the worst things you’ve ever done (or potentially branded for something you didn’t even do). It’s hard to come back from all of this, and not be angry or give up and give in to substances that numb the cold, unfair realities of our society. Some are able to overcome these challenges but, as you will read below, even then the impediments of discrimination are never ending.

Anthony
I went to prison as a teenager. When most young people are learning what it means to be an adult, I was learning to survive in prison. Coming out of prison, I was therefore completely unprepared for the world, and if not for Will Avila and Clean Decisions, I would be back in prison, a drug addict, or dead on the streets. Instead, I lived with Graham and Will, a support system almost no returning citizen gets.

Graham mentioned his surprise at police interference. My surprise was at the interactions between Graham and the police. Graham could talk back and reason with police officers –  stuff I’d literally be locked up for – and they always believed him!

I know many of you know Graham as a good choir boy now, but he and I were both wild in our younger days. He always smooth talked the police, partly because of his silver tongue, but mostly because of his white face. He has no record. I went to jail for a murder I didn’t commit.

The justice system took ten years of my life. At the time, I was doing many other negative things in my life that deserved punishment, so ultimately, I accepted my sentence. But last weekend, the “justice” system took even more from me, and this time I was doing all positive things.

Two weeks ago, after spending a year learning the trade, I finally launched my own furniture assembly business. Last weekend, I was scheduled for one of my first jobs, living out what should have been one of the happiest, proudest days of my life. Instead, I ended the day penniless, hopeless, and in a jail cell after police pulled up behind my parked car saying they had received a call about a car on fire. Mine was not. They told me to get on the ground, ran my registration (that had an issue I was unaware of), found a “weapon” (the knife in my toolbox), and took me away in handcuffs after leaving my three power drills and toolbox sitting on the side of the road and sending my car to the impound, robbing me of my life savings and the equipment I need to make a living.

My public defender – usually overworked and, therefore, advising to plea out regardless of the case – actually fought for me, and I’m confident I’ll beat the weapon and forged registration charges. However, I don’t go back to court until May 12, can’t get my car out until then, no longer have the tools I need to make a living, and after investing everything in starting the business, not only do I not have any money to my name, but I also owe a donor from Changing Perceptions (the non-profit Will started to support guys coming home) a $1,000 loan repayment, and have no way to earn the money to pay him back.

I was making positive decisions and building a company in the model of Clean Decisions that would hire and help other returning citizens. Now, I have nothing, and if I was like most returning citizens with a limited network, rather than being blessed to have the support and resources of Will, Graham, and Changing Perceptions, I’d go back to drugs and just give up. I will make it. Most wouldn’t.

This is what justice looks like in America.


James Bell, speaking on mass incarceration at WRAG’s most recent Putting Racism on the Table session, advocated for listening sessions with the community to better understand one another. If you’re interested in following that advice, every weekend about 10-12 Clean Decisions/Changing Perceptions members (all formerly incarcerated black and Hispanic males) get together for a “Pancake Saturday” breakfast and discussion. Feel free to email them to participate and hear perspectives and suggestions for leveraging your power and resources to improve our area’s justice system.

Exploring the five types of poverty

POVERTY/RACE
For years, researchers have attempted to better understand poverty by looking at the series of circumstances that allow it to persist, rather than attributing it to one defining factor. A new report hones in on five proposed types of poverty, and examines how these categories disproportionately affect Americans based on race. (City Lab, 4/16)

The paper, builds on research from the British economist William Beveridge, who in 1942 proposed five types of poverty: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, and disease. In modern terms, these could be defined as poverty related to housing, education, income, employment, and healthcare, respectively. Analyzing the 2014 American Community Survey, the paper’s co-authors, Richard Reeves, Edward Rodrigue, and Elizabeth Kneebone, found that half of Americans experience at least one of these types of poverty, and around 25 percent suffer from at least two.

But the likelihood of living a life that includes more than one of these types of poverty is significantly higher for minorities.

– How American oligarchs created the concept of race to divide and conquer the poor (WaPo, 4/19)

– The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans (Atlantic, 4/18)

WRAG/PHILANTHROPY | Jessica Finkel, Philanthropy Fellow at Kaiser Permanente, shares how her experience working with the organization’s Community Benefit department has helped her uncover a passion for policy and public health. (Daily, 3/20)

Related for WRAG Members: We are currently accepting applications from WRAG members interested in hosting Philanthropy Fellows this fall. For more information about this program and how to apply, click here.

COMMUNITY/RACIAL EQUITY 
– Today is 4/20, also known as ‘National Weed Day’. While enthusiasts in a growing number of states may now be able to legally celebrate or profit from this day, Consumer Health Foundation president and WRAG board member Yanique Redwood uses this opportunity to discuss how marijuana-related incarcerations have devastated communities of color for years. She also cites points from WRAG’s recent Putting Racism on the Table session on mass incarceration, featuring speaker James Bell, J.D. of the W. Haywood Burns Institute. (CHF, 4/20)

PHILANTHROPY | The concept of “power” can often be a difficult one to navigate, as those who have it don’t always use it for good – or even at all. Exponent Philanthropy‘s Andy Carroll explains what bold power in action looks like in the world of philanthropy. (PhilanthroFiles, 4/19)

HEALTH
– The World Health Organization is expanding their focus on mental health, with hopes that more countries will also begin to view mental illness as a high priority global threat. (NPR, 4/13)

– Some states are passing religious freedom bills that provide protection to people of faith unwilling to provide goods or services to LGBT individuals, and these laws can also have severe consequences on how (and if) people seek care from physicians and therapists. (Atlantic, 4/19)

WORKFORCE | Lack of Training for Young Nonprofit Workers Means Too Few Potential Leaders (Chronicle, 4/19) Subscription required

EDUCATION
– See how high schools in the region stacked up on the 2016 U.S. News and World Report rankings of the country’s best high schools.

– Why America’s Schools Have A Money Problem (NPR, 4/18)


Views on dating have changed quite a bit since 1939.

– Ciara