HOUSING | Years of neglect in the District has led to a crisis in public housing and the DC Housing Authority has asked local government to step in and help the agency pay for repairs. In testimony before the DC Council last week, Housing Authority director Tyrone Garrett said thousands of families in the District could be moved out of public housing to allow for urgent repairs to be made. (WAMU, 4/12)
The agency said 2,610 of its “extremely urgent” units need attention before the end of this year and an additional 4,445 units of its approximately 8,000-unit portfolio are in “critical condition,” – which means the vast majority of DC’s public housing is in serious disrepair. Garrett said the Housing Authority would need $2.2 billion over the next 17 years to get all of DC’s public housing back in good shape — and $343 million is required in the next fiscal year just to address lead and environmental hazards in the city’s most unsafe units.
– In honor of 15 years, PNC Financial Services Group has made an additional $150 million pledge to PNC Grow Up Great, its program to expand access to high-quality early learning for young children in 40 communities.
ARTS/CULTURE | In the New Haven, CT, neighborhood of Dixwell, a once-thriving historic African-American neighborhood, Titus Kaphar – last year’s WRAG Annual Meeting keynote speaker – found a home for himself, and he’s creating a center there to nurture emerging artists. (NYT, 4/12)
– A new documentary, Segregated By Design, examines the forgotten history of how our federal, state and local governments unconstitutionally segregated every major metropolitan area in America through law and policy. The film is based on The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein (another past WRAG annual meeting speaker).
WRAG | Following a highly competitive national search and vetting process, the board of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers is proud to announce the selection of Dr. Madye Henson as President and CEO. She will take the helm on April 15.
Madye steps into this role with over 20 years of cross-sector leadership and a distinguished reputation for building strong relationships. She is known as a visionary and strategic thinker with capacity-building and organizational management skills that have enhanced the teams she’s led within the business, education, and nonprofit sectors. Throughout her career, she has tackled effectively the significant and complex challenges facing the organizations she led with a blend of strategic, operational and cultural expertise admired by staff and stakeholders alike. Modeling leadership resiliency and courage, Madye has engaged in implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and developed lasting partnerships as cornerstones for mission success.
RACIAL JUSTICE | Today the US Supreme Court will hear arguments in Virginia’s racial gerrymandering redistricting case, which could determine the balance of power in the state’s legislature for years. (WaPo, 3/17)
A panel of lower-court judges ruled last year that 11 Virginia House of Delegates districts were racially gerrymandered and ordered a new map to correct them. House Republicans appealed that finding and will argue against the new map before the high court. All 140 seats in the legislature are on the ballot this fall. The party that controls the General Assembly in 2021 will oversee the next statewide redistricting effort, following next year’s census — potentially cementing an advantage in future elections.
– Virginia is confronting its dark past and seeking to document as many lynching cases as possible, including three in Loudoun County that are expected to be memorialized by a historical marker in the future. (Loudoun County Times, 3/16)
– DC Central Kitchen, which serves 10,000 meals per day to homeless shelters, is facing financial turbulence after losing a major portion of a long-standing contract. (CP, 3/14)
– The District’s new Downtown Services Center in the basement of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church is a new space that provides many services for people experiencing homelessness, from access to healthcare to a barber shop. (WTOP, 3/14)
By Tamara Lucas Copeland President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
Last Friday, I passed by Columbus Circle in front of Union Station as journalists prepared to film their Columbus Day news segments. I was reminded of the role that statues play in setting the stage for conversations.
That has definitely been the case with statues of Confederate soldiers. Some suggest these statues represent pride for those whose ancestors were a part of the Old South. Others note that that their ancestors were also a part of that same Old South, but pride is not their emotion when viewing these statues. Anger and sorrow are. So, what should happen?
Here’s what one group of young men thought when they visited Monument Avenue, home to a number of statues to Confederate soldiers in Richmond, VA,
“Today me and my peers decided to visit the monuments to see what all the fuss was about and we came up with this.Is it more convenient to take down some statues than to improve the real problem of society? … From living in low income areas we have our own ideas about society. Everybody pointing blame at monument avenue and statues that reside there, but those statues never did anything to me or people that i care about. The only thing that ever harmed people in low income areas is the violence that reside there …In low income areas 5 kids each [the five who visited the monuments today] from a different area [different apartments] collectively knows twenty-two dead [over the past year], where the protest about that, where are the reporters, where are all the organizations that claim to be to alive to better the lives of blacks. … Instead of using money to knock down statues that most people in low income areas never even seen how about using that moving to improve schools,fix up the community that we see everyday, or why not protest in our neighborhoods where we see violence and hate the most. We all was taught about pride and loyalty, but why nobody ever taught us not to die over the neighborhood that our mother renting…Everybody wants to help but nobody is really helping are they?”
– Excerpted from a Facebook post written by Daquan (age 17), on behalf of the following RCC Youth: Cahlee (16), DaMonte (16), Tawante (17), William (16).
As someone who grew up in Richmond with these statues, I get it. They are a bit like landmark wallpaper. But, isn’t that what normalizing is all about? We may think we don’t notice, but subconsciously, we do. And, now, a variety of events have caused those statues to rise in our consciousness. They are no longer benign wallpaper. We have been forced to think about what they mean, what they represent.
Seventeen-year old Daquan faces challenges much bigger than taking down a statue of a Confederate soldier, particularly a statue that is not a part of his day-to-day environment. He wants resources invested in making his community better. I understand his perspective, but it doesn’t have to be either or.
The reporters came to stand in front of Columbus Circle because the statue created the right backdrop for their story. What backdrop do these larger-than-life statues on stately Monument Avenue create for those driving by every day? Even subliminally, vital messages about power, justice, and history are conveyed by those statues. As individuals committed to improving the lives of people in our region, we have to think both about the direct day-to-day needs of Daquan and his neighbors, but also about the long-term implications of subliminal messages that perpetuate the false narrative of racial hierarchy. Advancing racial justice requires us to work on both fronts.
The Department of Homeland Security said it would no longer accept new applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has provided renewable, two-year work permits to nearly 800,000 dreamers. The agency said those currently enrolled in DACA will be able to continue working until their permits expire; those whose permits expire by March 5, 2018, will be permitted to apply for two-year renewals as long as they do so by Oct. 5.
New applications and renewal requests already received by DHS before Tuesday will be reviewed and validated on a case-by-case basis, even those for permits that expire after March 5, officials said.
Policy-makers and advocates have spent decades trying to respond to the reality and consequences of racial residential segregation. Recently, there has been a growing effort to confront rising levels of economic segregation as well.
While substantial evidence exists on the harms of segregation for people with lower incomes or racial and ethnic minorities, its effect on regional outcomes has been less clear.
Urban’s report addresses these questions and concerns by analyzing the 100 most populous commuting zones (which are similar to metropolitan areas) between 1990 and 2010. We found that one pattern holds across all of our measurements: economic segregation impedes the economic progress of a region’s residents, but particularly its black residents.
RACIAL JUSTICE | Naomi Walker, assistant to the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, discusses how her organization, which has a longstanding commitment to civil rights, is deepening its understanding of the intersection between racial and economic justice. (Daily, 4/4)
The threshold beyond which experts believe energy ceases to be “affordable” is 6 percent of a household’s income. But for many lower-income households, even with declining energy prices, paying less than that benchmark is a fantasy. DeAndrea Newman Salvador, an economist and the founder of The Renewable Energy Transition Initiative, a nonprofit, studied the cost of home utilities in her native North Carolina and found that energy expenditures among low-earning households were staggeringly high.
Citing data from the Department of Health and Human Services, Salvador added that the disparity was particularly prevalent among “people who were below 50 percent of the poverty level.” She found that many in this group “were spending roughly 35 percent of their income toward home-energy bills.”
COMMUNITY | Former program officer at Exponent Philanthropy Hanh Le joins the Weissberg Foundation as their new executive director. Learn more about Hanh and the foundation’s participation in the Putting Racism on the Table series! (Weissberg, 6/7)
HOMELESSNESS/YOUTH | Funders Together to End Homelessness CEO Amanda Andere shares some key action items she went home with after attending the recent White House Policy Briefing on Youth Homelessness. (Funders Together, 6/9)
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.
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.
The four experiments provided converging evidence that brief presentations of Black male faces—whether of adults or children—primed the detection of threatening objects (i.e., guns) and increased accessibility of threat-related words. Furthermore, these racial biases were driven entirely by differences in automatic processing; indeed, we found no differences in estimates of controlled processing. The collective findings, therefore, support the hypothesis that youth sustains, rather than attenuates, race-based threat associations.
– Opinion: The 1980s crack epidemic that had a stronghold on the nation’s perception of drug users is often discussed in the media and handled by law enforcement in a different way than the heroin epidemic currently spreading across the country. One writer explores how racial differences have played into the media hysteria and public perception around the “faces” of certain drug addictions. (NYT, 2/9)
by Tamara Lucas Copeland President Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
It all started on my neighborhood listserv: A neighbor was seeking information about why police cars were at the corner. The dialogue wasn’t too emotional, at least initially, but the floodgates quickly opened.
“There was a gang of five kids at the corner.” – white neighbor
“I feel that the use of the term ‘gang’ is inflammatory.” – black neighbor
“When a group of white kids gather, it’s a ‘group,’ but when it’s a group of black kids, it’s more often referred to as a ‘gang.’” – black neighbor
“’Gang’ suggests violence, and violent terms are more often associated with African-Americans.” – black neighbor
Next, a dictionary definition of the word “gang” was provided by a white neighbor and unconscious bias was suggested by a black neighbor. This was followed by an emotion-laden exchange between two white neighbors about how they must not be able to understand discrimination because they are white. The exchange ended, explosively, when a white, Harvard educated, Gen X’er, wrote:
“… they don’t know what it’s like to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth and go to the best schools and sit on a throne with actual diamonds in it and have 8 million dollars in the bank like me! (oh wait that is me in a dream) never mind.”
That’s when I knew that WRAG was on the right path with our new Putting Racism on the Table series to be announced formally later this week at our Annual Meeting.
The above exchange occurred among one city block of neighbors – most of whom have lived beside each other for over ten years – who socialize in each other’s homes, go out together to neighborhood restaurants, and have always seemed friendly and respectful. Was this a safe space to discuss race? Yes, I would have thought so. But very quickly, what I would have characterized as black neighbors’ attempts to educate and be honest about feelings, spiraled into a perception by white neighbors of being called racist. The conversation became accusatory and destructive. That’s why many of us don’t have it. Black people often talk about racial matters to each other, but rarely does this conversation occur honestly and fully in a racially-mixed group.
WRAG and its Racial Equity Planning Committee wanted to take action in the wake of all of the recent racially-charged incidents. However, the group determined that it wasn’t ready to act, but rather, it needed tolearn.
And so, the series was developed. One topic a month: structural racism, white privilege, unconscious bias, a case study on mass incarceration, racism’s effect across the racial mosaic of America, and lastly, what philanthropy is doing about all of this.Learning.
Just like the neighborhood conversation initially felt like it was in a safe space, so too, does this planned conversation. These are philanthropic leaders who routinely gather, plan, and fund together. Nonetheless, the conversation may be a difficult one. Unlike the neighborhood conversation, however, several factors will be different. This conversation is planned. Participants will enter it knowingly. We will look deeply at several aspects of racism and, most importantly, the conversation will be managed by a skilled facilitator to help us understand and process each other’s feelings and experiences.Learning.
When we take the time to understand another’s experience, that’s when our knowledge is increased, our perspective is broadened, and our humanity is enriched.Learning.