President Obama Pens 55-Page Article on Criminal Justice Reform in Harvard Law Review

(photo via theroot.com)

article via theroot.com

President Barack Obama returned to his Harvard Law Review roots (he was the first black president of hundred-plus year old journal in his last year at the school) as he penned a 55-page-article on criminal justice reform, how his administration has moved the needle, and how far we have to go.

Entitled “The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform,” the piece appeared in the January 2017 edition of the illustrious book, and according to Harvard magazine, “largely restates the bipartisan case for criminal-justice reform, with an emphasis on mass incarceration’s financial cost.”

Obama did touch on the racial bias in our criminal justice policymaking in the article, writing:

A large body of research finds that, for similar offenses, members of the African American and Hispanic communities are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, convicted, and sentenced to harsher penalties. Rates of parental incarceration are two to seven times higher for African American and Hispanic children. Over the past thirty years, the share of African American adults with a past felony conviction—and who have paid their debt to society—has more than tripled, and one in four African American men outside the correctional system now has a felony record. This number is in addition to the one in twenty African American men under correctional supervision…The system of mass incarceration has endured for as long as it has in part because of the school-to-prison pipeline and political opposition to reform that insisted on ‘a stern dose of discipline—more policy, more prisons, more personal responsibility, and an end to welfare.’ Today, however, much of that opposition has receded, replaced by broad agreement that policies put in place in that era are not a good match for the challenges of today.

To read full article, go to: President Obama Pens 55-Page Article on Criminal Justice

RespectAbility Creates Harriet Tubman Fellowships with Ford Foundation Grant to Train Future Disability Advocates

Printarticle by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Washington, D.C. – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, recently announced that the Ford Foundation awarded the charity a grant, which has enabled RespectAbility to create and offer Harriett Tubman Fellowships to select participants in the National Leadership Program.

Tubman acquired traumatic brain injury when a slave owner hit her with a heavy metal weight leading to epileptic seizures and hypersomnia. Her work, while living as an individual with a disability, to free enslaved people and then for women’s suffrage is one of the great stories of how people with disabilities can help make a nation stronger and better.

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, published a groundbreaking op-ed in The New York Times called “Internships are Not a Privilege,” which discussed how the practice of requiring people to do unpaid internships before they get good policy jobs harms diversity efforts and discriminates against people who cannot afford to do them.

“We are thrilled to have this new transformative support,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility. “Thanks to the Ford Foundation, we will be able to strengthen and diversify our National Leadership Program for young leaders with and without disabilities who are going into public policy, advocacy, journalism, public relations and other leadership roles. Previously, many people who wanted to participate in the program could not do so because while it offered free lunch and a transportation stipend, it was an unpaid program. Now we will be able to pay $15 an hour to many of the fellows who otherwise could not afford to do such a leadership program.”

RespectAbility’s first Harriet Tubman Fellows are:

headshot of Eddie Ellis, an African American manEddie B. Ellis Jr.
 is a reentry advocate/consultant, trainer, mentor and motivational speaker. As a returning citizen with multiple disabilities and a person of color, Ellis’ experience provides invaluable insight and depth into his work that allows him to connect with and engage the community in which he serves. He recently  published in The Washington Post: “I am one of the success stories from D.C.’s second-chance law for young offenders.”

Ellis is the founder and CEO of OneBy1, an organization that works with communities and partners to provide youth development workshops and mentoring services to keep youth out of the corrections system and help those exiting the system stay out. Ellis also has written and published several resource guides offering service referrals, practical tips and inspiration to former offenders and parolees returning to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. He works hard to ensure that individuals reentering society are well informed and sufficiently equipped to make better choices for themselves and that they are truly given a second chance.

headshot of Ming Canaday, a Chinese womanMing Canaday recently completed coursework for a master’s degree in the History of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. This week she published a first-person piece in Foreign Policy: “I Was Rescued from a Chinese Orphanage. My Friend Wasn’t.” During her time in Europe, Canaday traveled extensively on the continent and to the University of Cape Town in South Africa to complete her dissertation research on contemporary attitudes towards rising Chinese migration to that region.

From 2009 to 2013, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon, where she triple-majored in International Studies, Chinese, and Asian Studies. During her undergraduate career, Canaday spent time in China interning at Justice for All, a disability advocacy organization that serves individuals with disabilities as well as individuals with HIV/AIDs and Hepatitis B. After graduation, Canaday, who is a wheelchair user, pursued a certificate at the City University of New York in Disability Studies to better advocate for individuals with disabilities. She also completed a summer internship at Human Rights Watch, assisting with research on issues related to China’s policies toward people with physical or mental impairments. Continue reading

New UNCF Grant Program Funded by Lilly Endowment Helps Black College Graduates Prepare for Careers

article via jbhe.com

The United Negro College Fund’s Career Pathways Initiative has announced that 24 historically Black or predominantly Black colleges and universities will receive five-year grants totaling $35.3 million to better prepare their students for careers after college. The grants are made possible through funds from the Lilly Endowment.

UNCF CEO Dr. Michael Lomax (photo via AABE)

UNCF CEO Michael L. Lomax (photo via AABE)

The 24 colleges and universities will receive funds for programs to strengthen career advising and mentoring, enhance curriculum focused on career readiness, and to support integrated co-curricular engagement activities. The HBCUs will used the funds to develop a range of academic programs, student internships, industry partnerships, specialty certification programs, and faculty development initiatives.

Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of the UNCF, said that “these colleges and universities show promise in significantly addressing the urgent challenges facing African American college students and graduates. The Career Pathways Initiative will help ensure our graduates are prepared for and are hired into high-paying 21st-century jobs.”

A list of the colleges and universities receiving grants is available here.

To read full article, go to: Major New Grant Program Will Help Prepare Black College Graduates for Careers : The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

LAPD Deputy Chief Bill Scott to Take Over as Chief of Scandal-Plagued San Francisco Police Department

Community members listen to LAPD Deputy Chief Bill Scott, right, at a town hall meeting to discuss an increase in violent crime in the Southwest L.A. community in March. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

article by Richard Winton via latimes.com

LAPD Deputy Chief William “Bill” Scott, the department’s highest-ranking African American officer, has been appointed chief of the San Francisco Police Department following recent scandals involving racist texting among Bay Area officers.

Scott, who oversees LAPD’s South Bureau, was selected by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to lead the embattled department. “It’s an honor and I am humbled,” Scott said in a brief message. “I have a lot of people to give thanks to.”Scott’s was one of three names sent by the police commission to Lee. Scott will replace acting Police Chief Toney Chaplin, a 26-year department veteran who previously led the department’s homicide division.

Scott’s hiring comes after a six-month study by the U.S. Justice Department found that the San Francisco Police Department disproportionately used force on people of color, and stopped and searched them more often than it did white people.  Former Police Chief Greg Suhr stepped down in May at the request of the mayor following a series of scandals that rocked the department.

New SFPD Chief William "Bill" Scott (photo via nbclosangeles.com)

New SFPD Chief William “Bill” Scott (photo via nbclosangeles.com)

Scott joined the LAPD in 1989, working his way up the ranks. He was a young officer in the San Fernando Valley on the day the 1992 riots broke out and was immediately sent to South L.A., where he previously worked.

Scott, a U.S. Army brat, grew up in several cities before his family settled in Birmingham, Ala. Scott attended the University of Alabama.

Scott is known as an advocate of community policing and has said policing has changed dramatically for the better since his days as a rookie.  Officers, he said, need to think of themselves as guardians watching over communities — not warriors cracking down on them.

“That means if we’ve got to take somebody to jail, we’ll take them to jail,” Scott said last year. “But when we need to be empathetic and we need to be human, we’ve got to do that too.”

To read full article, go to: L.A.’s highest ranking African American officer to head scandal-plagued SFPD – LA Times

NAACP Youth Division Hosting People’s Inauguration Rally at Howard University with Chance the Rapper Jan. 21

Chance The Rapper and NAACP Youth & College Division members (photo via NAACP / Twitter)

Chance The Rapper and NAACP Youth & College Division members (photo via NAACP / Twitter)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Youth & College division of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is hosting a gathering of youth activists next month to organize and plan responses to new civil rights threats expected under the new administration and Congress in 2017.

Leaders of the youth wing of the NAACP, along with partners in Justice League New York and the Empowerment Movement will work together at the “People’s Inauguration” rally at Howard University in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, January 21 at 9 a.m. Grammy-nominated artist Chance the Rapper is scheduled to appear as a guest speaker.

The rally will re-unite allies and partners who helped register thousands of new and young voters during the 2016 election with the goal to launch a new era of activism and protest against potential threats from the presidency of Donald J. Trump. During the meeting, attendees will begin collaborating to unite together and stand for a progressive policy agenda in the coming months and years.

“We are faced with a moral and ethical crisis during this critical time in our nation’s history after the election of Donald J. Trump,’ said Stephen Green, director of the NAACP Youth & College Division. “This moment calls for young leaders to gather together and develop a strategy to protect the human and civil rights of all Americans through nonviolent resistance.”

#StayWokeAndFight is the name of the new initiative, and it is intended to provide direct actions, protests and other activism to oppose threats to civil rights, education investment, criminal justice reform and other areas of concern posed by the Trump administration that takes office on January 20.

Organizers also plan to host a “People’s Inaugural Ball” on Inauguration night. Registration is  open online for individuals and groups to join and attend at www.staywokeandfight.com.

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Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas here.

17-Year-Old Oakland Honor Student Elexis Webster Overcomes Homelessness, Earns 4.1 GPA

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17 Year-Old SRA Student Elexis Webster (photo via cbsnews.com)

article by Charise Frazier via newsone.com

In a human interest story spotlighting Students Rising Above, an organization invested in improving the lives of low-income youth through education, CBS Oakland interviewed Elexis Webster, one of SRA’s brightest stars.

Elexis says she struggled with devastating circumstances as a young child. “I grew up on the streets with an abusive drug addict for a mother, along with an older brother who molested me countless times, plus constant sickness. My life wasn’t a life, it was a war zone,” she wrote in her application to SRA.

Her family lived on the Oakland streets, including stints in hotels and a dug out car, while they searched for shelter. Due to the stressful environment, Elexis said she developed a low immune system and fell ill, severely impacting her school attendance. She missed three years of school due to the circumstances.

One afternoon at the age of 14, police found Elexis and her sister sitting inside a car unattended. Her mother was arrested. The two sisters were placed in foster care under the tutelage of a woman Elexis affectionately calls “Mema.”

She says under the care of Mema, her life made a dramatic turn for the better. With Mema, Elexis feels safe and empowered.

Elexis is now a junior in high school with a 4.1 GPA and has her sights set on collegiate success thanks to mentoring and support from SRA.

Source: This 17-Year-Old Oakland Honor Student Overcame Homelessness & Abuse | News One

LeBron James Donates $2.5 Million for Muhammad Ali Exhibit at National Museum of African American History & Culture

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James (DAVID LIAM KYLE VIA GETTY IMAGES)

 article via huffingtonpost.com

LeBron James is donating $2.5 million to support a Muhammad Ali exhibit at the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., the basketball star and the museum announced on Thursday.

The Cleveland Cavaliers forward said he was a longtime fan of Ali, one of the most beloved sports figures in history, who died on June 3 after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s syndrome.  “Every professional athlete, regardless of race and gender, owes a huge debt of gratitude to Muhammad Ali,” James said in a statement. “His legacy deserves to be studied and revered by every generation.”

The “Muhammad Ali: A Force for Change” exhibit features items from the late boxer, including a training robe worn at Dundee’s Fifth Street Gym in Miami. While the exhibit details Ali’s sports journey, it also highlights his community activism, spirituality and politics.

“We are extremely grateful to LeBron James,” said Damion Thomas, curator of the museum’s Sports Gallery. “As the most socially active superstar in sports today, LeBron James is a testament to the influence of Muhammad Ali (who) embodied the racial and social tumult of his times, blurring lines between politics and sports, activism and entertainment.”

James’ business partner, Maverick Carter, is also contributing to the exhibit, which has been on display since the museum opened on Sept. 24.

The funds will also support the museum itself, which is located on the National Mall.

To read more, go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lebron-james-donates-25-million-muhammad-ali-exhibit_us_582dd99ae4b058ce7aa98273?