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Dr. Andre Perry, author of the upcoming book, ‘Know Your Price,’ talks race, equity, education, economic inclusion

NEW TRI-STATE DEFENDER — Dr. Andre Perry of the Brookings Institute and the Hechinger Report delved into his research on race and structural inequality, education and economic inclusion during a visit to LeMoyne-Owen College last week.  Perry’s visit to Memphis’ only HBCU (historically black college and university) included an interview with Brian Clay of “The Brian Clay Chronicles” for an upcoming podcast of the Big Business of Poverty. The New Tri-State Defender’s media partnership with the developers of “The Brian Clay Chronicles” netted this Q&A.

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Dr. Andre Perry’s most recent scholarship involves an analysis of “majority black places and institutions in America, focusing on highlighting valuable assets worthy of increased investment.” (Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell)

By TSD Newsdesk

Dr. Andre Perry of the Brookings Institute and the Hechinger Report delved into his research on race and structural inequality, education and economic inclusion during a visit to LeMoyne-Owen College last week. 

Perry’s visit to Memphis’ only HBCU (historically black college and university) included an interview with Brian Clay of “The Brian Clay Chronicles” for an upcoming podcast of the Big Business of Poverty. The New Tri-State Defender’s media partnership with the developers of “The Brian Clay Chronicles” netted this Q&A.

In this conversation, Perry touched upon his most recent scholarship – an analysis of “majority black places and institutions in America, focusing on highlighting valuable assets worthy of increased investment.”

Brian Clay – In the book, “The Mis-Education of a City,” which is pretty much an anthology of when you served as the CEO of the Capital One school in New Orleans, … basically what you’ve said in there is when it comes to each case, and especially with your work in New Orleans, it was about changing thought there. Where a city after Katrina and the storms there had to re-engineer their thought process about education. Tell me a little bit about that.

Dr. Andre Perry – This actually is one of the reasons why I do my current work on economic development. I often say kids don’t live in the schools, they live in the communities, and we have got to recognize the breadth of the experiences that kids go through that manifests itself at school. …

And you’re not going to fix those things in a child, per se. And that’s what we attempt to do; we try to fix children through punishment, typically. We try to punish problems out of them. But the reality is that if you want to change children and behaviors that are not conducive for academic success, you have to change the root causes. And a lot of that is the structural inequality that persists in majority black places. …

I’m presenting…this evening, and you’ll hear me use the refrain, “There’s nothing wrong with black people that ending racism can’t solve.” It’s my belief, predicated on data, that if you move policy, behaviors will change. …

Likewise, many of the successes we see in many populations are not the result of bootstrapping and individual effort. But it is the result of the direct investment in the people who do policy. And that’s what I’m trying to do. When I worked in schools, we did everything to fix children; we did everything to fix parents. We did little to change the overall setting that they lived in. So my work now is about changing the setting that people live in.

B.C. – … Do you think 1954, Brown vs (Topeka) Board of Education (case that outlawed public school segregation)…do you think we were trying to fix people then? Or was it a policy effort?

Dr. A.P. – I think, in the main, what we wanted to do is get to the source of inequality, and that was segregation. Now, what we did do is assume that white schools are better, and that’s a mistake. What they were, they were better resourced. So the problem of moving kids out of their communities and into others led to a whole other level of divestment. … But busing was not the solution that they thought it would be; primarily because you’re not trusting the assets that you had.

B.C. – …We’re so glad that you’re here at LeMoyne-Owen College. … Do you think that’s one of the things that we do value in the African-American community, our HBCUs?

Dr. A. P. – Well, black folk appreciate and value, but society does not. …When you look at the overall number of grants, federal grants they’ve received, when you look at the attention they receive relative to the production, they’re not getting the level of investment. 

I did a study recently that looked at the number of STEM graduates and business graduates coming out of HBCUs. If employers really wanted to fill that sector, they could look to HBCUs in doing so. HBCU grads, particularly in the STEM field and the business field, are achieving at high levels. … particularly in the south, but they’re not being absorbed in the high growth sectors of the economy. 

We know that people will cut their noses to spite their faces in terms of racism, but I think it’s more, in this regard, a level of evaluation. They don’t see the value that HBCUs add to society. If you were standing in a room with successful, whatever that means, black people, and you asked them where they went to school, and you asked did they go to an HBCU, invariably, most (in) the room will raise their hand.

It’s because they were nurtured in a caring environment, one that believed in them, one that addressed relevant issues in a diverse environment. When you go to an HBCU, we’re actually dealing with a diversity of black folk. … These are great places and they need to be rewarded.

B.C. – … (Your upcoming book) “Know Your Price” is a fascinating study because you take housing as your premise and you go into a certain comparison in where you live. …Tell us a little bit about that.

Dr. A.P. – So in the study, I looked at homes in majority black places, meaning the communities where the black population is greater than 50 percent and I compared those prices to homes and communities where the share of the population is less than 1 percent. …All majority black places, Memphis included. 

Most people understand that there are price differences, but most people will say, hey, that’s because education is worse and there’s more crime and the housing stock is worse. …I measured those things. …We control for them to get to an apples-for-apples comparison. So we found a black home that’s equivalent in certain conditions to a white home in certain conditions.

B.C. – What did you find?

Dr. A. P. – We found that homes in black neighborhoods are devalued by 23 percent, about $48,000 per home, about $156 billion of lost equity across the country. … (P)ut that in perspective, that would have paid for about 4.4 million startup, black-owned businesses based on the amount of startup capital that we open up businesses with. It would have funded eight million four-year degrees. … 

It’s an incredible number. Those dollars are typically used for communities to pay for schools, better policing. It goes to people to deal with the invariable and inevitable shocks that occur. …

(W)hat racism does is robbing people of the opportunity to lift themselves. Whenever something goes wrong in our communities, we talk about there’s something wrong, there’s something broken in the home, that this person doesn’t have home training. We look at the commentary from our President, talking about rat-infested communities, projecting a negative air that there’s something going wrong with our leadership. No, we have strong assets in the community, they’re just devalued, taking away our opportunity to lift ourselves.

Remember, whites were in similar position, and they still are in places. … In the Great Depression they were so in mass, but we used federal policy to bail people out. …Federal policy gave people an opportunity to own a home, to build one. It wasn’t this miraculous bootstrapping … 

But my study essentially looks at assets in majority black places. And I’m not going to stop with housing. I’m looking at businesses. I’m looking at education and other critical areas… Folks need to see that they have value; they have assets that we should be able to build upon.

B.C. – … What is the answer? How do we fix this?

Dr. A. P. – We have to bring value back to the community. You can do that in several ways, either encouraging micro loans to current homeowners so that they can fix up their properties and improve those conditions. I’m obviously encouraging long-term renters to become homeowners. We certainly need to give down payment assistance….

 I’m also advocating for individual level resource development. … I’m also an advocate of making sure business owners and entrepreneurs get the kind of low interest loans to start business and trying to take risks.

But most importantly…we need to advocate for federal policy that will enable communities at a large scale to do all of these things.

So, I’m an advocate for federal policy…and…encouraging people to do all they can to leverage their own assets so that we can bring attention to the lack of federal and state investment in black communities.

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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She Bought Freedom for Herself and Other Slaves Today a Park is Named in Her Honor

Alethia Browning Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised. 

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Alethia Browning Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

In her early years, Alethia Browning Tanner sold vegetables in a produce stall near President’s Square – now known as Lafayette Square – in what is now Northwest Washington, D.C.

According to the D.C. Genealogy Research, Resources, and Records, Tanner bought her freedom in 1810 and later purchased several relatives’ release.

She was the first woman on the Roll of Members of the Union Bethel AME Church (now Metropolitan AME Church on M Street), and Turner owned land and a store at 14th and H Streets, which she left to her nephews – one of whom later sold the property for $100,000.

Named in her honor, the Alethia Tanner Park is located at 227 Harry Thomas Way in Northeast DC.

The park sits near the corner of Harry Thomas Way and Q Street and is accessible by foot or bike via the Metropolitan Branch Trail, just north of the Florida Ave entrances.

“The first Council legislative meeting of Black History Month, the Council took a second and final vote on naming the new park for Alethia Tanner, an amazing woman who is more than worthy of this long-delayed recognition,” Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie said in 2020 ahead of the park’s naming ceremony.

“[Her upbringing] itself would be a remarkable legacy, but Ms. Tanner was also active in founding and supporting many educational, religious, and civic institutions,” McDuffie remarked.

“She contributed funds to start the first school for free Black children in Washington, the Bell School. Feeling unwelcome at her predominately segregated church, she & other church members founded the Israel Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. When the church fell on hard times and was sold at auction by creditors, she and her family stepped in and repurchased the church.”

Born in 1781 on a plantation owned by Tobias and Mary Belt in Prince George’s County, Maryland, historians noted that Tanner had two sisters, Sophia Bell and Laurena Cook.

“Upon the death of Mary Pratt (Tobias had predeceased his wife) in 1795, the plantation, known as Chelsea Plantation, was inherited by their daughter Rachel Belt Pratt,” historians wrote.

“Mary Belt’s will stipulated that Laurena be sent to live with a sibling of Rachel Pratt’s while Sophia and Alethia were to stay at the Chelsea Plantation.”

Tanner sold vegetables at the well-known market just north of the White House in Presidents Park. It is possible – and probable – she met Thomas Jefferson there as he was known to frequent the vegetable markets there along with other prominent early Washingtonians, according to historians at attacksadams.com. 

“There are also White House records suggesting she worked for Thomas Jefferson in some capacity, likely doing various housework tasks,” the researchers determined.

Tanner saved enough money to purchase her freedom in 1810. “The total amount, thought to have been paid in installments, was $1,400. In 1810, $1,400 was a significant amount; about the equivalent of three years’ earnings for an average skilled tradesperson,” attucksadams.com researchers surmised.

“Self-emancipation was not an option for all enslaved peoples, but both Alethia and her sister Sophia were able to accomplish this, almost entirely through selling vegetables at the market,” the researchers continued.

“Alethia Tanner moved to D.C. and became one of a significant and growing number of free Black people in the District. In 1800, 793 free Black people were living in D.C.

By 1810, there were 2,549, and by 1860, 11,131 free Black people lived in D.C., more than the number of enslaved peoples.”

Historians wrote that beginning at about 15 years after securing her manumission, Alethia Tanner worked to purchase the freedom of more than 20 of her relatives and neighbors, mostly the family of her older sister Laurana including Laurana herself, her children, and her grandchildren.

All in all, Tanner would have paid the Pratt family well over $5,000. All accomplished with proceeds from her own vegetable market business, they concluded.

“Alethia Tanner, it’s an amazing story of resilience, hard work, and perseverance,” D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation Director Delano Hunter said at the park’s dedication.

“I just learned about this history through this, so it shows how when you name a park, you really educate people on the historical significance.”

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