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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: What Matters 2020 – Issues That Impact Minority Communities

NNPA NEWSWIRE — In an exclusive interview, Cullors tells the NNPA Newswire that BLM was invited to attend the third installment of the Democratic Presidential Debate, which was hosted in Houston, Texas, at Texas Southern University (TSU), which is an HBCU located in the heart of Houston’s historic Third Ward – a place known for its rich Black history and culture. The debate marked the first presidential campaign debate at an HBCU since 2007.

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BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors (standing) announcing new 'What Matters 2020' initiative while in Houston for the Democratic Party debate.

Black Lives Matter Rolls Out Nationwide Voter Registration and Turnout Initiative to Increase Voter Registration and Turnout for the 2020 Presidential Election

By Jeffrey L. Boney, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Every vote counts and Elections have consequences!

The 2020 presidential elections will definitely have consequences and it will be important that every vote is counted and accounted for.

Everyone and everything in this country is impacted by someone in a position of political leadership who shapes public policy and who makes decisions regarding the very legislation that we must all adhere to, in one way or another.  This includes city councilmembers, mayors, governors, judges, county, state and federal representatives, and even our President.

Knowing how important it is to vote is one thing but getting engaged in the process is an entirely different thing altogether. One group that has made a major impact in this country and that has done a great job of engaging and energizing people of color relative to getting involved in social issues and politics has been the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Global Network.

Founded in 2013 by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, what started as a hashtag, has now grown into a global chapter-based, member-led organization in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. The organization’s mission has been to mobilize determined activists who are committed to fighting anti-Black racism and discriminatory reforms worldwide.

In an exclusive interview, Cullors tells the NNPA Newswire that BLM was invited to attend the third installment of the Democratic Presidential Debate, which was hosted in Houston, Texas, at Texas Southern University (TSU), which is an HBCU located in the heart of Houston’s historic Third Ward – a place known for its rich Black history and culture. The debate marked the first presidential campaign debate at an HBCU since 2007.

While in Houston for the debate, Cullors announced that BLM was rolling out a new nationwide initiative to help increase voter registration and turnout. Cullors, along with co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of BLM Melina Abdullah and Managing Director Kailee Scales, introduced the new nationwide initiative entitled – ‘What Matters 2020 – Issues That Impact Minority Communities’, with a dedicated focus on getting the vote out for the 2020 presidential election.

Cullors states that BLM’s goal is to hit all major cities where Black folks live and engage Generation Z to increase voter registration, turnout and overall engagement.

“Black voters have traditionally been the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituency and younger voters represent the future of the party,” said Cullors. “We thought it was important that we use this platform to ensure that our constituency has the resources to be informed when tuned into the debate and that the candidates know just how impactful our vote will be to this election.”

Working in conjunction with a cross-section of partners from all sectors, BLM leaders are seeking to directly impact the 2020 election cycle by ensuring candidates are held accountable for the issues that systematically and disproportionately impact minority communities across the nation.

‘What Matters 2020 – Issues that Impact Minority Communities’ will increase voter registration and turnout by deploying technology applications, establishing candidate accountability and employing grassroots strategies to access, inform and empower minority communities during the 2020 election cycle,” Cullors tells the NNPA Newswire.

Issues this initiative will mobilize around include:

  • Racial Injustice
  • Police Brutality
  • Criminal Justice Reform
  • Black Immigration Environmental Conditions
  • Voting Rights & Suppression
  • Economic Injustice
  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Commonsense Gun Laws
  • LGBTQAI
  • Human Rights

In addition to introducing this initiative, BLM plans to directly interact with candidates and students, and will be launching technology applications aimed at increasing voter registration and turnout in 2020.

“We will engage and empower all Black folks, our allies, and under-served communities to use their collective voices and votes to achieve the outcomes we want, need and deserve in 2020,” Cullors tells the NNPA Newswire. “We will educate BLM constituents about candidates and the issues that impact Black voters most, and promote voter registration and voter turnout among the Black community, our allies, and Generation Z. This initiative will inspire and motivate people to ask themselves and their candidates are you really addressing ‘What Matters in 2020?’”

In measuring the success of the initiative, Cullors states that they will be monitoring the results based off of the outcomes that come prior to the 2020 election.

“We will know that we are successful when each candidate has an acceptable and tangible comprehensive plan that specifically addresses racial injustice, criminal justice reform, police brutality and reparations, among other issues that impact the Black community,” Cullors states.

Since the organization’s inception in 2013, BLM has been on the frontline of many issues impacting minority communities including police brutality, criminal justice reform, education, Black immigration, public policy and more.

For these efforts, they have been widely recognized, received and in many instances, criticized. They continue with the work, however, and hope this effort will galvanize marginalized and minority communities all across this country. Perhaps more importantly, BLM has reminded the Black community of its own power and collective strength.

To find out more about this effort and initiative, people can visit blacklivesmatter.com/what-matters-2020, to learn about key issues and candidates, register to vote, pledge to vote and join the ongoing conversation by engaging them on social media platforms using #WhatMatters2020.

Jeffrey Boney is a political analyst and frequent contributor for the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com and the associate editor for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey is an award-winning journalist, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur and business development strategist. Follow Jeffrey on Twitter @realtalkjunkies.

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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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