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NNPA Celebrates the CBCF’s Annual Legislative Conference

NNPA NEWSWIRE — As the CBCF prepares for its 49th ALC, the focus for all involved will be on social, political and economic issues influencing African Americans and all individuals of African descent, said CBCF President and CEO David A. Hinson.

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The members of the CBC serve as honorary hosts of issue forums and policy sessions related to topics on education, energy and the environment, criminal justice, science and technology, civic engagement and community outreach, among many others. (Photo: cbcfinc.org)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The National Newspaper Publishers Association is celebrating the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s (CBCF) Annual Legislative Conference (ALC).

The ALC kicks off on Wednesday, Sept. 11, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) member and convention co-chair Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) said the relationship between the Black Press of America and the foundation is vital. She said the NNPA, which represents African American-owned newspapers from nearly every state in the country, remains a trusted partner of the annual gathering.

“Frankly, the Black Press is the only voice that we have because our mainstream news operations would never pick up on something like this,” Wilson said.

North Carolina Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield will serve as co-chair alongside Wilson.

“The Black Press of America is the voice of our constituents. We depend upon the Black Press to get the word out to the people who are interested in what black people are up to these days,” Wilson said.

“We know there is so much uncertainty. A lot of that is because of what’s coming out of the White House. The president is so unpredictable,” she said.

“We have a president who is off-kilter, and no one can even predict what’s he going to say daily. The global community is in suspense. He’s dangerous, so we need to mobilize and, as African Americans, stay on message.”

The five-day conference has numerous partners and sponsors, including Bank of America, Coca Cola, Toyota, General Motors, and Wells Fargo.

Each year, Wells Fargo sponsors a Congressional Black Caucus Fellow. The banking giant routinely sends a contingent to the Phoenix Awards Gala, where the young men are known as the Central Park Five and the Rev. Al Sharpton will be honored.

“We also participate in the National HBCU Braintrust during the conference and typically we donate to Advancing Minorities Interest in Engineering [AMIE], a nonprofit that provides scholarships to HBCU students who study in STEM fields at 15 accredited HBCUs with engineering, math, and computer science departments,” Wells Fargo officials said in a statement.

As the CBCF prepares for its 49th ALC, the focus for all involved will be on social, political and economic issues influencing African Americans and all individuals of African descent, said CBCF President and CEO David A. Hinson.

“This year, we’re hosting two national town hall meetings which include the Commission on the Social Status of Black Boys and Men – legislation that’s being pushed by Frederica Wilson,” Hinson said.

“That’s important because what that does is it allows us to focus the nation on the circumstance of black boys and men,” he said.

“A lot of times when you hear people talk, they talk about this ‘plight.’ It’s as if there’s something inherently wrong with black boys and men.

“If you get beyond the inequities that exist within our society, if you take that away, African American boys and men have proven to be some of the most productive people in this country, and we have to look no further than Barack Obama and many of the people that served in his administration,” Hinson said.

The theme of this year’s conference, “400 Years: Our Legacy, Our Possibilities,” commemorates the first Africans landing at Point Comfort, Va. In 1619.

CBCF officials said it’s an important reminder that slavery is a part of the African American legacy and conference participants must look toward the future regarding the collective possibilities of people of African descent.

The ALC is the largest fundraiser of the CBCF. Each year, the five-day conference attracts more than 10,000 attendees to participate in the 13 signature events and over 100 policy sessions.

The members of the CBC serve as honorary hosts of issue forums and policy sessions related to topics on education, energy and the environment, criminal justice, science and technology, civic engagement and community outreach, among many others.

An 11 a.m. opening press conference, and a 4:30 p.m. Sojourner Truth Legacy Project Town Hall, will highlight the first day of the ALC.

Highlights of the conference’s second day promise to include an Emerging Leaders Power Luncheon; a National Town Hall; and the Commission on Black Men and Boys.

A Gospel Extravaganza and The Sojourner Truth Women’s Leadership Reception completes the Thursday, Sept. 12 schedule.

Policy sessions; an Exhibit Showcase; and Legacy Reception highlight Day 3.

On Saturday, a prayer breakfast featuring Yolanda Adams and the annual Phoenix Awards Dinner stand out as highlights.

The conference concludes on Sunday with a Donald M. Payne Fellowship Cruise.

“We will have different workshops that talk about the future, like the one on technology and jobs of the future for our emerging leaders,” Wilson said.

“There are a lot of disparities in health and wellness, and we’ll be talking about that. I’m proud to say that we’re be honoring our exonerated five – the Central Park Five with the Phoenix Award,” she said.

“And, for me as chair, it’s a privilege to honor the Rev. Al Sharpton, our overall winner for the entire Congressional Black Caucus. He’ll receive a Phoenix award, too. The conference will be exciting.”

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U.S. Business Leaders Step Up to Fight Inequities in the South

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr./ NNPA Newswire

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

This toxic atmosphere has left them incapable of addressing pressing, yet ingrained issues like the racial wealth gap, the digital divide, and vast inequalities in everything from health care to home ownership.

With COVID-19 still an omnipresent concern and the country’s recovery still very much in jeopardy, individuals, families, and communities – particularly communities of color throughout the South – are struggling to deal with issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

From impediments to wealth creation opportunities and a dearth of education and workforce development to a lack of access to reliable broadband, substandard housing, and inadequate political representation, communities of color have suffered an outsized toll during the ongoing public health crisis.

Yet political leaders can’t even agree on basic facts that would allow the nation to implement a coherent national strategy for combatting a pandemic that appears to be entering a new wave amid the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant that is currently ravaging parts of the South.

Against that disillusioning backdrop, there is at least some reason for hope. Moving to fill the vacuum created by the inaction of our political class, a group of business leaders in the technology and investment sectors have embarked on a far-reaching – and perhaps unprecedented – campaign to address the social inequities and systemic racism that has historically plagued our country’s southern communities.

Known as the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI), the campaign was founded by financial technology company PayPal, the investment firm Vista Equity Partners (Vista), and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

SCI was formed to work with local elected officials and advocacy groups to tackle the ubiquitous problems of structural racism and inequalities facing communities of color in six communities throughout the South. SCI notes that these areas – Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., Houston, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, La., – were chosen in part because they are home to around 50% of the country’s Black population and are where some of the greatest disparities exist.

SCI is aiming to drive long-term change, as outlined by PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, Vista CEO Robert F. Smith and BCG CEO Rich Lesser. 

In Atlanta, for example, SCI is working to bridge the wealth gap that exists among the region’s African-American residents. While there is a strong Black business community in the city, and high levels of Black educational achievement thanks to the regional presence of several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the voice of the Black press, there is still an extremely low level of Black entrepreneurship and business ownership with only 6% of employer firms being Black-owned.

To remedy this disparity, SCI is working with the Southern Economic Advancement Project to create entrepreneurship hubs and accelerator programs to increase the number of minority-owned businesses. The corporations behind SCI are also using their networks to help other companies work with minority-owned supply companies.

In Alabama, SCI is seeking to bridge the massive digital divide in an urban area where 450,000 households are without connection to the internet. In order to tackle the crisis, SCI is leveraging relationships with local schools and libraries to distribute laptops and service vouchers. Another tact SCI is taking is to partner with the owners of multi-unit buildings in low-income neighborhoods to install free public Wi-Fi for residents.

The lack of access to capital is another reason Black communities throughout the South have been traditionally underbanked. In Memphis, where 47% of Black households are underbanked, SCI is partnering with Grameen America to cover the $2 million per year per branch start-up cost to build brick-and-mortar banks in minority communities.

This alone will provide 20,000 women access to more than $250 million per year in financing.

Beyond these initiatives, SCI is partnering with groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide in-kind support to improve job outcomes for minority college students, expand access to home financing through partnerships with community development financial institutions, and harness the power of technology to expand health care access in underserved urban and rural neighborhoods.

The issues facing these communities throughout the South are not new nor will they be fixed overnight.

Fortunately, SCI is taking a long-term approach that is focused on getting to the root of structural racism in the United States and creating a more just and equitable country for every American.

A once-in-a-century pandemic and a social justice movement not seen since the 1960s were not enough to break the malaise and rancorous partisanship in Washington. Fortunately, corporate leaders are stepping up and partnering with local advocates and non-profit groups to fix the problem of systemic injustice in the U.S.

We, therefore, salute and welcome the transformative commitments of the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). There is no time to delay, because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so accurately said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

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NNPA – Black Press w/ Hendriks Video Interview

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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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