proceedings of the congressional black caucus foundation`s



proceedings of the congressional black caucus foundation`s
Defining the Moment and the Movement:
A Summary Report and Blueprint for Community Action
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) was established in 1976 as a
nonpartisan, non-profit, public policy, research, and education institute. Today, the CBCF remains dedicated to
effecting positive and sustainable change in the African American community by educating future leaders and
promoting collaboration among legislators, organized labor, as well as community and business leaders.
With a focus on Education, Public Health, Economic Development, and African Globalism, the CBCF is the premier
organization that creates, identifies, analyzes, and disseminates policy-oriented information critical to advancing
African Americans and people of African descent towards economic, health, and education equity.
The Leadership Institute for Public Service functions as the premier entity promoting diversity in democracy through
its leadership development and policy education initiatives. The Institute’s long-standing Congressional Internship
and Legislative Fellowship Programs place promising undergraduate and graduate students in Congressional
offices each year to further their education about the legislative process. Also, as part of the Leadership Institute,
the CBCF offers a Vivien Thomas Medical Scholarship for enterprising undergraduates interested in pursuing a
career in medicine and related health fields. The Institute hosts a popular Emerging Leaders Series that brings
together leading policy experts to discuss thought-provoking policy issues important to the African American
community. The CBC Spouses Department also contributes to the number of college bound students that are
provided with financial assistance towards a college education. Through these programs, the CBCF feeds the
pipeline by direct contact with nearly 2,000 young minds annually. In a significant way the CBCF continues to
prepare the next generation of world leaders.
CBCF’s Economic Development programs include the “With Ownership, Wealth (WOW) Initiative, CBCF Housing
Summits, and the Student Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP), which is part of CBCF’s “Credit
Awareness and Financial Best Practices Campaign.” Each of these activities supports the CBCF’s goal of
increasing minority homeownership as a means to economic development and wealth creation. As a result of
these initiatives, 31 CBC member districts have participated in the WOW initiative throughout the country and
students at a total of 50 HBCU’s have received the message that early home ownership is a key to building wealth.
The CBCF Center for Policy Analysis and Research (CPAR) conducts research, produces policy analysis, and
facilitates policy dialogue as it pertains to African Americans. With a focus on Economic Development, Public
Health, Education and African Globalism, CPAR’s research and policy products are distributed to members of the
Congressional Black Caucus and the African American community through briefings, conferences, monthly enewsletter and other print and electronic media.
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation provides the platform for collaboration and policy development to
occur among international, national, state and local leaders and their constituents through its regional forums,
national summits, and policy-centered conferences. The CBCF has impacted numerous individuals and
organizations throughout its rich history.
Proceedings of the Congressional Black Caucus
Foundation’s 34th Annual Legislative Conference
Rep. William Jefferson, Board Chair
Mr. Don I. Tharpe, Ed.D., President
Ms. Maya M. Rockeymoore, Ph.D., Vice President of Research and Programs 2003-2005
Special acknowledgement of
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, 2003-2004, CBC Chair
Rep. Kendrick Meek, 2004 ALC Co-Chair
Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, 2004 ALC Co-Chair
Mr. Weldon J. Rougeau, CBCF President 2002-2004
Edited by Ms. Kenya Covington, PhD and Ms. Jennifer Cotton
May 2004
Special thank you is extended to John Wilson III at Wilson Publishing Group for his contribution to earlier drafts of
this report.
Copyright ©2005 The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission,
except for brief quotations, properly cited, embodied in articles and reviews.
Questions and comments regarding use of these materials should be sent to:
Media Department
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
1720 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
The Annual Legislative Conference at a Glance
The 109th Congressional Black Caucus
Brief Overview
Section I: African Globalism
African Diaspora Link: Trading Skills and Resources for Global Empowerment
Haiti at a Crossroads
Section II: Civic Engagement & Participation
Ballot Roulette & Voting Rights
Defining the Moment & the Movement: The Hip Hop Generation’s Political Responsibility
Section III: Economic Development
Economic Empowerment: Value in the Hood
Money Talks: The Hip Hop Generation’s Guide to Economic Equality
Thinking Outside the Box: Transforming America through Tax Reform
Section IV: Education
Educational Apartheid in the US: Tracking Policies & Re-Segregation in America’s Schools
Section V: Public Health
Dispelling the Diet Dilemma: Obesity, Dieting, & Poverty – A Deadly Combination
Sick and Shutout: Why African Americans Need Healthcare Reform
Section VI: Financial Contributors
CBCF Sponsors
The Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) provides the platform for policy debates on important issues of critical
concern to the African American community. Hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF),
the CBCF and African-American Members of the United States House and Senate organize over 75 issue forums
and brain trusts to exchange ideas with constituents and other participants. While the ALC provides the opportunity
for attendees to acquaint themselves with the Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and CBCF
initiatives, the ALC is also a time for people from across the nation to come together in one place, at one time to
focus on improving the conditions of Black America through the innovative creation of legislative initiatives.
Total number of attendees (including free activities such as exhibit hall and open sessions):
21,000 people
Number of paying registrants: 4,500
The ALC Audience
Female 55%
Median age: 41
44 States
25 Countries
Occupation (in order of highest percentages of registrants)
1. Government Employees
7. Elected Officials
2. Business Owners
8. Health Practitioners
3. Nonprofit Employees
9. Grassroots Organizers
4. Corporate Representatives
10. Lobbyists
5. Educators
11. Religious Leaders
6. Retirees
Issue Forums and Brain Trusts
The 75+ Issue Forums and Brain Trusts range from Health Disparities, to Tax Reform, Affordable
Housing and African Globalism. (Only a small subset of the panels are represented in this document)
Davis, Artur
Lee, Barbara
Watson, Diane E.
Waters, Maxine
Millender-McDonald, Juanita
Norton, Eleanor Holmes
Brown, Corrine
Meek, Kendrick
Hastings, Alcee L.
Bishop, Jr., Sanford D.
McKinney, Cynthia
Lewis, John
Scott, David
Rush, Bobby L.
Jackson, Jr., Jesse L.
Davis, Danny K.
Barack, Obama
Carson, Julia
Jefferson, William, J.
Wynn, Albert Russell
Cummings, Elijah, E.
Cheeks Kilpatrick, Carolyn
Conyers, Jr., John
Thompson, Bennie
Clay, Jr, William Lacy
Cleaver II, Emanuel
Payne, Donald M.
Meeks, Gregory W.
Towns, Edolphus
Owens, Major R.
Rangel, Charles B.
Butterfield, G.K.
Watt, Melvin L.
Tubbs Jones, Stephanie
Fattah, Chaka
Clyburn, James E.
Ford, Jr, Harold E.
Green, Al
Jackson-Lee, Sheila
Johnson, Eddie Bernice
Scott, Robert C.
Christian-Christensen, Donna
Moore, Gwendolynne
Delegate District (at Large)
Delegate District (at Large)
Congressional District 4
(in 1,000)
*The total does not reflect double counting of Congressional Districts in Illinois; because the entire state of Illinois is now represented by a
Senator, total constituents within the three Congressional Districts within Illinois were deducted from the grand total.
Source: Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Compiled using 2000 109th Congressional District Census Data
The purpose of this proceedings document is to comprehensively summarize the
symposiums, issues forums, and braintrusts that were presented during the Congressional
Black Caucus Foundation’s 34th Annual Legislative Conference dissecting from it the
action strategies that emanated from each session.
There were over 75 issue forums organized by CBC members and CBCF staff; however,
only a subset (10) of the panels is summarized in this document. Beginning with the
CBCF’s Future Focus Series and continuing with an Emerging Leaders track and CBC
Member issue forums and braintrusts, panels were presented throughout the four-day
conference (on topics regarding Education, Healthcare, HIV/AIDS, Small Black
Businesses, The Federal Budget, Black Farmers, Black Politics, Economic
Empowerment, Science and Technology, Environmental Justice, Criminal Justice,
Democracy, Civic Responsibility, Child Welfare, Military Veterans, Entertainment
Industry, Government Contracting, Tax Reform, and Faith-Based Programs). Each
session featured noted leaders from the policy, academic, nonprofit and business sector,
who discussed, debated and planned for the future of Black America.
I. African Globalism
African Diaspora Link: Trading Skills & Resources for Global Empowerment
Hosted by: The Center for Policy Analysis and Research (CPAR)
Panelists: Gregory Simpkins (moderator), Rep. Donald Payne, Humberto Adami Santos, Salih
Booker, Mori Diane`, Elias Mageto, Joe Madison, Gov. Luis Muliro
The purpose of this panel was to map out a plan for future collaboration socially, politically, and
economically among communities within the African continent and throughout the African
Diaspora. There were important implications for working relationships between the Diaspora and
the African Union (AU). Various speakers acknowledged that long-standing divisions between
Africans born in America and Africans who have come to America limit productive collaboration.
Panelists identified a need to access informal networks that provide inroads to international
agencies and democratic processes whereby businessmen and women are given access to
information before decisions are made. This panel also provided a platform for Afro-descendant
institutional building within those organizations. Concrete recommendations on how to bring these
communities together, including improving our communication skills and studying languages like
French, Spanish and Portuguese were suggested. There was also a call to support institutions
and organizations that facilitate cooperative work. Acknowledgement that cultural differences and
misconceptions about cultural differences are an impediment to progress; to move forward it is
necessary to eradicate the cultural conditioning imposed by the media.
Recommendations for Action:
Lead the War on HIV/AIDS
• Provide access to essential anti-AIDS drugs.
• Provide at least $3.5 billion per year to support the work of the Global Fund, is a new
vehicle that can lead to the defeat of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Invest in Development
• Increase aid to from all rich countries to sub-Saharan African countries to fight
poverty and promote sustainable development.
• Require aid to promote human development, and help assist Africa in reaching its
agreed development goals, such as health and education. This should be
considered international investment rather than aid.
Cancel Africa’s External Debt
• Support the outright cancellation of Africa’s debts. It should use its influence at the
World Bank and IMF to press for immediate and unconditional debt cancellation for
African countries.
Promote Fair Trade
• Commit to expanding market access for African goods, and eroding the double
standard in international trade rules. This will require addressing trade barriers and
agricultural subsidies that hinder African exports that continue to preclude an
equitable trading relationship.
Support African Efforts to End War & Promote Peace
• Sustain financial and diplomatic commitment to conflict resolution is crucial to
regional and international security.
Commit to supporting African peace-making initiatives, by increasing international
support to ensure its success.
Help Advance Democracy and Human Rights
• Promote democracy and the full spectrum of human rights in Africa to encourage
economic and social progress, and enhance international stability.
Utilize Technology to Share Information Across the Globe
• Create a web site that could provide a portal for exchange of information back and
forth. Create a country specific database so that an entrepreneur who might be
interested in going into a country can go in and find comprehensive information about
other states and regions and the business environment within these countries,
including the fiscal regime, the foreign investment code, the registration and business
regulation, the rules of foreign ownership of land, as well as the export and import
Connect Business Owners
• Create a business matchmaking service where this portal will serve to
business owners on both sides of the ocean. The development of a
mentoring program that would allow the savvier business persons in the
country to be able to offer mentoring assistance to entrepreneurs in need.
retired business executive program.
Create a
(1:30 p.m.)
MR. MAGETO: Good afternoon, everybody…I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome you to
the Africa Diaspora Link - Trading Skills and Resources for Global Empowerment panel.
The purpose of this panel is to map out and plan the future of social, political and economic
collaboration among different communities in the Diaspora.
I'd also like to take this opportunity to welcome our moderator for today, Mr. Gregory
Simpkins…Please join me in welcoming Mr. Gregory Simpkins.
MR. SIMPKINS: Thank you, Elias…our forum here this afternoon has very important implications
for working relationships between the African Diaspora and the African Union. In December
2002, the African Union, through the Foundation for Democracy in Africa, held the first African
Diaspora Forum for those of us in the western hemisphere. The AU was so impressed with that
gathering of people from North America, South America and the Caribbean that they changed the
charter of the AU to include the Diaspora as the sixth region of Africa.
However, the promise of that action has yet to bear fruit. The main but unspoken reason appears
to be the long-standing division between Africans born in America and Africans who have come
to America to live. We in the Africanist community tell ourselves that we are of one mind on
advancing Africa, but there remains a definite division, which must be addressed if we are to take
advantage of the opportunities that exist before us.
For many years, there were relatively few of us who worked on African issues and had significant
contact with Africans. But the rise in immigration from the nations of Africa, as well as the nations
of the Caribbean, now means that there are more than one African-American community to take
into consideration.
In Miami, for example, Haitian blacks have a very different agenda than American-born blacks,
and the assembled power of black voters in that area are weakened as a result. In cities such as
New York and Boston, the percentage of foreign-born blacks is nearly a third of all black citizens.
Political and social patterns are changing as a result, to the alarm of many African-American
When many of us born here use the term African-American, we mean just the descendants of
slaves. When many Africans use the term Diaspora, they mean just those Africans born on the
continent who live away from the continent today. We must face this reality and get past it.
Let us be clear. Nigerians who have become Americans are just as much African-Americans as
anyone born in America. Jamaicans living in Jamaica are just as much members of the African
Diaspora as Cameroonians living in Germany.
If we exclude one another from what are supposed to be common terms of reference, of selfdefinition, then how will we work together as so many of our ancestors had hoped that we would?
W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, George Padmore, and many others worked very diligently
throughout our history to get black people throughout the world to use our talents collectively.
They were frustrated in that effort by officials from Europe and from America.
We must now ask ourselves if we are prepared to undo the progress that we have achieved thus
far that led us to what is the best opening for cooperation between Africans on the both sides of
the Atlantic Ocean ever.
…But I would challenge our panel and also our audience not to leave here today without offering
solid recommendations on how the descendants of Africa on both sides of the Atlantic can best
use our collective resources to meet the challenges we face in the global economy.
Now, to introduce our panel. First…Congressman Donald Payne,…the Honorable Luis
Muliro,…Joe Madison,…Salih Booker,…Mr. Mori Diane…[l]ast, but certainly not least, Humberto
Adami Santos, Jr.
GOVERNOR MULIRO: Thank you. I was commissioned to write the paper on linkages between
Afro-Latinos, specifically Afro-Colombians, and African-Americans to respond to political and
policy challenges in terms of confronting racial discrimination.
…I will go to my main assumption…that in the changing political environment associated with
globalization, national tools for fighting racial discrimination in the 21st century are insufficient
because the points of power are moving between local, national and international levels…We
cannot confront effectively racial discrimination using national tools. What we see is that there is
some fragmented effort to create coalitions and networking to confront racial discrimination in the
region of the Americas, but we are too focused on national issues without looking at the
international levels.
…I propose…some suggestion for future actions. The first one is that African descendants need
to create regional bodies to debate, to set up agendas and to act jointly and to respond with joint
actions. For example, you have seen that we need to clarify definitions, but not only between
African-Americans in the United States, but also throughout the region and throughout the world.
I will take one example, the term African-Americans. In Latin America, we dispute the term of
being used only for African-Americans in the United States…I would say that in terms of setting
agendas and priorities, we need to get together. We don't have the space to do that. We don't
have regional bodies to have these kind of discussions, but we ought to have.
…[T]hat's a priority. I'm looking at the experience of the Afro-Columbian education and outreach
and policy advocacy in United States for concern U.S. foreign policy…
There's a…group, the Afro-Latino Working Group, that was created by some members of the
Congressional Black Caucus. This group, within Capitol Hill, is helping to move forward the AfroLatino agendas with a specific legislative initiative. That's the kind of bodies that we, as African
descendants in America, needs.
…Legislators in the region…are creating the Black Parliament of the Americas. Legislators in
Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Uruguay, they already had two meetings, one in Rio de
Janeiro and the second one in Bogotá. Congressional Black Caucus is deeply involved in that.
They wanted to define legislative priorities to all the regions. That's very important.
The second point that I wanted to make is in relation to the tool for getting together. I think that
the regional process for preparing the conference against racial discrimination in South Africa
was very important in serving as a catalyst for getting together as African descendants in the
Americas. We got some kind of momentum at that time. We lost that momentum. We are not
meeting each other.
I wanted to propose that the regional convention against racial discrimination that is being
proposed by global rights could be a tool for regaining that momentum that we lost at the regional
The last point…is that African descendants in the Americas have very little access to informal
networks that surround international agencies and democratic parties. We don't have access to
information before the decisions are made. I think that we need to create some kind of Afrodescendant institutional building within those organizations. I think that black leadership in the
Americas should engage these institutions and mainstream NGOs in a dialogue about black
technical and political representation in those organizations, because that could be the way to
bring our issues to internal debates in those organizations.
I'm saying that because we see very few, for example, African-Americans within international
financial institutions like the World Bank, Inter-American Bank or even within the U.N., and even
that's not proportional to the political power of African descendants within United States that also
has a lot of power within those institutions…
MR. SIMPKINS: All right. Now let's hear from Mr. Salih Booker.
MR. BOOKER: …I, too, believe that it is not possible to fight racial discrimination on a national
basis alone. It never has been. The great advances that black Americans made in the United
States also had the support of newly independent African states who were, in their own way,
applying pressures on the United States government, a government that was concerned with
establishing relations with these newly emerging African countries.
We have a long history of interaction of African peoples around the world, on the continent, in the
Caribbean, in Latin America, in the United States. Pan-Africanism is not just a dream, it's
something that people have practiced and have pursued and tried to create institutions that would
reflect the broad collective interests of Africa and people of African descent wherever they are in
the world.
We have some great accomplishments to be proud of, whether it was the vast mobilization of
African peoples around the world and their allies to defeat Apartheid in South Africa or whether it
was other endeavors that have seen this kind of cooperation.
…When I use the term African-Americans, I mean people of African descent in Colombia, in
Brazil, in the Caribbean -- Africans in the Americas, if you will. I think we do very much need to
think in those terms because we've had common experiences wherever we ended up in the
world, wherever that boat took us, the slave ship, whether it dropped us off in Brazil or in Jamaica
or in the United States.
Even Africans who, generations later, have come to the U.S. or to other parts of the western
hemisphere by choice, face the same kinds of problems that we face in terms of racial
discrimination, in terms of racial profiling. You know, police don't think, oh, that person I want to
pull over, I think he's from Colombia, so I'm going to let him go. Or he's Cameroonian, I'm going
to let him go. No. We share a common experience wherever we are in the world.
So what I've been asked to talk about is a very, very severe and tragic common experience that
we're facing, and that is the HIV/AIDS pandemic. We don't talk about it enough. It is the leading
cause of death of black people worldwide, in Africa, in the Caribbean, in the United States. It's
not accidental. The threat of HIV/AIDS is the greatest threat to human security in the world today.
It's a greater threat than terrorism. It's a greater threat than weapons of mass destruction.
It's killing more people than any little band of terrorists could ever imagine. Three million people a
year are dying of HIV/AIDS, and it's mostly in Africa. It is disproportionately African women, also.
Yet we're not loud enough in our demands on fighting this pandemic. We're not cooperating
enough among Africans and people of African descent over here to fight this pandemic…
Africa's home to almost 30 million people living with HIV or AIDS out of a worldwide total of 42
million. That's like three-quarters of the world's total. The region with the second highest
infection rates is the Caribbean. The region with the third highest infection rates is right here, the
United States, where more than 50 percent of all new HIV infections are among AfricanAmericans.
AIDS is the leading cause of death of African-Americans between the ages of 24 and 55. That's
men and women. Africa is home to 12 million of the 13 million children who are AIDS orphans,
that means who have lost one or both parents to the HIV pandemic. Here in the United States,
African-Americans represent only 13 percent of the total U.S. population and yet we account for
nearly 40 percent of all existing HIV infections in the United States and, as I said before, more
than 50 percent of all new infections.
Now I want to quote Peter Piat…the head of the U.N. AIDS organization. He's a European, which
is why I make a point of quoting him, because if we say this comment people dismiss us. What
he said several years ago at the 13th International Conference on AIDS in South Africa was…“If
this were happening to white people…the western world, the rich countries of the world, the
countries that control the financial institutions of the world, that control the global institutions of
governance, the U.N., the World Bank, the IMF, would respond differently.”
All you have to do is look at Mad Cow disease. That killed a couple dozen people in Europe.
They spent six billion dollars like that to get rid of it. We're hardly spending anything to fight
AIDS. Don't -- I don't care what the president has you believing because he promised 15 billion
dollars to fight AIDS in Africa over five years. We're familiar with this kind of Enron accounting or
Arthur Anderson accounting where you're just projecting big numbers into the out years.
The question is how much are we spending now? How much are we spending this year and how
much are we spending next year? Because the Congress only appropriates money for this year
and for next year. I will give credit to the Congressional Black Caucus, particularly members like
Barbara Lee, who's been a point person for the Caucus, and Donna Christian Christiansen, who
is also a medical doctor and has been an articulate point person for the CBC in demanding a
greater U.S. response to HIV/AIDS.
But not just in Africa. Right here in the United States. There are people dying in the U.S. on
waiting lists to get government assistance to drugs that can save you. That's, obviously, the
other point I want to make. You see, AIDS can be defeated. How many people in the audience
know people who have diabetes or have diabetes themselves? All of us, I'm sure. Right?
Now diabetes need not be a death sentence. It can be a chronic illness. You manage it. You
take your medicine. You lead a healthy lifestyle. You have a healthy diet and you can lead a
normal, healthy life. You can certainly raise your children, keep your job, contribute to your
family, your economy, your country, etc.
The same is true of HIV/AIDS. Now this is not to encourage people to have unsafe sex, etc., but
the point is this: all these black people in the world who are living with HIV/AIDS, they don't have
to die. Why is it that governments and international institutions appear prepared to just write off
all these millions of lives when the medicines actually exist like they do for diabetes that can allow
you to manage this illness, so that you can stay in good health, you can raise your children, take
care of your loved ones, keep your job, contribute to an economy.
I would argue to you it's because, primarily, the victims of HIV/AIDS -- and I shouldn't even use
the term victims, the people who are living with HIV/AIDS are primarily black. Now AIDS doesn't
discriminate by race, by gender, by geography, by sexual orientation, but the fact of the matter is,
right now, it's killing mainly black people in the world. That is why the world has been -- when I
say the world, the powerful institutions in this world have been so slow to respond.
They’re more interested in pharmaceutical companies continuing to make billions of dollars in
profits than have generic versions of those drugs available to Africans. Only one percent of
Africans living with HIV have access to antiretroviral drugs. That is, without these medicines they
will, in fact, die. There will be more children without parents as a result.
So we have to reach out across the oceans, across the sea, Africans, people in the Caribbean,
people here in the United States and we have to demand that this threat to human security be
treated with greater urgency and greater resources than the so-called war on terrorism or this
fake war that was foist upon us in Iraq. Thank you.
MR. SIMPKINS: Now we hear from Mr. Joe Madison.
MR. MADISON: …I just came in from a demonstration at the Sudan embassy where we -- many
in this room -- have been demonstrating since June 29th every day to address the issue of
genocide in Darfur. We started off with the arrest of former Congressman Walter Fauntleroy and
myself. Charlie Rangle then joined us and was arrested. Bobby Rush, five grandmothers, one
82-year-old great-grandmother, school teachers, Salih Booker to my right, and not a day has
gone by that we've not been at the embassy.
We had a die-in in mid-July, I believe it was, where we asked 1,200 people to come to the
Lafayette Park across from the White House on a very hot July day and participate in a symbolic
die-in, representing the 1,200 people who die every single day in Darfur. That evening, thanks to
Congressman Donald Payne, who had introduced wording for resolution, calling on the United
States Congress to declare what is happening in Darfur as genocide. That resolution was passed
by the entire United States Congress. Not one dissenting vote.
Not one abstention. Donald Payne, Charlie Rangel, John Conyers, Maxine Waters and others
then walked across the street to the United States Senate and introduced the same resolution,
without a single word being changed, and it was passed by 100 percent of the United States
Senate. Republicans, Liberals, Democrats, Conservatives -- everyone passed it. It was the first
time in the history of the United States Congress that genocide was declared before it happened.
It was a very historic vote.
Genocide had been declared before, but it's always been after the fact. It was after 800,000 died
in Rwanda. It was after Bosnia. But what the resolution also did was to ask the president of the
United States to declare what was happening in Darfur as genocide. Tomorrow, Secretary of
State Colin Powell will address the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and there will be a
determination as to whether or not the administration will call it genocide.
Senator Kerry issued a very powerful op-ed piece that appeared today and I believe he will be
joining us at the Sudan embassy or at least we're attempting to arrange it. In that op-ed piece, he
has gone on record saying that it definitely should be genocide. That the African Union should be
supported by the United States, that there must be a multi-national effort to protect the
humanitarian aid workers and to help 1.3, maybe 1.4, who knows, maybe two million people to
return to their homes safely and to live their lives.
All of this came about because African-Americans and some whites who joined us insisted that
they were going to impact their United States government and the United Nations, that they were
going to influence it. Why is this so important? I hold in my hands a document that was issued
March 17th, 1978 by Brzynski who, at that time, was the National Security Advisor to President
Jimmy Carter. It is National Security Council Memorandum 46. It is part of Exhibit 10 of the U.S.
Supreme Court Case Number 00-9587 and, unlike Salih, you've got to give all the
documentations and all the numbers, because there's a certain attitude among black folk that
unless you hear it from white folk, it ain't real.
…in America, we are culturally conditioned to believe that white is superior and black is inferior
and the manifestation of that cultural conditioning is that we undervalue, underestimate and
marginalize black people. So I don't intend to be undervalued, underestimated or marginalized
this afternoon.
So if you don't want to believe me, then you can believe Brzynski because he wrote the memo
and the Supreme Court documented it. It is amazing that there is a Black Diaspora. It is amazing
that the Congressional Black Caucus had the influence that they had. This memorandum was
written when the Congressional Black Caucus was at its strength and was challenging Apartheid
in South Africa.
Brzynski wrote that the west may face a real danger of being deprived of access to the enormous
raw material resources of southern Africa which are vital of our defense needs as well as losing
control over the Cape sea route by which approximately 65 percent of Middle Eastern oil is
supplied to western Europe. So he made several policy suggestions, dealing with politics and
economics and what he called the U.S. interest in Black Africa.
He said apart from the politics and the economics, and I'll quote him now: “Apart from the abovementioned factors adverse to U.S. strategic interest, the nationalist liberation movement in Black
Africa can act as a catalyst with far reaching effects on the American black community by
stimulating its organizational consolidation and by inducing radical action.”
…Black folk in the ‘60s and the ‘70s in Africa, who were looking to become independent, shake
off Apartheid, control their own governments. If they ever met at some place like the
Congressional Black Caucus, they could form and consolidate an effort that could provide
concern for our interest in the United States government.
He goes on to say that …in order to prevent black folk from getting together and protect U.S.
National Security interest, it would appear essential to elaborate and carry out effective
He lists a whole page of them.
Then he says here are some
In weighing the range of U.S. interest in black Africa, basic recommendations arranged without
intent to imply priority…specific steps should be taken with the help of appropriate government
agencies to inhibit coordinated activities of the black movement in the United States and create a
special clandestine operation, launched by the CIA, to generate mistrust and hostility in America
and world opinion against joint activity of the two forces.
To spy on the black trade unionists and to develop contrast between poor and rich blacks. It's no
wonder AIDS is running rampant in Africa and the United States. How dare the government
attempt to implement a policy that says we want to inhibit black people's ability to influence their
government and the United Nations on what's happening in Africa?
In closing, I also have another document that shows in all 50 states of the United States of
America, 91 billion dollars in public pension funds is being invested on an average of 22 countries
doing business in Sudan. So if you are a teacher, a police officer, a public employee, 91 billion
dollars is being invested with companies that do business in Sudan.
We are calling on every comptroller of every state of every county of all the black state legislators
to divest any funds and any pension that is doing business in Sudan, to divest from any company
doing business in Sudan...
MR. SIMPKINS: At this time, we'll here from Mr. Santos.
MR. ADAMI: …The subject of this panel about African Diaspora Links made understand that we
are connected after years and years of fights.
Some time ago, I could see it in Montevideo, Uruguay, in a workshop built by Mundo Afro, a black
Uruguayan NGO, part of the feelings of the staying in a boat like the ones that brought African
human beings to [the] Americas. The news that humans sunk at that occasion make me
understand the intelligence of old black Africans that still are living through their dissonance. We
can see the same strategy in every place in the world, telling us what we mean today.
The resistance of African people around the world for a long, long time. If you pay attention, half
this population is speaking different idioms, have very similar customs, and some of them never
can explain why…
This means resistance. We received in Brazil some members of Congressional Black Caucus
Foundation for twice in a happening made by U.S. American Chamber of Commerce of Sao
Paulo…We talked a lot and we could understand that we can do things together. We have many
North American companies that have divested criteria offered a mission for jobs in USA.
Brazilian-American companies who are in the majority don't have the same criteria. We
encourage you to ask that at least the same criteria of inclusion in Brazil can be abducted.
Remember that Brazilian African descendants population are more than 50 percent. We see
Banco de Brazil workers, pension funds, the biggest pension funds of Brazil make a question to
those to this 140 biggest companies in Brazil.
How many black persons you have in the middle managers and directories of those 140 biggest
companies that work in Brazil? Two percent was the answer of the research for the African
descent population of more than 50 percent. A lot of American black people press on those
companies that have a Brazilian branch can do a lot of difference for Brazilian black people if they
use the criteria for diversity that they use in the American principal plants of the company.
…[T]his strategy shows that we can be an example of this cooperation between Afro-Americans
and Afro-Brazilians and how can get empowerment of the African population and the Diaspora.
We still have black African clandestines arriving Brazil seacoasts…[s]ome of them when
discovered are from the high sea. Some of them are rescued by Brazilian fisherman. Then they
have to go to prison, waiting to be deported back to Africa. We from ERAI, Environmental and
Racial Advocacy Institutes, are trying hard on the courts of Brazil to get those human beings out
of Brazilian prisons and not being deported after 15 days living inside those boats with hunger,
fear and desperation.
African blacks are arriving in Brazil seacoasts for more than 500 years and going to prison. It's
past the time to change those things. We have some people from Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola,
Mozambique, Tanzania, Nigeria and other African countries. The Brazilian black movements try
to change those things…
We can obviously point to two markets: the consumer market and the labor market. Black
population in all parts of the world are consumers, depending less or more the amount of money
that they can spend in each society. But normally they are not represented in the advertisements
of companies that sell products to them.
…It is time for black people everywhere to get organized as consumers and so to have
opportunities in the labor markets.
I have to finish inviting you all to participate in African campaigning that will bringing
empowerment to black in all Americas, in all countries in all Africa and the continents…
MR. SIMPKINS: Our final speaker is Mori Diane.
MR. DIANE: …I begin by suggesting that most African countries nowadays offer very enticing
opportunities for business. Although there are many challenges to conducting business in Africa
and this still is a continent where you are likely, if you're a business person, to find fewer
commercial farmers. You're likely to find fewer processed food suppliers, fewer finished good
manufacturers, fewer retailers of commodities, fewer light machineries makers and that, you
name it.
The consequence is that well-managed business operations have fewer chances of failure.
Granted that there are many challenges to doing business in Africa, the cumbersome
administrative red tape that are a relic of a colonial legacy of laws and systems. There's a lack of
adequate financial institutions and instruments to gain access to. There's a lack of adequate and
reliable communications systems, telephone, fax, Internet. There is a poor infrastructure in terms
of roads and power.
But the most constraining factors to doing business in Africa are the lack of local management
capacity and the lack of understanding of the demand and distribution system in larger overseas
market. There lies the advantage that African Diaspora, with training and expertise in
management, technology and access to vast retail market, can team up with resources available
in the African continent to mutual benefits.
Some of the opportunities that exist are in the agriculture, the foods, vegetable, fisheries,
especially when it pertains to processing these products to extend the shelf life. In small and
large mining of semi-precious and precious metals and stone. The opportunities in textile and
garment, especially when you take into account the new AGOA law and the value added would
and the like.
…[T]he methodology for successful business operation…will call for producing goods in a number
of African countries for, say, export to the U.S. market and that will take advantage of two
important assets, which is the low labor cost and, of course, the advantages granted right now by
the AGOA laws.
…[C]ommercial interaction has a persuasive way of developing long lasting cultural relationship
among people.
I think this type of relationship may foster the lack of communication that has been known. So
what I'm suggesting that the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation is ideally positioned to
create and force the business arrangement between Africans. It must aim at positioning itself as
a definitive interface between its constituency and entrepreneurs in Africa, on the one hand, and
between African official and official of the Diaspora country on the other hand.
From such a position, it can readily collect and disseminate the authoritative information to both
group. So I have a series of recommendations which…primarily pertains to the Congressional
Black Caucus Foundation having to create a web site that will act as a portal for exchange of
information back and forth.
…[N]umber one, having country specific database so that an entrepreneur who might be
interested in going into a country can go in and find information about having some in-depth study
states about the business environment in these countries, including the fiscal regime, the foreign
investment code, the registration and business regulation, the rules of foreign ownership of land,
the export and import policies.
My second recommendation is to also attach to that some selected sector studies. The CBC
could periodically choose some promising sector in light of the potential interest on the part of the
Diaspora business person to conduct more detailed sector studies…
…My third recommendation is to have, again, around the web site a portal idea is to have
producers, traders and process a profile to be able to go into a country and identify a certain
amount of people who respond to the criteria that expected of business persons who are looking
to go into this country.
My fourth suggestion is to have a market information system that could be the basis for collecting
and disseminating relevant data of market prices and product condition produced in various
African countries.
You could also, as a fifth recommendation, have a business matchmaking service where this
portal will serve to introduce business people on both sides of the fence. I'm suggesting the
development of a business mentoring program that would allow the savvier business persons in
the Diaspora country to be able to mentor the business person in Africa who may be in the same
line of business or is not aware of the demands and the structure of markets overseas.
As a seventh recommendation, I'm suggesting to initiate a retired business executive programs.
There are a number of African-American persons with very good experience in the business
environment who have retired and who would offer some of their time mentoring fledgling
business people.
As an eighth recommendation, I'm suggesting that the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
thinks about having some sort of guidance program for African public officials who generally don't
travel to the U.S., hopefully are aware about the process that is required to gain access to the
most meaningful decision makers. They are most often not victim of the embrittled confidence
they place on hired lobbyists who may not themselves be well acquainted with the issues in these
The importance of the CBFC offering to guide these officials lies in the trust of such guidance is
likely to build between the two parties. This will place the CBCF in a position to later influence the
policy of these countries on human right issues of commercial regime and other aspects that
benefit the citizens….
CONGRESSMAN PAYNE: …[L]et me just say that there's so much that we could talk about.
Africa has supplied the world with so much labor that it's made the world wealthy, whether it's
resources, whether it's people. Of course, Africa still remains one of the most beautiful continents
in the world with beautiful landscapes and flora and fauna and biodiversity. Immense wealth in
natural resources and people who make something out of nothing.
As a matter of fact, if you start to focus on what's happening in Darfur, the people in Darfur never
heard a mumbling word about them.
…But these people, the Darfurians, lived on practically nothing, and didn't ask for anything. That
shows how great the people of Africa, which is a tremendous resource that, in many instances, is
overlooked…it's important that Diaspora is now being looked at. We're very pleased that the
sixth region in the Africa Union is the Diaspora, so everybody can be a part of Africa. The New
African Union and NAPAD is a good opportunity.
We need to support them and help them…They need to become more forceful. But I think that it
is a great opportunity, as they take over from the old OAU, we cannot allow what happened in
Rwanda to pass by a decade ago where close to 800, 900,000 people were killed and no one
even mentioned the word genocide. Well, we made sure that that didn't happen this time.
When I introduced the resolution, even asked to have it written up, people thought that I was
insane…But it shows that if there's a will, there's a way. We got the entire U.S. Congress -- 422
to zero -- to pass a resolution saying a genocide is occurring Darfur, Sudan and that we should
take action.
…So…what are things that we can do?
We need to have constituency awareness building. We need to mobilize. We need to have
groups like this come together. We need to have panel discussions. We need to educate our
people about the Diaspora. We need to be working closely with activists and scholars such as
Luis Muliro and the Afro-Latinos and African grassroots leaders, and there are a tremendous
number of grassroots leaders.
We need to implement legislation like H. Congress 47 which acknowledge African descendants of
the TransAfrica slave trade in all of the Americas, with an emphasis on the descendants of Latin
America and the Caribbean, recognizing the injustices suffered by these African descendants and
recommending that the United States and the international community work to improve the
situation of Afro descendant communities in Latin, Central and the Caribbean parts of the world.
We must continue to work together. We are very pleased at the awareness now that we see in
Latin America. As you know, many years, we were simply told it's a class thing. You remember
that. It was the have and have nots -- there's no racial discrimination. It's just based on wealth
and class. Well, what always happens in many instances that the lower class were 90 percent
dark-skinned and the top class were light-skinned. But no one ever said it was race. It just
happened to be class.
Well, I wondered, well how do you get into that other class?
…Well, that's when it got murky and mumbling went around. Well, the class was that there was
racial discrimination and the Brazilians have now said, you know what, we're Afro-Brazilians. We
recognize, of course, classes everywhere. However, that there are obstacles to people that are
of darker hue.
…[W]e are all over the world. We need to bring it all together. We won't have to ask anybody for
anything. We'll be able to do it for ourselves because we'll be able to have that connection that'll
make it work. Thank you very much.
MR. SIMPKINS: …I would like to use the chairman's prerogative to ask the first question.
…So I'd like to ask our panel, and also the audience, what concrete steps would you recommend
to get Africans in the Diaspora and Africans on the continent working cooperatively?
MR. BOOKER: Well, very quickly, and practical things. First of all, we all ought to be studying
French, Spanish, Portuguese. In other words, we have to be able to communicate and not just
assume everybody else is going to speak English. That's one.
Two…we need to strengthen and build our institutions that facilitate the kinds of cooperative work
whether it's in advocacy, whether it's in business, etc. We need to support institutions like
TransAfrica. We need to support the Congressional Black Caucus itself. We need to make sure
that we have independent institutions that are going to allow us to shape the kind of collaborative
initiatives we're going to take. Because we can't be dependent on government resources to
facilitate essentially our collective agenda.
MR. MADISON: The reason that we don't have all of the things that you said is because we've
been told not to have these things. In some cases, it's been public policy…Most successful
businesses are businesses based on relationship.
I deliberately read that Brzynski memorandum to let you know that 20 years ago -- almost 20
years ago -- when that memorandum was read by the Congressional Black Caucus at a news
conference, the room was full of TV cameras and reporters and the next day, not a single word
was printed in the paper or a single image was put on television.
What you're facing is really the cultural conditioning of us not making sure we don't come
together…Something is seriously wrong when we have been culturally conditioned to believe that
they are savages and they believe that we're just lazy, no good negroes.
I'm here to tell you that that's not done -- that's not by accident. So the first thing we have to do is
begin educating ourselves to appreciate those things that we all have in common. Dr. Francis
Wellsing once said to me, I may not have been born in Africa, but Africa was born in me.
I would finally say that…It's nothing more than a system of white supremacy and racism. That is
to maintain global domination…If all of us, who are everywhere, develop relationships with those
who are everywhere, then who begins to dominate the resources? The businesses? And the
…[I]t's a question of educating and I would say to you, starting at the very, very beginning -- you
can't appreciate what you don't know. You can't know what you're not taught. That's where it has
to begin in order for all of this to take place.
But also recognize that we are against -- we are facing some tremendous public policy odds that
fight the Congressional Black Caucus and others tooth and nail, to prevent that type of structure
to happen.
MR. DIANE: …[W]e must find a way of developing relationship both in the commercial plane as
well as the political plane as well. I'm happy to hear that the African Union is considering a sixth
region. In my mind, though, I think that Congressman Payne may be -- the Black Congressional
Caucus should go further than that. Not wait for them to grant or bestow it -- the privilege upon
you. But for the Congressional Black Caucus to demand a seat at the table and be part of the
negotiation, be part of the policy making, be part of the policy setting processes.
MR. SIMPKINS: Actually, they changed the charter, so it's not a proposal. It's done. But what's
not done is the mechanism for us to put our views forth. I think Salih's been part of the effort to
try and work out those mechanisms and I think there's another session tomorrow where,
hopefully, we'll be able to go a little further with that. But, Congressman, did you have a
CONGRESSMAN PAYNE: Yes, I think that a great vehicle will be the new Africa Union…I -about three weeks ago -- went to the AU headquarters in Adis and met with President Canare,
who is the chairman of the AU, and we discussed issues like this and about the Diaspora.
…[T]he AU really has a tremendous potential. I think we should work through it and, secondly,
the Africa Globalism Initiative that the Congressional Black Caucus has done. Tomei Principal's
leadership asked the Congressional Black Caucus to visit their country because oil had been
discovered offshore and they wanted some of our counsel and some of our legal minds and some
of our oil men from the U.S. to discuss what plans that they should use with this newly found
That's a real step in the right direction. We -- I talked to the Oil Minister in Chad several weeks
ago and, even though they have the Chad Cameroon pipeline, an agreement made with the
World Bank, they said they were interested in discussing with us the agreement that they made
and even ways that it can be strengthened.
So, we are going to meet with people to finally have, as we talked about the Diaspora. In the
future, there's going to be another area where you're going to have large numbers of people of
color migrating to and that's Europe. Western Europe is having a declining population.
…Therefore, it's going to be absolutely essential for people to be imported or migrating to those
countries. Now, they're going to have to do it because they have no other choice for labor, jobs.
You need working people to pay into a retirement system. But I have warned them at the EU that
they need to be prepared to prevent the situations that happened in the United States in Europe.
If they start to think about it now. There are, as you know, people from African descent all over
Europe. However, they're not in numbers as they are here in the United States or in this
hemisphere…Europe is going to have start to see how they're going to deal with people from
Africa and the Caribbean going into western Europe.
GOVERNOR MULIRO: I think on the issue of relationships and languages…I think that…the
Black Parliament of the Americas is a good initiative. I think that we need to think about
something in relation to receiving associate leadership, a point of connections. Internal
languages -- it seems to me, being here in the United States from Latin America, that we are
starting very late to study languages.
That's very important. This is the way to educate our children in going to those countries, learn
languages at the earliest age.
MR. ADAMI: Well, last year when we studied benefits of the black students of the University of
the State of Rio de Janeiro through the quota system in the affirmative action, people start to say
-- people against start to say, well, we're bringing those things from the United States and you are
bringing the racial hate.
…I said, well, you bring -- everybody bring here hot dog, Fox Television, Net Television,
Hollywood, Lee trousers -- those are American things and no one complains. Why only
affirmative action you are complaining?
…So I think it's a permanent fight. We are all connected and we have a very important things to
do together in changing information and changing fighting as we are doing in also in South
America and we are probably bringing some information to the organization -- American states
MR. SIMPKINS: Now let's get our comments and questions from the audience. Dr. Freeman?
DR. FREEMAN: Hi, my name is Sharon Freeman and I have spoken to a number of you about a
book that I'm publishing called "African Leaders Reach Out to Africans in the Diaspora." I was
very moved by the presentations here today. In fact…I don't want to go press without what Mr.
Joe Madison said. I intend to put that right in the book.
…I'd like to make a very concrete recommendation, as well, about what the Congressional Black
Caucus Foundation can do. When Congressman Payne mentioned the very well known
institutions that promote Africa, such as Constituency for Africa and AfriCare, when we go to
events together, we notice we have known each other for 30 years, sometimes even longer.
We are the same people who have been doing the Africa business for many years. The problem
is is that the institutions that the gentleman from Brazil mentioned in the first speaker were shut
out from doing work, more or less, with USAID, the World Bank, the InterAmerican Development
Bank. When you do not do work in those areas, you do not learn to make those connections.
We're talking relationships.
How do you get those relationships?…You have to have international experience by virtue of
something. Either you were in the diplomatic service, which we're cut out of that. In the military,
which has not been relevant to Africa.
Or we do international work as economists, as I am, but there are so few of us and if you see who
the Black people are who are working in Africa, they are so few and far between.
…It's only a few. So, the bottom line is this -- Congressman Payne signed a petition that I helped
to organize last year to try to force USAID to let more minority contractors to get in there so we
can learn about Africa firsthand. You do business on the side when you're there.
So, all the Congressional Black Caucus people signed this petition. It went to USAID and then it
just dropped right into a hole. If Mr. Booker can get 25,000 signatures for Darfur, we have a little
crisis here too. Can we talk? Because we need about 50,000 signatures to try to get us to do
some business with the World Bank. We have been disrespected to the ultimate degree. We are
not on any of those bids. Now the packages are 500 million per issue.
So, who among us can compete on one of those projects? So, I mean, we cannot grow our
advocacy and our constituency for Africa unless we have more direct experience from Africa.
…[W]e have to have current experience there and pressuring these organizations is a way to get
MR. SIMPKINS: I'll take this gentleman in the back. Your name is, sir?
MR. EMMANUEL: Hello. My name is Chris Emmanuel…I was wondering if you could each give
more information on how we can connect and network as African-Americans with Brazil -- with
…[I]f you could please give us information on how to network and do a direct action and business
with you, I would appreciate that greatly…
MR. DIANE: Just reacting a bit late to your comments. The image that Africans have of the U.S.
is that which is mainly portrayed through USAID…The image that they get is that by and large, if
a white man or if white women, coming in to either distribute PL480 rights, to implement a private
sector project and the like.
…I think the Congressional Black Caucus should probably focus on making sure that more
Africans from the Diaspora participate in the effort that the US government, our tax dollar money,
is put in establishing contacts with African nations and to USAID…
GOVERNOR MULIRO: …[W]e need some kind of institutional building of our own to move this
process forward. The Congressional Black Caucus is doing a lot. But they are very busy. The
Afro-Colombian experience shows that we need to provide information for them to do a specific
focus and strategic work…We need institutions that will bridge our people here and our people in
Latin America.
MR. ADAMI: Well, what we are doing is exchange information using the Internet, Internet list
dispersion because it's cheap…The action just points and targets the special lines in advocacy.
…We're going to finance only affirmative action university and education in university…[b]ut when
you start affirmative action, people complain. People say they targeted them and kicked them out
and they start to complain. They go to the courts. I said no, we want finance the democracy of
those subjects. So, but it's a mistake because when you have conflict, people will go to the
courts and the judge and sometimes they don't like the things like they are…
CONGRESSMAN PAYNE: I think that what one of the things that the CBC ought to try to do is to
really see about taking the AGOA Act, for example, and seeing if there's some way that that can
be made the potential for African growth and opportunity and programs like OPIC where it
oversees private investment.
…[T]he government will guarantee 90 percent or 95 percent of a particular project. So I think
what we ought to do is to concentrate through the Caucus on the existing legislation and there
are a lot of laws on the books. There's laws saying that every child should be good. Now the
question is how do you enforce it?
We need to work at the laws that are on the books and then look at new initiatives, the Millennium
Challenge Account, we need to kind of look at how that works. Of course, the people in the White
House has a lot to do with what organizations, for example, are selected to evaluate. There's a
tremendous new industry of evaluating countries around the world to see who qualifies for the
Millennium Challenge Account, for example.
Eight countries in Africa were selected -- a total of 16, I think, totally in the world. That in itself
would be great to have some kind of a subcontract or a contract. There are some organizations
very good that dealt very little with Africa, but was able to get a part of contract because they're
good at research, but did not have really the expertise, I felt, in Africa.
…[Y]ou also have to be able to impact the people in power. That's another part of it.
MR. ASIMBABE: My name is Michael Asimbabe.
…My point that I would like to make is we want, for example, to be able to develop professional
and leadership networks that will link Africans as well as Africans in the Diaspora.
…[A] crucial issue is leadership development, where you train young people to become future
transformational leaders in the future, both in African countries and even countries like Brazil
where you want to develop future leaders of African descent.
But then, the problem is such capacity building issues, you always do not have the investment in
such capacity building…[I]n cases where we talk about youth and leadership development, we're
talking about having to go to foundations to look for money and, as we know, foundations are not
-- do not have enough funds to finance all of the good projects around.
That's -- so whenever we talk about how we need to do this or that, there's always that problem of
how do you finance these initiatives. So…what are the best ways that we can go about
developing youth into transformational leaders in all of the relevant countries that we've talked
Second, how can we pool resources through networks to maybe generate both intellectual and
financial resources?
CONGRESSMAN PAYNE: I think that the question of youth -- and I'm not sure whether you're
talking about in the Diaspora or here -- we have initiated a new program last year to -- called the
Charles Rangel Fellowship Program, which is going specifically after college age students to
have an intensive program and attempting to get more African-Americans, that is, interested in
international relations.
Not necessarily working for government, but just to be engaged in trying to increase not just the
State Department, but also just in general.
…[W]e have to do is to have programs at the government to make it -- to go out, encourage
young people, explain to them the opportunities and then have the programs available for them to
come in…
MR. SIMPKINS: I think we have time for one more question.
MS. OSAN: …I'm Emma Osan…[e]verybody around the room agrees that the issue of AIDS
transcends medical, social and political realms. But, in my own opinion, and I'm sure you all will
also agree with this, that part of the problem is some of the political institutions.
…[W]hat role does the Congressional Black Caucus have and what level of influence do you
perceive you to have in influencing change? In this regard, I am thinking of change from the
political level.
…I believe that this scourge is really not going to stop any time soon in our lifetime if we don't
look to address the issue, not only from the medical, not only from the social, but, more
importantly, more forcefully importantly, from the political realm, specifically as it deals with the
continental African and sub-Saharan and African areas.
CONGRESSMAN PAYNE: Well, very quickly, a report came out just two or three days ago that
indicated that in countries where education in Africa was more available to -- there was access to
education -- that the incidence of HIV and AIDS was nowhere near where it was in places where
primary education was inaccessible and where the girl child was being eliminated by virtue of the
way some African countries' systems worked.
So, one thing we have to do is to deal with education…Some people in remote areas still do not
know it exists…We should certainly listen to African people, those on the ground, who have ideas
about how to go about teaching it. The Ugandan experience worked because it was done by
Ugandans. They went out and performed in villages, in Bugandan and in Swahili, whatever the
language of that particular area was. They did it in song and dance with HIV positive people,
telling the story.
As you know, it's leveled off in Uganda and actually has had a decrease in the prevalence of HIV
and AIDS. So education certainly works. Of course, the question is what happened to all those
people that have it? It's certainly a cost thing. We do see that the pharmaceuticals after their
foolish suit to South Africa finally withdrew it and our now cooperating rather than fighting. They
are reducing the cost of some of their pharmaceuticals in places, especially the transmission from
mother to child.
Finally, I think that the CBC was extremely instrumental because no one was talking about HIV
and AIDS funds to Africa and Barbara Lee and Dr. Christianson, of course, involving issues of
Africa myself and others, we continually, through the years, before the funding, even before the
Bush administration came in, we finally got a little funding.
Then, with our continued pushing and with the entrance of the evangelistic religious sort of right
Christian organizations came in and really convinced, I think, the president that this was
something that was being transmitted to children. It was anti-family, anti-child. As you know, the
Bush initiative came up with 10 billion new money with the five billion that was already allocated
and 15 billion has been mentioned. Of course, getting the money out is another issue. But, I
think that education is certainly the key to this.
MR. SIMPKINS: …[T]hank you for coming and participating.
Haiti at a Crossroads
Hosted by: Rep. John Conyers, Jr. and Rep. Barbara Lee
Panelists: Eugenia Charles (moderator), Marlene Bastien, Cynthia Martin, Aisha Howe, Dr. Gallier,
Karen Hubbard, Ron Daniels
The purpose of this panel was to discuss strategies concerning how Haiti could reinvent itself.
Panelist reported that the current interim government in Haiti is not the constitutional government and
political opposition parties have chosen not to work with the Aristide government to establish a
Provisional Electoral Council or CEP. With no CEP there is no chance of holding elections for the
expiring terms of the Parliament earlier this year. Reportedly, over one billion dollars has been
funneled into a country led by illegitimate leadership and the interim government has limited political
organizing and participation from Haiti’s poor and those who may not agree with the ousting of
President Aristide. The discussion suggested that the Fanmi Lavalas is the most popular and
strongest political party that Haiti currently has. Panelists suggested utilization of the Fanmi Lavalas
party organizational capabilities to mobilize concerned residents in the community. Many other
strategies and recommendations for change were offered.
Recommendations for Action:
Rebuild the Social and Economic Systems Infrastructure
• Rebuilding the health infrastructure of Haiti, including: sanitation, sewage, investing in
community ambulances, and paving routes to community health centers 40 miles out each
way. (Congresswoman Barbara Lee sponsored H.R. 3386, entitled the New Partnership for
Haiti. This legislation specifically calls for rebuilding Haiti as specified above)
Build the Capacity of the Country’s Human Resources
• Build the technology and transfer information by actual people in Haiti or people who are
Haitian-Americans would aid in capacity building; ultimately Haitians would be able to
maintain and repair the infrastructure on their own.
Plan Strategizing Sessions with Committed Citizens
• Negotiation and strategizing sessions have to occur to plan for the future of Haiti. It is critical
that open discussions with committed politicians and concerned citizens take place in a
peaceful and productive manner. This person or entity that takes on this role must be an
expert at facilitating discussions and ensure that all sides get heard.
MS. MARTIN: Good afternoon. I’m Cynthia Martin from Congressman John Conyers, Jr.’s office,
and this is Aisha Howe from Ms. Barbara Lee’s office. Our bosses jointly co-chair the Congressional
Black Caucus Haiti Taskforce.
We’ve decided to begin the issue forum as the Members are up on the Hill voting, and they have
series of votes which will keep them away from us for about a half an hour. I am going to read Mr.
Conyers’ opening remarks, and Aisha will read Ms. Lee’s opening remarks.
… It is clear that the current corporate action in Haiti is fully inadequate. What we plan to discuss
today is how we can put Haiti back on track and restore its rightful place in the world as a country of
great people, great promise, and great action. I am troubled that the UN troops in Haiti are neither of
sufficient number or sufficient (inaudible). According to the Washington Post, as recently as
yesterday, the civilian-led United Nations Peacekeeping force in Haiti does not have enough troops
to stop renewed conflict when armed groups have taken over two towns.
I am troubled that no true leadership in Haiti currently exists. It is also my understanding from these
reports, the former soldiers and others are demanding a re-establishment of the Army as well as
back pay. I am troubled that many infant Haitians are being murdered and beaten daily. I am
troubled that criminals and thugs are being released from jail after shammed trials. Now is the time
to act. The people of Haiti must not continue to suffer. I look forward to both the comments and
recommendations of the panelists and audience.
MS. AISHA HOWE: …As we speak, the climate in Haiti grows increasingly hostile and the
possibility for democratic progress remains dim. We all agree that the current interim government in
Haiti is not the constitutional government. The reality remains that political opposition parties choose
not to work with the Aristide government to establish a Provisional Electoral Council or CEP. And
with no CEP, there is no chance of holding elections for the expiring terms of the Parliament earlier
this year, the same Parliament that was constitutionally bound to confirm the then Supreme Court
Chief Justice. Now today, over one billion dollars has been funneled into a country led by illegitimate
leadership. The interim government has limited and intimidated political organizing and participation
from Haiti’s poor and those who may not agree with the ousting – those who did not agree with the
ousting of President Aristide.
The interim government has rewarded thieves and thugs, labeling them rebels and freedom fighters,
and pardoning them for the thousands of Haitian lives they have massacred all through the ‘90s and
even earlier this year as they marched towards Port-au-Prince. Members of the Lavalas Party or
opponents of the interim government sit in jail today, and I ask you what kind of justice is this? What
can we do as members of Congress, as the Black community, and as partners in global peace and
justice, to make a difference for the people of Haiti?…The Congressional Black Caucus Haiti
Taskforce has a diversity of opinions on what future steps must be taken in regard to Haiti…and
today that diversity is reflected in the panelists that will speak.
… So let us begin today by warmly welcoming Ms. Eugenia Charles…
MS. CHARLES: …[M]y name is Eugenia Charles…
…Haiti is facing a difficult time. On September 6th, of the headlines, from AHP that Haitian’s express
was – they said death tolls rise to 16, some of the execution alleged…Demobilized forces plan to
reinstall Section Chief in the South, that was the headline. Today Haiti is truly, in deed, at a
We are about to commerate September 11, here in the United States of America…Haiti has also
known September 11th. On September 11, we will remember the burning of…We will also remember
the murder of Antoine…He was a permanent activist -- he was fighting for democracy, and was
pulled out of church and killed, so we need to remember him also on September 11th.
At the end of the month on September 30th, Haiti will remember the coup, September 30, 1991, the
first coup that ousted the first people elected President in 1990….I will proceed with our guest
speakers…Dr. Gallier…from Haiti.
DR. GALLIER: …From Independence Day until now, Haiti has not known anything but dictatorial
regime. If political events took place, which were fought for the overthrow of Duvalier era…then
shine for Haiti…
The Constitution of 1987, voted by the majority of the population, had indicated the fundamental
basis which imply a doable and lasting democracy and development could be implanted.
From 1991 until now, the democratic process that was marching on by popular and democratic votes
was imputed from top to the bottom by some traditional enemies of change and democracy. The up
and coming election…will not change anything. If something is not done to repair damaging
circumstances associated with the changes in Haitian national leader and government. For we know
to vote implies a state in the process of establishing a democratic regime. While we know that, the
first past election was not fully respected. Therefore, the next coming election will be subject to the
very same problems, regardless who is in power.
Remember that political and social development of any country is dependent on respect for the law
of the country…
MS. CHARLES: …Our next panelist is Ms. Karen Hubbard…
MS. HUBBARD: …You may or may not be aware, but the United States government, through AID,
has always been Haiti’s largest bi-lateral neighbor and that has been true since - for quite some time
- from the middle of 1980s. We have since - approximately since 1995, until last year, given
approximately 850 million dollars to Haiti. This year, I’m going to walk through this a little bit about
the security situation…and give you a little bit of insight into the transition from U.S.-led multilateral
interim force to the United Nations-led minutia forces that are in Haiti are trying to provide additional
security in the country.
…The issue of security obviously has been of paramount importance and paramount concern to the
United States government in Haiti. With the entrance of the multi-lateral interim force, security was
somewhat improved in Haiti. Security is still of paramount concern in Haiti. There are large parts of
Haiti that are yet to be under control of the state or under control of the interim government in Haiti
and that is when the transition to the United Nations’ Stabilization Force. That force, which is
authorized at a level 6,700 troops and which they will be at that level by the end of this year. The
purpose of that course is to provide the security that is necessary for the interim government of Haiti
to actually conduct its business for the citizens of Haiti who feel secure in their environment, and
ultimately to the elections in Haiti, sometime in 2005. That’s important because this is an interim
government of Haiti and that’s why when these are absent the United States government, we are –
love to do, it’s called the IGOH, not called the GOH, the Interim Government of Haiti and there is
extreme interest and extreme emphasis on the fact that there should be elections as soon as
humanly possible. The Interim Government of Haiti has laid out its own timetable for elections to
occur beginning in the middle of 2005. The U.N. will be in charge of setting the conditions and
climate for those elections, but ultimately will be the Electoral Council in Haiti that will determine the
conditions, the parameters, and how those elections are conducted and how the Electoral Council is
The donors in Haiti have been an important component of the development of Haiti or lack thereof,
unfortunately. At this point, the United States government is still the lead government of the lead
donor in Haiti…[where] there was a billion dollars that the international community pledged for
reconstruction efforts for the next two years…[P]eople talk about reconstruction, some people call in
construction of Haiti, and there’s a bit of both because there needs to be an emphasis on
reconstruction, but an increasing emphasis on the construction of institutions that are capable of
actually carrying out the work in Haiti, and that’s an important component for the way the United
States government is approaching our work in Haiti.
…Of paramount importance at the very beginning was obviously making sure that there was no
humanitarian crisis in Haiti. There was a disruption in the supply of goods, etc. We wanted to make
sure there was no outbreak of disease, that there was no shortage of food, those types of situations.
We provided immediate and large assistance in the health area. We provided – immediately set up
hospitals, hospitals were running out of supplies…we blanketed the country with health supplies, and
we ensured that the food situation – that there was sufficient food in-country so that there wasn’t a
humanitarian crisis…[w]e initiated…with the help of the United Nations, UNICEF and others,
replaced the vaccine in country, so that the vaccination of children now can continue, and that’s very
important at the onset of the school year.
A very important component of our program was electricity. Electricity, which had been provided
around approximately 12 hours a day had dwindled to zero in some areas, one to two hours in other
areas, which is a very hard for an economy to recover much less people to go about their daily
business, and certainly it’s an issue in terms of pride. We have been providing the fuel, the other
types of input you need to keep the electricity on in Haiti, it is at 12 to 18 hours and we will be
providing that until there is revenue identified within the government of Haiti to supply that on its own
volition or when there is additional investments by the international community. That has been an
extremely important contribution by the United States, to keep the electricity on in Haiti.
Another area of importance to the government of Haiti, to people, was the creation of some
immediate jobs. There’s 90 percent unemployment in Haiti. That’s nothing new, it didn’t happen in
February, it didn’t happen last year, there’s chronic unemployment in Haiti. There’s a tremendous
need in Haiti for jobs. The creation of longer-term jobs isn’t something you do just like that. We
began a lot of job creation programs. We have created 39,000 jobs in the last three months in Haiti,
and these are mainly short-term jobs, and they are cleaning up Port-au-Prince. Unfortunately there’s
been large garbage collection problems, all kinds of issues. For those of you that have been in Portau-Prince – you can see the state of some of the cities and we’ve tried to assist in creating jobs so
that the cities can get cleaned up and people can actually feel more comfortable in the environment
in which they live. It’s important that the government of Haiti receive support from the United States
government. We have been, and we will be, providing support for very key ministries to get them up
and running. The Ministry of Commerce so that businesses can get back up and running. The
Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Education. Education is big, big and important in Haiti.
People that have very, very little spend what little they have on sending their children to school. We
feel it’s very important with the beginning of this school year that school’s open on time, they’re
adequately supplied, and children have uniforms and school books. And they will, and that is
because the United States government is paying for the uniforms and school books to open the
schools this year. That is extremely important for every Haitian that has school-aged children, that
they send their children to school…
…During this crisis and prior to this crisis, the situation of drinking water [was] terrible in Haiti, and it’s
not going to get fixed overnight, but we have embarked on a program around the country to invest in
cleaning up the water systems and investing in clean, safe drinking water so that people have access
to drinking water.
…I think that there is a perception out there that for some reason the United States government is
not a friend to Haiti, and nothing could be further from the truth. The people of Haiti are of paramount
interest and concern to the government of Haiti and through AID, this year alone, we’re providing 178
million dollars to Haiti. That ranges from everything from some of the programs I touched on now to
a very large robust program…on HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS is unfortunately a growing problem in Haiti,
and it is one of the premier countries in Latin America in the way that it’s fighting HIV/AIDS and we
are supporting that.
We will continue to support the basic needs of Haiti, but the ultimate goal of the United States
government through AID, is to provide prolonged or permanent employment and ultimately, an
economic recovery in Haiti. That’s something that won’t happen in the span of my tenure at AID, it
won’t happen in the span of the interim government of Haiti, probably even the next government of
Haiti. Whatever time, it will happen, but those investments and the opportunity of this – the subject of
this is Haiti at a Crossroads. We see it as an opportunity and time for investment, a time for creation
of new opportunities for people in Haiti and that’s what we’re trying to do. That’s what the policy that
we had set out to implement supports, and I welcome your comments on how we’re actually
implementing that and a variety of other ways. This is not a perfect time in Haiti and I think that there
have been missteps. The interim government of Haiti has come a long way in terms of what is done.
We were very disappointed and we have said so, on the record, in the way that the Chamblain trial
was carried out, and we hope that the justice system which is in badly need of repair and has been in
disrepair for a number of, a number of years. The investments we are making in training of judges
and prosecutors and in training a new Haitian National Police Force will make some investments
along with the international community to put that law enforcement capability in the Haitian National
Policy in the judicial branch that is badly needed in Haiti…
MS. CHARLES: …Yes, again, Haiti is at the crossroads. Fifty-five percent of our population doesn’t
know how to read and write. In the past 200 years, we’ve only built 194 primary schools, 104 public
high schools. Last year, a parent paid 55 goats to send their children to the public high school and
primary elementary school, but this year it’s been raised to 355 goats, which equals 10 US dollars.
And you know when you are in a country with 95 percent unemployment, what does this do to the
parents? The necessity to pay this tuition, but also to buy the uniform, buy the books -- it takes more
than that, you also have to feed the child. I would like to bring up next, Marlene Bastien…
MS. BASTIEN: …Some of you might be asking the same questions about Haiti. When we look at
Haiti and what Haiti accomplished 200 years ago when our ancestors gave hope to human kind, and
when I say human kind, I mean it. When you take a group Africans, taken from Africa, brought to
Haiti when mothers were separated from brothers and sisters, husbands from wives, they couldn’t
speak the same language, and yet they were able to organize, to know their own language, form
their own language and with the help of their drum, the religion, the voodoo religion, and the Creole
language, fought and won and defeated the most powerful Army in the world. And to look at Haiti
now, some of you might be wondering why are we still talking about Haiti? Why are we spending so
much time on Haiti, but we are here and I’m here…Some of you may already know that since the
departure of President Aristide, conditions have worsened. Now some people, may want you to
believe that things are improved. As a matter fact, just before I came here, I read an article from the
Miami Herald saying that things are getting better, and then my question to you is that, how can
things get better when you still have 90 percent of people unemployed, food – the cost of food is
increasing, people cannot buy the most basic staple which is rice, and when they complain, the de
facto Prime Minister told them, if they can’t eat rice, then buy cornmeal.
While you have past human rights abusers walking the streets of Haiti, free and at ease…while
Aristide supporters are jailed or killed by the thousands because the reports indicate that 3,000 have
died -- not 300 as you pointed out in the Miami Herald -- …since February and yet you can read as
many media reports as you can, you will not find this information.
While supporters of Aristide are being jailed and you have guys …who committed the most
egregious…human rights abuse in the history of Haiti. They are walking free and yet you have
people who were duly elected by the people of Haiti detained. That is wrong.
…Whenever you bring up the issue of politics with Haitians, you will have divergent opinions. You
have people who are completely against Aristide, who think that he was the demon in person, that he
was the worst dictator, and then that now we should not focus on what happened, the past is the
past, let the past be past. Let’s do what we can and invest in Haiti, but my question to you [is:] How
can you build on a crumbled rotten house? Isn’t that…a fair question to ask?…Then some people
tell you that it is time to move on, let’s invest in Haiti’s infrastructure, let’s invest in good building, let’s
invest in sweatshops. Well…I don’t think sweatshops can really make a difference. Because when
you invest in sweatshops, what do you invest in? I think you invest in modern slavery, when you talk
about Haiti. Do you know that if you invest in modern slavery, then you’ll have people working for
$1.50 a day in the harshest conditions possible, with no, no, no possibility of improving their lives. To
the point that they probably will have to take two more jobs to make ends meet….Then you have
some people who say that I don’t care how much money you invest in Haiti today, it will not make a
difference because first you have to restore constitutional rule. You have to restore constitutional
rule, you can’t go buy it. You have a man who was democratically elected by the people of Haiti.
Many of us have problems with him…I have problems with our President in this country, but what do
we do? We wait until November 2 and then we’re going to vote…and remove him from office. But I
don’t care if you are against Aristide or you are against the Islamist Party, how can you agree for
powerful nations, maybe three of them, the U.S., the so-called friend of Haiti, Canada and France to
decide to go there and remove him? …There has to be an investigation, the rule of law must be
restored and this is where we should start…Second, I don’t care how much money you invest in
Haiti, there is a fundamental belief that needs to be changed today…[W]e have a fundamental
problem…that we don’t have one people in Haiti…[U]nless you solve that…you will not be able to
change anything. You have a group of people living together on a piece of island with so many
views…You have to have…a vision, a common vision and a common destiny first. Once you have
that common vision and that common destiny, then you sit down, you have a national dialogue to
develop a social contract and then you work from the plan, your 5-year plan or 10-year plan, to make
sure that this contract is implemented…A contract, by the people, with the people of Haiti, not the
elite…Then you do education. People need to know what the government, what the state is…Then
you have to do the education to show the bourgeoisie that they also comprised the state of Haiti.
You see, the bourgeois, the elite, the upper class, the middle class, the lower class, they all make the
state; and the state, everybody has to work together for the benefit of the country to accomplish this
Lastly, you invest in the infrastructure. You don’t invest in sweatshops, you invest in agriculture, you
invest in the justice system…You need to identify and assess these organizations who we would
believe in true democratic principles, and you give the money to them, for they are connected to the
people of Haiti. People who understand tradition and embrace the vision, that’s who you invest your
money to…
Then finally, finally, do – continue to do the education and assessment, assessment, assessment…
MS. CHARLES: Thank you…
Yes indeed, Haiti needs democracy right now. Haiti needs education, Haiti needs infrastructure, not a
sham infrastructure. Haiti needs a true change in the justice system…that will respect the citizens of
Haiti. We need justice that will take into account ability the eight million people produce in the island,
not just a few…I will move on next to welcome Mr. Daniels…
MR. DANIELS: Thank you…
…[W]hat brings me to this forum is my work with the Haiti Support Project, and…I came to this work
because of my work in the civil rights movement, the movement for Black power and Pan-Africanism,
and because I believe…that the one place that we had overlooked was Haiti…In many of the
meetings that we went to throughout the Caribbean and many of the meetings we held here, there
was no voice there from Haiti…But when I went in 1995, I discovered a rich – not only a rich
heritage, a rich history, but a very vibrant, strong, and very dynamic people…I also felt that there had
been a historical omission and neglect in terms of the African-American liberation struggle…[W]e all
owe Haiti a debt for in fact having really given back all of us our dignity at a time when we were all on
our backs, that’s to say people of African descent…[W]hen we uplift Haiti, it’s not doing Haiti a favor,
it is really for our collective self-esteem. We will all feel better and stand taller once we have finally
been able to aid and assist, respectfully and with dignity, and stand by Haitian brothers and sisters,
to finish – to help finish the unfinished Haitian Revolution…
Now in terms of the key question of Haiti at the Crossroads. The question of conditions for restoring
democracy, if you will…It seems to me that we are at a point where until some sort of fundamental,
political issues are addressed, very little else can move forward. These fundamental questions have
to be addressed.
Secondly, it seems to me that if there’s to be any progress that has already been spoken to, there
cannot be a scenario where the members of Lavalas, the party, the leaders, the partisans, the
sympathisizers are being systematically intimidated, systematically harassed, systematically killed,
this cannot – this is not the way in which you proceed if, in fact, there’s to be some resolution moving
forward. And that is what’s happening in Haiti today, there’s an imbalance.
…What is going on on the ground now in Haiti is the systematic intimidation, terrorization and killing
of people of Lavalas, that has to end…There have to be some forces who are not necessarily
partisans, but who will stand based on what they see and give their best thinking, their best thoughts
about how to move forward, so that’s one of the preconditions we’ve see.
Second question, in terms of security, is the question of…disarmament…
When President Clinton helped to bring President Aristide back, one of the things that did not happen
was that this armament of the front forces and the counter-revolutionary forces were not
disarmed…Now we have a situation again where…the “rebels” could have been blocked, could have
been stopped. This takeover could never - should never, ever have happened. The United States
comes and they send in a contingent, but they do not disarm the rebels. Now they want the United
Nations to disarm the rebels. So now you have this thousand pound gorilla on the scene, in terms of
this force that is now asking that it be reconstituted as an army or whatever, and that problem has to
be solved, but I think we have to go back to our government, the United States government, and
place it clearly their responsibility because they now want the United Nations to do what they should
have done. Because they created the problem, they should have cleaned up the problem.
Now this issue of the Army is a big issue, and I don’t think that Haiti can move forward without some
effort at a demobilization of these forces. That has to be done systematically…There has to be a
demobilization of these forces and that is the combination of sufficient force that they are demobilized
coupled with a program that, in fact, provides for their reintegration back into society…
…[T]he next step is to try to move forward with some form of elections. But I don’t see how you
could ever have elections unless these other things are resolved first…We have to set up a
constitutional right to try to figure out whether we are going to file a law suit because we’re concerned
that you could steal elections with electronic voting…and there must be international monitors.
There must be a system by which new elections are held…So we have to find a way in which
Lavalas is a free and open participant in the process, and if they refuse to participate in the process,
then we still have another political stalemate. Because even if there are elections, the question is,
where was the participation of Lavalas as the party, which in fact was in power and was illegally
removed from power
REPRESENTATIVE ST. CLAIR: The first thing in my humble opinion that you have to do is you
have to establish security…I don’t care if your poor, I don’t care if your bourgeois, I don’t care who
you are, there is no security…Moreover, there is not a law enforcement or a justice official that is
going to be able to save your life or do anything about it…[T]here was a time like this in America.
Democracy is not easy…It took time for it to happen. We can’t just walk over and wake up and 200
or 300 years later we’ve got America as it is today….We had some very difficult times getting to
where we are right now…But we have to have a real commitment to disarmament and disarmament
has to be on both sides…We’re headed down the right path on Haiti, I thought -- I was hopeful in the
early ‘90s, because we really had a program in America about nation building, and then we stopped
because the commitment was not there. The commitment was not there. The idea that we’re going
to be saved by NGOs or by folks coming in by foreign government is not going to happen. I think
NGOs are some of the biggest problems in Haiti today…All of them come in and do what they want
to do…Moreover, you don’t build a brain trust in Haiti. Everybody wants to do all these wonderful
things and you do not have the skilled people in the country to be able to get it done. So you’re
always going to import people in order to be able to get it done. So in my mind, all these NGOs who
are in this country have to be as fast…We need a Camp David for Haiti, because we have need a
real negotiation session, somebody really committed to that. Some statesman, who actually ha[s] a
real sit-down with all parties and begin[s] a real negotiation session about what is going to happen
with Haiti, and how it’s going to happen…[G]iven where we are, what next steps do we take?
…[W]hat are we going to tell them to do differently…besides pointing out what they’re doing wrong.
The Bush administration doesn’t care about Haiti. It is involved in a policy of containment right now.
That’s all that’s happening…Let’s keep them all quiet until November third. November third anybody
can do whatever they want to do. That, I deeply believe, that is the policy and so therefore, what do
we ought to do? What do we expect to do? If we are in the numbers that we are here in this
country…what are we going to make sure that they do come November second of this year. You
figure it out if we want to be able to have a real voice and be able to have real impact about how
foreign policy is devised for Haiti in the next 10 to 15 years, because that is what’s going to happen.
So what I would suggest to you is what should’ve happened…our government should have been
more involved in the diplomatic solutions for Haiti. But we had a policy of disengagement because
we did not care about what happened on that island. Once it became a problem, we figured out a
way to get rid of it because that’s what we do…and now that we’ve gotten rid of the problem…we’re
going to contain the problem as long as we can and so we’re going to throw money at it…
Moreover, if we really cared about Haiti, we would allow for temporary protective status for Haitians
now sitting in Florida and across this country, because you know that the state that the country is in.
If you really believed that you ought to help them, then you wouldn’t be sending people back in order
to make it even worse to be able to get them some – find real solutions for what’s happening in Haiti.
So what can we do, we need to make noise about temporary protective status for people who are
currently here in this country and not talk about sending people back.
…The other piece that I wanted to talk to you about is…repatriation. I agree that if you have the
privilege of coming into this country, you should behave yourself and should observe our laws. But if
you’re a kid who’s been here since you were two years old, seven years old, 10 years old, where did
you learn all your stuff? And now you decide that he’s too much, that he’s killed somebody so
whatever he’s done, well I’m going to put him on a one-way ticket, that’s what we’re doing. Back to
an island that’s exploding, and you tell me you want to help this country…There’s specific things that
we can do right here, that are not huge, that are not overwhelming, that are within our control and
we’re not doing them. So we have to do that too in order to help the island because they cannot
handle the number of young adults that are being sent back right now. They cannot, they do not
have the legal infrastructure, they do not have the law enforcement infrastructure, and it’s 90 percent
unemployment, what are you sending them to do?
Moreover and finally, if we can figure out a way to locate Saddam Hussein, we can figure out a way
to stop the inflow of drug trafficking in Haiti, which is killing that country’s economy…if you want to
fight the war on terrorism, stop it where it begins and that is by these terrible substances that are now
flowing back into America and making it very difficult for many kids in the inner-city, and guess what,
these days in many suburban communities, from being able to have hope…Given where we are,
what can we do? We can demand that our country help rebuild democratic institutions in Haiti. Real
democratic institutions that the people learn to manage themselves, not we come in, manage for 10
months or 5 months, and then we leave them in the lurch. That’s not how it’s done because
democracy, as they’re finding out in Iraq, takes longer to take hold than just because we’ve said it
from the Presidential podium. It takes time and it takes investment of people and resources, and we
need to make a serious commitment about that in Haiti.
Second, we need to vote…and we need to make sure both on the state, city, and federal levels, we
tell people what we care about. Because if you’re talking putting an African-American agenda, and
within the African-American agenda we include all Black people…Immigration should be on that
African-American agenda…I think better days are ahead for Haiti…But my concern is that we don’t
tie it around one individual. We tie it around building real institutions in Haiti that will establish
If you establish security, and that is the rule of law, first recognizing it and respecting it, and you have
to build an education piece around that for it to happen.
Two, you help the law enforcement community. Really building a police force that understands the
civil rights of people and not simply penalty and punishment, and we need to do that.
Three, you disarm the thugs. All of them who are currently running rampant across this country, and
don’t pick and choose who your friends are based upon how you’re feeling at the moment, but do the
right thing based upon the rule of law…Thank you.
MS. CHARLES: …At this time, we’ll be able to take questions from the audience…
PARTICIPANT: Good afternoon, my name is Roland…and…my two questions were, how is
democracy/capitalism, according to Walter Rodney, how is democracy/capitalism aided Haiti’s
domestic development?
Then the second question is, how do you envision democracy and capitalism enabling Haiti to invest
in development…?
REPRESENTATIVE ST. CLAIR: With respect to the containment piece, I think that is the goal and
objective of this current government…The first President, in my estimation, [that] actually took a stab
at it…was John Adams…Ever since then, what people have tried to do is put a band-aid on
problems. The first President who actually took the time to sort of look at the situation in Haiti…and
had real conversations about how to move stability in Haiti was…President Clinton. But that was
half-hearted because it didn’t hold…[T]he difference now…is that there is a constituency in America
which can help keep Haiti on the front burner. We never had a critical mass of Haitian Americans in
this country to help make policy, Haitian policy an issue, but we do now…I’m just putting it out there,
it’s not brain surgery or neuroscience, it’s really – it’s politics and it’s electoral politics and we have
the power to make that shift now so that it can be made a priority, and we have allies to help us get it
PARTICIPANT: My question is for Ms. Hubbard…How can the international community think about
having elections next year in Haiti under the present conditions?…
MS. HUBBARD: …The international community doesn’t decide when the elections are in Haiti. The
people of Haiti and the Council, the Electoral Council in Haiti will decide when the elections are in
Haiti. When they decide what the electoral timetable is, that’s what then – the support of the
international community will then follow. The climate today in Haiti does not exist for election, I agree
with you. The security climate does not exist for elections in Haiti…The government of Haiti and the
interim government of Haiti, set out what they thought was a adequate time frame to have three sets
of elections. One for local municipal officials, one for legislative officials, and one for the Presidency;
all to occur next year, 2005. The CEP which will then set those timetables has not yet agreed – not
yet set those dates. It will be a very ambitious timetable. Voter registration needs to occur. That’s
something that can take 9 to 10 months…It is now up to the CEP and those members that were
appointed to set out the electoral timetable, not us.
MR. DANIELS: …Let me just say, I agree, that the conditions do not exist in Haiti today for elections
and I hope that the process is not rushed, but there has to be some coming together and meeting of
the minds of a number of parties about how to proceed. Because there is this lingering issue out
there, which is why the question of the investigation becomes important.
Secondly, the whole question of the conduct itself of the de facto government, which has not really
conducted itself in a way to open up and to be conciliatory or to do the kind of outreach that would
create the climate. The current…Electoral Council does not include…a representative from Lavalas
because they have said unless there’s first a change in the conditions and relationship to terror and
intimidation, they’re not going to participate. Well that, to me, is a major problem. They must be
involved in the process. If they’re not involved in the process, then how can that process be
perceived as legitimate? So I think there’s a lot of problems in terms of moving ahead with elections,
but at some point…there must be elections, they must be supervised, they must be done in a way
that, at the end of the day, the outcome is not in question. Because if the outcome is in question
then we’re still back where we are in terms of questions about the process.
MS. BASTIEN: …I think that people also need to know that the de facto regime also controls Portau-Prince…The big part of the country is still under thug rule in Haiti…[T]he conditions there are
horrible…while people are arrested and jailed arbitrarily.
MS. HUBBARD: I think you heard a great deal of agreement…[especially] the need for
disarmament on all sides. That is key, whether it’s elections, whether it’s investment in democratic
institutions, investment in the agriculture sector, investments in the education sector…That is
something that the United Nations must take on and it must take on as soon as possible, and there
must be a very active demobilization effort to accompany that disarmament, and that certainly is their
mandate and our objective…
DR. GALLIER: …I think it is desired, in any circumstances of any kind at the present time, for
people to be talking about election of any kind in Haiti. What kind of election? Presidential? Aristide
was supposed to be there for five years…When President Aristide was forcing the opposition to go to
election and they know that they didn’t have the force, they didn’t have the popularity to win the
election, they didn’t go. Instead of going to election, they would rather come here, in Washington,
get buddy-buddy with the President and so they overthrown President Aristide. What kind of
election, when the people, the mass people who usually vote, they have to hide themselves so they
don’t be arrested…Prime Minister Neptune is in jail, his whole army’s in jail…
MS. CHARLES: Yes, your question sir.
PARTICIPANT: …I’m Burt Wise…There’s an air of unreality about this discussion. I appreciate
everything that Representative St. Clair said, but these things will not simply happen. The U.S. is the
only one that is going to make these things happen. The Haitian people, a wonderful people, are not
going to be able to “disarm”. They’re not going to be able to institute the rule of law, etc. and the U.S.
right now, and with all due respect ma’am, USAID is directly responsible in part for some of the
Secondly…I think your idea of dealing with the problems now forward as a primary point is valid.
There’s one problem. There’s a million people potentially about to die in Sudan and the realities in
Washington are between terrorism and Iraq, the electric, the economy, we can’t get people to really –
there a number of people in the Congress, there was a unanimous resolution, but we can’t get the
executive to be strong enough, vis-à-vis the U.N. and Security Council and so forth. There is no way
that they’re going to do the things necessary in Haiti unless we establish the responsibility…by
having an investigation that shows what happened to the overthrow of the government and what’s
happening now…
MS. HUBBARD: If I could respond to the specific allegation against AID. I have to say I’m a little bit
stunned at the allegation, not because of what you said but the inaccuracy of it…I’m sorry if you don’t
like what you’re hearing, but they’re reporting on human rights abuses and they have been reporting
on human rights abuses for quite some time. Have you ever been to the offices of CARLY, in Portau-Prince? They receive calls and they assist victims that have been the victims of human rights
violations in Haiti…
PARTICIPANT: Just because it says it’s reporting on human rights violations, ma’am, does not
mean it’s reporting on human rights violations. You need to read the reports of four or five groups,
including Amnesty who have gone down and have pressed them, and they’ve admitted they do not
investigate the allegation. The allegations come in, they put them up on their distribution and the
people have to run for their lives. I think you don’t know what, in fact, is going on down there.
There’ve been – there was a human rights organization in ’91, the leading one in the country, and do
you know what happened after the coup? The head of it became the Prime Minister.
MS. CHARLES: …Your questions?
PARTICIPANT: …I’m Rochelle Rosen….I’m a Haitian born here in America..and one of the things
that I see as a problem is retaining the talent back in Haiti…How can we expect to ever build Haiti
with 90 percent illiteracy?… Who’s going to be teaching the Haitians and things of that nature, but I
just wanted to address that issue of Haitians going back to Haiti so we can educate the people of our
REPRESENTATIVE ST. CLAIR: …There is no security in Haiti, and not even simply under this
movement, but even prior to that…So there’s a whole thinking that has to change in order for people
to be able to help…I think the first thing though, the people who are there, you have to create an
education system that makes sense. It’s not simply educating people, they’ve got to be able to find a
job…Because there are no systems in place. That’s the kind of thing, and there is no shame about it
and that’s why I have a problem with it. So you can’t get people to stay.
…So now, it’s changing, so I think you have to build the people that are there...
MS. CHARLES: …We’ll take our last question…on the issue of Haitians helping to rebuild Haiti…
REPRESENTATIVE ST. CLAIR: …When we say we Haitians build Haiti - be careful…I think all of
us have an obligation to help Haiti, but I give the people who are there everyday and living it…I can’t
go in and tell them how to do it. It’s like people coming in to the inner-city, and I hate it, telling us how
to rebuild our community and then telling us how to do it. We’re no longer there. We have to respect
that and we have to pay, perhaps figure out ways to invest in a more effective way. Sending money
back to your family is great, but perhaps investing in a business is even better in order to build – you
know what I mean?…I do say that with all due respect, but every time somebody says that, I get
really worried…
MS. AISHA HOWE: Well I want to just chime in too. We have, the Congressman has a piece of
legislation called H.R. 3386, it’s called the New Partnership for Haiti and it talks specifically about
rebuilding the health infrastructure of Haiti, sanitation, sewage, health - actually investing in
community ambulances, paving community health centers 40 miles out each way from the
community health center so people can actually get to the hospital on a paved road in Haiti. Having
all those things built and the technology and information transferred by actual people in Haiti or
people who are Haitian-Americans that want to go back to actually teach Haitians on the ground how
to do it and how to continue to redo it over and over again…
PARTICIPANT: …I’m Randy Eckles and...[m]y question is for the State Representative…you
appear to be all over the board with respect to solutions. Specifically, if you’re not in favor of the
return of the ousted President, if you agree that he was illegally ousted or via coup, if you’re not in
favor of that, how would you resolve that problem? That’s one question.
Second, do you have any relatives in prison in Haiti? If you, as you’ve stated, do not support
investigations or spending money to go look into that, which what I think the leadership in the
Congress is asking for, if you don’t want to do that how would you expect to resolve that?…
REPRESENTATIVE ST. CLAIR: First question. I don’t care who runs Haiti, I mean I’ll be honest
with you. Because it’s – and I’ll restate it, okay. I don’t have family in Haiti right now who is in jail, but
I can tell you that the generation between my father and I, most of them don’t exist because of prior
dictatorships in Haiti, I can tell you that personally. So the fact that I don’t have family right now in jail
in Haiti does not mean that I am not impacted by what’s happening in Haiti, that’s one.
Two, I don’t care who runs Haiti because whoever you put in power right now are going to have the
same problems…Because you don’t have any support. You have no real police force. You have no
real justice system being put in place. You have no public works really working. You have no
systems actually working in the country. So you say to me, well what then would you do?…[D]o you
really believe America’s going to invest in putting the troops in, in order to make sure you bring
Aristide back and support him?…That’s not going to happen…So, I guess my suggestion would be,
America should stop hiding, okay? Because that’s what this administration is doing right now in
saying let’s contain it, let’s not deal with it, we’ve sent about 2,000 troops over, the United Nations is
taking care of it, and is not showing any real leadership in getting involved in the solution. I think that
we can have some real leadership and put some real pressure, both political and financial, in order to
make sure that the United Nations does what it’s supposed to do and bringing people involved.
…I think America can play a leadership role to make sure that we have the kind of troops on board
that will help disarm because in my mind that is what this particular administration did not do, and
that’s what should have been done…There was an opportunity to do that, we did not take it…I think if
we can disarm, show the leadership in order to disarm, and then begin to really move to put
something in place, and I don’t think we’ve put a plan in place at all. Working with the people of Haiti
in order to try to stabilize the situation in order to move into real planning for democracy, planning for
elections. Nothing’s in place right now to get it done, then I think we can do that…
…We get solely focused on the investigation and don’t really have – people are still hungry in Haiti,
there’s still no potable water in Haiti. We get lost and not focus on what’s happening to people every
single day. So for me, and I’m not saying don’t do an investigation, I didn’t – I don’t think I said that
here. I do say if you want to have it, fine but I don’t think that is the only thing that ought to be
happening to move this administration.
PARTICIPANT: My point was that you do present a compelling presentation on Haiti in that it would
serve you well to know that the United States does not, in my opinion, have a position of just
containment in Haiti. The United States actively supported, in my opinion, overthrowing the
legitimately elected government.
REPRESENTATIVE ST. CLAIR: I wouldn’t even disagree with you on that right now.
PARTICIPANT: If that injustice occurred, I am asking you what do you recommend…You can’t do
that to deal with what the people in the country want, what would you recommend as a solution.
REPRESENTATIVE ST. CLAIR: I don’t know….What would you recommend in other parts of the
world where we have done the exact same thing? You’re asking me a question that is larger. It is
about what our attitudes are about the world…
MS. AISHA HOWE: …I think everyone in here believes that the truth should come out as far as
what happened – whoever did what, and we feel, we know for sure, because I was on some of those
phone calls, how this government was involved with, some people want to call it coup d’etat, some
people want to call it overthrow, some people call it ousting, some people want to call it transition.
Depends on where you come from…
DR. GALLIER: …There is one issue here. I’m going to repeat it and repeat it over. That the Haitian
Constitution stated that a President is in power for five years…what do you think America can do to
repair the damage or the circumstances that happened in Haiti by removing President Aristide?
Again, I believe that America is one of the countries that democracy exists. So what have you done
to the Haitian Constitution when you remove President Aristide…
MS. CHARLES: We have to cut this here…
II. Civic Engagement & Participation
Ballot Roulette & Voting Rights
Hosted by: Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Panelists: Roland S. Martin (moderator), Rep. G.K. Butterfield, Alex Keyssar, Kevin Powell, Jamin
Raskin, Joy Williams
The goal of this panel was to facilitate a serious discussion about voting rights in the United
States. After the irregularities witnessed in the 2000 presidential election there are very serious
concerns about the validity of the voting process. A call to arms was issued as to how the African
American community should strategize to prepare for the 2004 elections and beyond. A rich
historical perspective documenting the awesome journey that blacks undertook on the road to
voting rights was offered by many of the panelist. However, acknowledgement of the persistent
need to improve the integrity of the voting process and efforts to ensure that the rights of
individual citizens are protected was the chief concern expressed during this panel.
Recommendations for Action:
Continue to Engage all Voters and Especially the Under 30 Group
• Take action immediately after the 2004 election to keep the newly registered and voting
individuals under 30 engaged in meaning policy debates.
Abolish the Electoral College
• Abolish the Electoral College and move towards an election system that truly values the
majority vote.
Send Messages that Policy Impacts Every Aspect of One’s Life
• Engage in policy advocacy and political education campaigns that detail in a very user
friendly way how political engagement, including: voting for judicial candidates, local
council members and county commissioners affect the everyday lives of members of the
African-American community.
Develop a Pipeline of Young African Americans with the Skill Set to Be Effective Leaders
• Continue to develop the pipeline of young leaders that are actively involved in the political
process so that there are a number of qualified individuals filling the shoes of older black
leaders, such as: religious leaders, economic leaders, elected black officials at the local,
state and national level.
Rely on all of the Political Tools Available
• Utilize the political tools (i.e. referendums, constitutional amendments, recalls, etc.) to
bring about constitutional amendments that further strengthen the protections against
discrimination and racism.
DR. CHARLES OVERTREE: …We just learned, regrettably, last night, that the Tenth Circuit
Court of Appeals has turned down and denied our case for reparations in the Tulsa race riots of
1921. It's a remarkable opinion and I urge you all to read it because it tells you how the court
recognized the incredible horror of what happened in Tulsa and, yet, did not have the moral
fortitude to give the survivors what the law would demand that they receive.
…This is what the court said in the opinion last night.
On May 31st, 1921, and following into the next day, violent attacks destroyed the African
American community of Greenwood, Oklahoma. An angry white mob converged on Greenwood
in a devastating assault, burning homes and businesses, killing up to 300 people, and leaving
thousands homeless.
On the evening of May 31st, 1921, a crowd began to form in front of the Tulsa Jail as the rumors
of a lynching spread through the community. The rumors followed publication of a newspaper
story suggesting that a 19-year-old African American named Dick Roland had assaulted a white
elevator operator, which turned out to be false.
After a group of African Americans went to the courthouse to defend Mr. Roland, a struggle
ensued and a gun went off. The Greenwood riot had begun. In the midst of repeated gun
battles, the African Americans retreated to the Greenwood neighborhood, followed by the white
mob, which included between 250 and 500 newly deputized men.
Armed with machineguns, the white mob ravaged Greenwood, scattering machinegun fire
indiscriminately at its African American residents. During the night, the governor called in the
Oklahoma National Guard to restore order. The Guardsmen, often acting in conjunction with the
white mob, disarmed the African American men who were defending their community and placed
them in protective custody.
Thus purged of any resistance, the white mob burned virtually every building in Greenwood. By
11:00 a.m., when the riot ended, 42 square blocks of the Greenwood community lay in ashes.
Those are the facts of the case and what happened in Greenwood. No dispute who were the
victims and who caused it. Here's what the court ruled.
A review of the materials attached to the report about the riot makes clear that, at the time of the
riot, the victims - the African Americans - were powerless against the white majority. Meaningful
access to the courts was denied, as was any ability to obtain damages for property losses.
Also, a widespread fear of reprisals pervaded the African American community. We agree with
the District Court that in the immediate aftermath of the riot, and for several decades thereafter,
extraordinary circumstances justified tolling the statute of limitations.
Fundamentally, however, the issue is whether, based on the allegations in the complaint and the
record, those circumstances existed through the existence of the report in 2001. In making this
determination, we need not pinpoint an exact time or date when the exceptional circumstances
ended. Rather, the judgment must stand if, based on the undisputed facts available, those
circumstances ended some time prior to February 2001.
What the court is saying is that these African Americans who were victims should have come to
court, not in 1923, not in 1930's or 40's or 50's or 60's, but some time before 2001. It's an
absolutely extraordinary and pathetic decision.
We intend to continue that battle coming forward…
…When people complain about reparations, saying that well, we don't disagree with slavery, we
don't disagree that blacks had to pay a great cost, but no one's alive today and no one's
responsible. In Tulsa, people are alive today and people are responsible. When the people who
are one of our clients and who you need to meet, and I hope you will agree, was there in 1921
and is here today…Otis Clark…
MR. OTIS CLARK: …I was about 18 years of age and I witnessed the fact of seeing some of our
people that we had accumulated a nice little part of the city of Tulsa, known as Greenwood.
…We lived in Tulsa, and we was getting along nicely, and we didn't know too much about
travesties back in those days.
…We were just getting along nicely. Jealousy, I think, came up and somebody wanted to take
our little city. Sure enough, they did.
We didn't have ammunition to protect ourselves. Some of the young men had just came back
from war, but they had guns and without ammunition and therefore, we had to try to run to try to
save our lives… Our home got burned down, and our little bulldog was, no doubt, killed, and we
and my stepfather and some of the older people that lived on Archie Street was missing.
We lost a lot of people and we didn't see them no more. They wouldn't let us have no funerals for
nobody, rich or poor. We couldn't have no funerals. We didn't know what the trouble was...
Tulsa, was at that time, was the oil capital of the world. A lot of us were living nicely…We lost
homes…and nobody would compensate us for us. Nobody would give us nothing for our homes
that got burnt down.
…Even to this day, they won't give us anything for the properties and stuff that we lost and my
grandparents' property and whatnot. All that was taken from us. We haven't got it back, even to
this day…
DR. OVERTREE: …You can see history before you…somebody who's not in the history books,
somebody who's not a part of American history, but a living, breathing example of what we have
overcome and what we've survived for over 100 years.
Also…[p]lease welcome Demareal Samuel Simmons.
MR. SIMMONS: …I hope that you feel the same pain that I feel…and use it constructively to do
what we want you to do today is give it to CBC members.
…Mr. Clark said our little town, but at the time, as he said, Tulsa was the oil capital of the world.
Greenwood was considered, and is still considered, the most prosperous place ever for African
Americans. It was called Black Wall Street or Little Africa.
What happened is 2,000 drunken white men assembled at the county courthouse, and they had
60 to 70 black men, World War I veterans, very proud men, go down to defend him with guns.
Some shots fired and they marched into the black community. This was not like Rosewood,
which was also another community that was destroyed in 1923 - a few hundred people.
This is a community of 10,000 people. When it was all said and done, 42 city square blocks lay
smoldering, completely decimated. We had 10,000 people homeless overnight. We had 1,000
people dead and/or missing. We had 25 million dollars in property value damaged. This is 1921.
He said they had hotels - the finest hotels…the Stratford Hotel was considered the finest hotel in
all of the Southwest.
…Tulsa, Oklahoma was a legacy that was snatched from not just black folks in Tulsa and
Oklahoma, but nationally, internationally. It retarded our development.
If we cannot get some type of redress from such a traumatic event, when we just saw one in
September 11 and another event in Oklahoma in 1995 with the Oklahoma City bombing, when
we saw our country rally around and address those issues correctly, why wouldn't we do this for
our black survivors of 1921?
…Why can we address even the Japanese internment from the 40's in 1988 - some 50 years
later - 40 years later - but we can't address American citizens?
DR. OVERTREE: …In the 1920's, African Americans in Rosewood, Florida fought in court for 70
years with no success, but in the 1990's, a legislator gave them reparations. After the awful
Holocaust, where millions of innocent people died - innocent Jews died - the statute of limitations
were waived to give them their rightful reparations.
Here we have the oldest case. Tulsa is older than the Holocaust. Tulsa is older than the
Japanese internment case. Tulsa is older than Rosewood. They've had no justice at all. We
should be outraged and make sure that Congress, the first time they're in session, has hearings
in the same way they've done it before, when it's in their interest to waive the statute of
limitations, to give these survivors what they want.
They don't want 40 acres and a mule. They don't want - they want education and healthcare, not
even for themselves, but for their grandchildren and the next generation. They have said it's too
late for us. We've lost our livelihood. We want it for the next generation.
MR. MARTIN: …Let's bring up Joy Williams…Alex Keyssar…Reggie Hudlin…Jamin Raskin…
…about a month ago, I was here in D.C. and took part in the Union Journalists of Color where we
actually questioned President Bush. One of the statements that he made, and some of you may
have seen it on C-Span or on CNN - he made a statement that said that the people in
Afghanistan - eight million folks had registered to vote to exercise their God-given right.
…The right to vote is considered by many to be the most fundamental right that we have.
MR. MARTIN: Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.
CONGRESSMAN JESSE JACKSON, JR.: …We're painfully aware of what African Americans,
women, and many young people have had to go through to get the right to vote. What too many
of us still don't know, despite what happened in Florida during the 2000 presidential election, is
that we do not have an individual citizenship right to vote in the Constitution of the United States.
The United States sees itself as a center of world democracy, but, unlike the First Amendment's
guarantee of freedom of religion, of press and assembly, there is no guarantee of your right to
vote. So, in some states, felons have the right to vote. In some states, states permanently
disenfranchise people from voting. In other states, you suspend the right to vote during their time
in prison but then reinstate it. All separate. All unequal.
That's how we arrived at six million votes not counted in the last election - not just the few votes
in Florida that would have given Al Gore the presidency of the United States…
…Mr. Roland Martin, our moderator…
MR. MARTIN: …the Congressman talked about the right to vote and he talked about it not being
guaranteed. How important was it for people to understand that decision in 2000 when the
Supreme Court affirmed that there is no federal right to vote, that, frankly, it's left up to the states?
MR. KEYSSAR: It's of immense importance…It would be impossible, I think, to overstate the
importance…One example is we have to remember something that almost happened in Florida,
but didn't. I mean most of the things that could have happened in Florida, did happen, but there
was one thing that almost happened, but didn't happen, which is that in the days leading up to the
final decision of the Supreme Court, the Florida legislature, which is Republican controlled, was
prepared to choose its own set of electors if the court case went a different way. Okay?
Under the reading of the Constitution that was offered by the Supreme Court, that would have
been fine -- have a popular election. We all show up and vote. The state legislature, for some
reason, doesn't like the outcome, they will say never mind and choose their own slate of electors
and they can do that precisely because of the absence of a right to vote…
MR. MARTIN: Do you mean - is it possible - is it possible that 2000 can happen again in two
months? Is that realistic?
MR. HUDLIN: Well, not the year, but the election, yes.
…In some sense, we have a Florida 2000 taking place every single day. When we don't have a
Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing a right to vote. We have millions of U.S. citizens taxpaying U.S. citizens - who lack the right to vote and the right to be represented in our basic
governmental institutions.
We don't have to go that far to find some of those citizens because you're in a city right now
where there are nearly 600,000 people who have no voting representation in the U.S. Senate and
no voting representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and after the District of Columbia
brought a lawsuit under equal production, challenging this disenfranchisement as
unconstitutional, the court came back and said…you'd be right if there were a constitutional right
to vote, but there is no constitutional right to vote. There's a right for qualified citizens to vote.
Where do you get qualified? You get qualified in your state and your state can't deny you the
right to vote on the basis of age, as Congressman Jackson says, or sex or race.
…It can deny you the right to vote on the basis of prior condition of incarceration. So, we also
have millions of people who are disenfranchised because they were convicted of felonies. More
than a million and a half of them did their time, paid their debt to society, got out, have again the
right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, every other freedom, but not the right to vote.
In Florida, there's 600,000 people who were convicted of felonies who could not vote in 2000 and
are not going to be able to vote in 2004 unless - because there's a little footnote - unless they get
a pardon by Governor Jeb Bush.
MR. KEYSSAR: …Governor Jeb Bush has these hearings where you go forward and you
appear and you say, yes, I was convicted of a felony. I did my time. I got out. I'd like my right to
vote back, please, sir, and Governor Bush says, well, have you been drinking? Have you been
going to church? Kids going to Sunday School?
That's what going on in the United States of America in the year 2004 where all over the world,
almost every constitution on earth guarantees the people the right to vote and we're spending
billions of dollars and hundreds, now more than a thousand American lives, promoting democracy
and elections abroad, and we're letting this happen at home.
MR. MARTIN: Kevin…Are you surprised how many people have no real understanding of our
voting system and of the process?
MR. KEVIN POWELL: …I've done a number of activities around voter registration through the
years…I draw a line from that to today where there's all this talk about getting the hip hop
generation out there to vote…A lot of young people actually trying to get our generation of young
people, 18 to 24 or 25, especially to vote.
I think a couple of things we've got to talk about - the fact that the 2000 election left such a
traumatic experience for people in our communities that a lot of folks that I talked to who are
young, 30 and under, 35 and under, even and 40 and under, feel that their vote doesn't matter
because of the complications of the electoral college process.
…I think we've got to look at this two ways. One, we've got to get people out there to vote. I
don't care - a lot of people say just vote - I'm saying vote for John Kerry and John Edwards. Get
Bush out of office.
Then the second part of it, which we don't like to talk about, where I think we've made a mistake
between 2000 and 2004, and I can speak for myself, as I said this morning, I was so traumatized
by the thievery of 2000 in Florida that I didn't really - I think four or five months went by where I
didn't pay attention what was going on in the paper pages.
I think that some of us…have become so disillusioned with the voting process and it seems to be
so complicated because in fact that 32 million voters in 19 states will still use the punch card
ballots on November 2nd - says that not much has really changed in spite of that act that was
…One, get as many people out as possible to vote on November 2nd, but what are we going to do
over the course of the next four years to begin to fix this situation in this country? One of us
starts with…Congressman Jackson is support saying which is a voter’s right amendment to the
Constitution, which I feel is absolutely necessary.
MR. MARTIN: That was a question that I asked President Bush and he said he would, quote,
consider it….At least we got that much out of him. When you talked about the particular act and
you talked about the Help America Vote Act and that was a bill that was passed by congress - it
was a 3.9 billion dollar bill and about three billion dollars has been allocated, so 900 million has
yet to be appropriated by Congress. So, the President has touted that as one way of doing it.
…Now Reggie, when you saw 2000, and you're a movie director, did it seem as if this was
straight out of Hollywood?…You had the protests and shut down the protests and the vote and
counting the vote and all the different kind of stuff like that. So, as you watched that whole thing
unfold, what were you thinking then and what caused you to say, four years later, I've got to stand
out here and say something about this issue and have - make sure my voice is heard?
MR. HUDLIN: …It did look like a movie. It looked like "Birth of a Nation" - the movie about the
creation of the Ku Klux Klan that was made in 1915. So, I just had to answer it with my own
version of "Birth of a Nation" which is set in my hometown, East St. Louis…The point is that we've
had election fraud - I mean that's a long-standing tradition there. At the same time, we have a
tremendous amount of civic pride. I mean everyone from East St. Louis, from Miles Davis to
Jackie Joyner Kerzey, we love that place…
Which led to the creation of the book. Is the book basically a bunch of citizens trying to vote
and…[t]hey are not allowed to vote, so they decide to secede from the United States and form
their own country…
…I know that sounds like a crazy solution, but I'm from Hollywood. I come up with crazy things
for a living.
…I think after the assassinations of people like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and John F.
Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, there's been a shift away from systemic change toward individual
things. I mean like let's help the homeless. Let's help AIDS. Let's help people in our community.
Oddly, those kind of individual efforts are fantastic. We've moved our country forward a great
deal with those efforts, but I think we've moved away from systemic change and say there's
something fundamentally wrong with this system. There's something fundamentally wrong with
the Electoral College. It needs to be abolished. There's something fundamentally wrong that we
don't have a guaranteed right to vote.
So, oddly, that bill is obvious. It's common sense. If we cannot move those things ahead in a law
abiding way…then we have to consider other methods. I mean the fact is we moved forward in
the 1960's because we had Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.
…[W]e have to come up with 21st century's equivalent to those kind of radical rethinking of what
this country is going to be and how this world is going to work…
MR. MARTIN: Congressman G.K. Butterfiel…how critical is it…that people really have a firm
grasp of what is at stake in November?
CONGRESSMAN G.K. BUTTERFIELD: …My perspective is a seven perspective. We fought
back in the 60's and 70's to increase voter registration in North Carolina. It was only in the 1980's
that we really appreciated and understood the power of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It was like
1981 when the Congress amended the Voting Rights Act to take away the intense standard that
we really began to utilize the Voting Rights Act.
In North Carolina…the Voting Rights Act has changed the political landscape of our state. When
I was in law school back in the early 70's, we had no black judges in North Carolina. Today, we
have 52 judges serving in our state.
…We had one African American serving in the General Assembly. Today, we have 25. When I
was in law school, we had, I think, three County Commissioners in the whole state of North
Carolina. Today, we have more than 100 and 14 of those are chairs of their respective boards,
and a third of them are women. So, we have come a long ways in our state in terms of voting
The message that I want to address today…is that so many of our African American elected
officials, who have been elected to office, are simply warming a seat. They do not have - they do
not have a political agenda.
…the message that I want to leave with you today as you go back to your communities is to
devise a process, a procedure, if you will, whereby you can hold your elected officials
accountable. We didn't get this Voting Rights Act to give somebody a position or a job.
…We got the Voting Rights Act and we got it the hard way…
…If we are going to be effective at the national level and at that the state level and local level, we
must insist that our elected officials be more responsive. So, I'm going to call on the
Congressional Black Caucus as I serve with them from day to day. I'm going to call on other
organizations across the country to let's collaborate and develop a mechanism whereby, first of
all, we can know all of our elected officials.
Every list that I have seen has been incomplete. I've never seen a list that is an accurate list. We
need to assemble a list of black elected officials across this country. With the use of the Internet,
with the use of newsletters and other devices, we need to have one big family across the country.
That can happen…This is something that we can do.
…We must insist that we have a meaningful election on November 2nd because if we are
careless, if we are reckless, if we are noncommittal in our approach to Election Day work, this
election can be taken away from us.
It was taken away from us four years ago and don't you think for one minute that it cannot happen
again. It will and we must make sure that we do our part in winning this election on November
MR. MARTIN: Joy, Reggie Hudlin talked about a systemic change and all of a sudden we are
seeing hip hop artists trying to galvanize the hip hop vote - or they call it the hip hop vote. I think
you got to vote first before you call it the hip hop vote…One of the things that you wanted to sell
this notion that voting is cool because you're emphasizing the process and that it's just not cool to
vote but there's a purpose behind that voting.
MS. JOY WILLIAMS: Well, first, I want to address the issue of…trying to change it for it to be
cool to vote. I think what people need to realize is that you have to show people, young people,
old people, whoever's not voting, that democracy is relevant, not just cool.
…There's no relevance to it. There's no relevance to democracy. One of the main thing that
people are focusing a lot on voter registration and we need that. It also needs to be balanced
with voter education because not only do you need to register people and, yes, they're registered
and it helps us with census and things like that, but if people are not paying attention to why they
need to register, then once I'm registered, how do I know about the Electoral College?
Am I more powerful? Is my vote more powerful than the Electoral College and the difference
between voting locally and voting in a presidential election? One of the things that I try to
do…talking to…people who are not voting about voting - is talking to them about the importance
of voting locally and how that affects your every day life locally.
Because when you make that connection for people, that once you step outside of your house
onto the sidewalk, the streetlights and the sidewalks and all of that - it can be affected by your
vote and you show people that. Then voting not - doesn't become a chore or something you do
once every four years. It becomes something you do every year because every year there's an
election somewhere.
We talk about that in judicial elections. Most people don't realize that you have an individual
power in a lot of different states and a lot of different counties to vote for the judges that will hear
your brothers' and sisters' cases. I make that point and make it personal to folks.
…[S]howing people that voting for those judicial candidates, showing people voting for council
members and county commissioners, how it affects your street life. Things like that. Showing
people the local vote and how it ultimately - it becomes a habit. It becomes something you do
just like paying taxes because you see the effects around you.
MR. MARTIN: I think when you talk about the local voting…first of all, this is 20th anniversary of
Reverend Jesse Jackson's run for president and …he is why you talk about the local aspect.
A lot of people focus on the national run, but they don't realize the number of people who actually
came into office as a result of him running…
Alex…how do we then get the average voter who says, I've got a job. I've got family. I've got
kids. I've got responsibilities to pay attention to all this stuff we're talking about? The local
elections? The state elections? The national elections?
Are we giving up on it, trying to figure Electoral College and what my vote is and where I can vote
and where I can't vote and the felons - because the average person, I think they're saying, you
know what? I'm just going to tune this thing out because that's just way too much stuff for me to
have to deal with
…How do we break through it?
MR. KEYSSAR: How do you break through? I think that that may be one area in which I can
experience some gratitude to George Bush. It seems to be that one conclusion we can draw is if
you tune out, this is what you might end up with. This is what we have
…It's like - imagine your worst nightmare. Just imagine sort of a crazy, vicious war in a foreign
country - a place where you can't win and where people are going to die and a massive
redistribution of income in the United States from the poor to the rich.
…Just imagine, let's take some time, in fact, to the rights - to the question of the right to vote.
Let's also remind people that in the absence of a constitutional amendment for the right to vote,
things can get worse politically.
The history of the right to vote in the United States is not just a history of things always getting
better. I mean it's often told that way. It's a funny story as it gets told because well we got rid of
property requirements and then we enfranchised African Americans and then we enfranchised
women and then enfranchised African Americans again.
It's always - gets to - why did you have to do it again? The reason they had to do it again was
because people lost - people lost their right to vote repeatedly in the United States. It can
happen. Politically, things can get a loss. I mean I think that - I don't want to trivialize the
problem. It's not - people do tune out. I think they tune out, in part, because they feel that neither
of the two major parties in the end is going to do much for them.
MR. MARTIN: You say losing the right to vote. Black folks will not lose the right to vote in 2007,
so please stop sending those e-mails. That's not going to happen. There is a portion of the civil
rights act - the Voting Rights Act - that's up for renewal in terms of the justice department having
oversight of elections in those various states. So, that is critical.
The vote's not going anywhere. We just have to use it, what we actually have…
MR. POWELL: …I want to say that, in a sense that, we've got to be careful with the generational
and cultural dissing of these hip hop folks…if they're saying that they're voting for the first time or
taking an interest in the political process for the first time.
I say, one, better late than never, and two, getting with what Congressman Butterfield just laid out
very eloquently, if black leadership - the collective black leadership, religious leaders, economic
leaders and especially many, not all, but many elected black officials on a state and national
level, did not drop the ball that was put out there in '84 and '88, you wouldn't have a whole
generation of black folks not interested in the political process in the first place.
…I'm here to tell you that it's not just young people who don't vote.
…So, it's not just the hip hop generation. I think, across the board, many people in this country
are very disillusioned with our leadership. That's the real issue.
…Reverend Jackson represented in '84 and '88…The problem was that after that, to me, over the
last 15 years, it's gone completely downhill and, as a result, when these hip hop folks try to fill the
void and put out slogans that we might not agree with, like why is Puffy saying "Vote or Die," but
he understands the language the people between the ages of 18 and 30 relate to. That's the
…I think part of the issue is what is wrong with our leadership…and where are we going to go in
terms of trying to mobilize people, not just for November 2nd, but as Americans beyond that. I
don't care if they're black, white, young or old, but Americans, by and large, don't vote in this
country. Just a handful of people. There's a problem with that in a so-called democracy.
MR. HUDLIN: …[T]o your earlier point about local elections…one of the things that's always
frustrating to me is that you have all black cities like Newark and Gary, Indiana and East St. Louis
and I'm just - in most of those places, the school boards are all black…So, I thought if every black
controlled school board said, we want a different American History textbooks. We want an
American History textbook that tells the complete story. Then we could do that.
…That's an easy thing to do and it's a pretty penny in it, too. So, I mean we can make money, we
can do well, we can get our kids excited, and that's the kind of thing that we can excite our voters
on a local level about because that's something very much in our hands.
…Russell talked about being proactive. I'll tell you who I think is proactive - the Republican Party.
That's proactive. Very proactive.
…The Republican Party is not afraid of amending the Constitution. They've got about seven or
eight ways they want to amend the Constitution now. They've got the anti-gay marriage
constitutional amendment. They've got the human life anti-abortion amendment. They've got the
prayer in the schools amendment. They've got the balanced budget amendment, although they
don't talk about that one very much anymore.
…They've got lots of constitutional amendments out there. What are the constitutional
amendments on our side? Where do we want to take America in the 21st century? As far as I
know, the leader in that movement is Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Now, what we hear from the mainstream democratic establishment, and I speak as a Democrat,
is you can't touch the Constitution. It's a precious heirloom. Hide it away in the attic. We can't
touch it. That is a fundamentally, profoundly, anti-democratic attitude. It cuts against everything
that we, the people, have fought for.
MR. POWELL: That's still slavery. That'd still be slavery.
MR. HUDLIN: Well, that's right…we began as a slave republic of Christian white male property
owners over the age of 21. We are where we are through a process of social struggle and
constitutional amendment. The 15th Amendment dismantles the race barrier. The 17th
Amendment gives us direct election of Senators and takes it away from the state legislatures.
The 19th Amendment, woman suffrage. The 23rd Amendment gives people in D.C. at least the
right to vote for president. The 24th Amendment abolishes the poll tax in federal elections. The
26th Amendment says 18-year-olds. Nowhere…[is] what every international law covenant calls
for which is a universal right of all the people of the society to vote.
…That's what we need.
MR. MARTIN: Now you mentioned what the Republicans want to do and one of the things
is…that they have discipline when it comes to the message and they utilize the existing
infrastructure to get what they want.
…So, we're talking about voting and you're talking about systems, you're talking about change.
At some point, though, you have got to craft a plan with all of these varied interests and say how
are we then going to advance it? How are we going to make it happen? Joy?
MS. WILLIAMS: …One thing that we leave out in the voting process, even those of us who vote,
is the accountability factor. What we do is we treat our vote just like we treat the diagnosis from
doctors. The doctor says this is what you have. There's no question asking. You don't ask about
- can I take another type of medicine or anything like that. If you're doing wrong or if the doctor
gives you something wrong, you still continue to go.
That's what we do with our vote. All we do is vote on Election Day. We don't do anything in
between those election periods. We don't call the offices and say, this is what I want you to vote
this way on a bill. We don't call the offices and say, I haven't seen you since I gave you my $50
check and my vote. We don't do it - we don't do any of that accountability structure.
So, that plays into not only the lack of leadership from the leadership we currently have, but it's
also on our part because we don't demand anything better.
…There is no new - sort of new influx and new blood of folks.
…[T]he link in creating that proactive structure is bringing our black state legislators from states
and from counties…and saying…let's bring together and let's create this agenda and then you go
into your city and you go into your state and this is the agenda you put forth in your state
legislator, in your city council and so we have a proactive agenda that we're not only doing
federally, but we're doing it on the state level and we're doing it on the local level.
…That's the kind of proactive change that we need to do. As far as the fundamental right to vote,
the reason why we're going to get so much flack in trying to push that is because, in the first
place, the founders didn't trust the people in the first place. That's the reason why we have the
Electoral College and the state's rights. They didn't trust the masses to know - trust the masses
that they would know what they want. This is what you need. This is not what you want.
So, we're going to get a lot of flack from it, but people have to realize that power individually they
have that when they bring those individual powers - individual power together collectively that we
can change that and make a voice.
MR. MARTIN: …I think one of the things that we also have to recognize…is that the Electoral
College system was also established because it's playing out today - red states, blue states. It
was purposely set up because they did not want urban centers, by virtue of population, to be able
to determine who was the president.
…[T]herefore, there was a balancing act there between urban centers, rural states and that's why
GOP focuses on red states, Democrats focus on blue states, because the reality is even if you
did push by a million votes in Pennsylvania or in New York, you'd get the same number of
Electoral College votes regardless…
MR. POWELL: We're touting democracy in these various places in terms of Iraq, Afghanistan,
etc. and we've got problems right here in this country right here.
Really what it comes down often to is that some incumbents and other politicians, they think that
people of color are going to vote in a particular way and, as a result, they'll do whatever they can
to suppress the vote, right? So, we talk about disenfranchisement at the margins, right? Fifteen
percent here we can knock of African Americans males who can't vote, right? Because they've
committed felonies and they can't vote for life, right?
Ten percent here in terms of photo ID requirement - oh, you don't have a photo ID - sorry - you
can't vote here even if you provide a signature.
So, I guess that the big concern is that a number of our accomplishments in the past in terms of
civil rights gains have been made through recognizing things that are happening in other parts of
the world. The Cold War. The fight in terms against fascism in Nazi Germany. So, I guess a
thought here is that we really need to make this kind of an international struggle and say, hey, if
we're going to be a model for the world, in terms of democracy, right? We really need to secure
the right to vote here in this country and ensure that folks are included.
…How can you tell the Shiites and the Sunis and the Kurds how to get along and you can't even
include folks here?
MR. MARTIN: …I think one of the things…[is that] you've got to have the
information…[E]verything all of you have talked about is that the average person isn't armed with
the proper information…
…[W]e want to talk about what can we do today as individuals, as heads of organizations, to
begin to put in place and begin to sort of start what all of you are talking about. Kevin?
MR. POWELL: …[P]eople in this room are assuming…that everyone in this room is a registered
voter…If you're not, please become a registered voter…We're not going to be able educate
everyone in 60 days, unfortunately, about the whole electoral process. That's just not going to
happen. We need to, in simple language, explain to people why this election is so important.
Number two. I think that it does not matter where you do it. Do it at parties. We do it at parties in
New York City. You do it in town forum…It should be present everywhere - registration forms.
…The other part of it - post November 2nd…[is] you should not hold a seat in the United States
House of Representatives if you have no clue whatsoever, having bothered to talk to people in
your community about what they need and want. I think it's a disgrace and I'm saying this with all
due respect…If you really, really are concerned about democracy in this country, what is your
plan?…That should be mandatory.
…[P]ost November 2nd…We all need to decide what we're going to do. In December, whether
Kerry wins or Bush wins, we cannot afford to wait to 2008 and scratch our heads again and say,
oh, a couple months before the election 2008, well what are we going to do? We can't do that
MR. MARTIN: …One of the things I know, especially as a reporter, is a lot of African Americans
assume that…
…Just because you may want somebody else and they don't win, that doesn't mean you simply
sit back and not say anything for a couple of years.
MS. LATISHA STILLS: My name is Latisha Stills…The first question is how do you demonstrate
that an individual's vote does matter?…The second question I have is if any us have seen
"Fahrenheit 911," the opening theme where members of the Black Caucus are begging for one
United States Senator to come forth and sign off on a resolution to validate those election results.
I want to know from any of the Congressmen, any of the members of Congress, did any of the
Senators that you petitioned give you a reason for not signing off on that resolution?
MR. MARTIN: First, I asked Senator Kerry's office that question. Say Kerry and Edwards were
in office. Al Gore specifically asked them not to get involved. Al Gore asked the Senators not to
take this case further and that was the justification they used for not stepping forth.
…[T]o your first question…The president appoints the justices to the Supreme Court. Very
simple. So, if you want a - if you were in Bush's head, there's two Supreme justices, that's Scalia
and Thomas.
So, again, that person determines it…So, that's a reality and also appoint judges to the federal
bench and Bush's judges were approved…It's who appoints judges…that's a very good reason
why you should vote…
MR. HUDLIN: Yes. The president, as you say, appoints Supreme Court justices. Although,
2000, the Supreme Court justices appointed the president.
…[W]e're all in a crapshoot with the Rehnquist court in office and so it's a chicken and egg
problem. We've got to mobilize people to get out and take the best shot that we have.
Here's what I would say. The first thing is that the Electoral College really does render millions of
votes irrelevant. I mean I'll put it in terms of Republican states because I don't want to deter
anybody here. If you're a Republican in Texas, you know your guy's going to win. That
demobilizes you and -…[I]t depresses the vote generally and that's something we've got to deal with, but that's down
the road because that's after we establish the individual's right to vote…
…[T]here's a way you can make your vote count, but the fact of the matter is we need everybody
out. It's not just at the presidential level. It's at the state, at the county, at the local and we need
people out there voting at every single level.
MR. TOM GRAYMAN: Tom Grayman…Lack of trust in the masses to know what they wanted as
a justification for restricting voting rights and as a justification for the Electoral College - what
justification do opponents of a right to vote amendment…offer publicly today to support their
opposition to such an amendment?
MR. KEYSSAR: …[T]here are at least two different kinds of opposition here. One statement that
we hear a fair amount of is we don't need it because we already have it. It's kind - it's not that we
already really have it in the Constitution, but it basically comes down to if you hire a really high
priced constitutional lawyer, he might be able to find it for you in the Constitution.
…The other kind - the other kind of opposition tends to focus on specific classes of people who
might be enfranchised and, most dramatically, felons and ex-felons. That's where most of the -MR. MARTIN: What you also have is state's rights versus federal rights issue…We shouldn't
mess with it.
MR. KEYSSAR: …[T]here's such a body of, I think, popular ideology and of law in the 60's which
was, in effect, a national law. It's implicitly national laws. A quasi-right to vote. That - I haven't
really heard it claimed we don't need it because you can get it from the state because the state
law doesn't apply to federal elections.
MS. SIERRA GRADLEY: …My name's Sierra Gradley…what can we children do to encourage
our community to vote?
MS. WILLIAMS: …[W]hat we were able to do is get all of those elementary school kids together
and they went to the elected officials office where they wanted a certain change in their school
and they told them, we represent our parents and if you don't vote this way or if you don't vote for
this, then I'm going to tell my mommy, I'm going to tell my daddy not to vote for you.
…Therefore, you were able to make a change. It's not only money and it's not only voting power
that can embarrass an elected official to the point where they have to react. Just by you getting
your friends together, you going to the elected officials or you calling the elected official until they
can't get any calls from their fundraisers.
You are able to make some sort of change for them…You can still make change by getting your
friends together and then saying to your parents, while they're helping you with your homework or
something, make sure you don't vote for that person because he's voting against something we
need in my school.
MR. MARTIN: That was very much a strategy that was used in the Civil Rights Movement when
people were getting tired of seeing King and others marching. They said, sic the kids on them,
and good people react differently when kids are involved.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: …My question - number one - is why was there no riot after the election?
If people had been at the courthouse and was able to see it for what it was without the screen of
the media, I think there definitely would have been a riot.
The last question is what should we do if it happens again? I've asked this question for the last
three years. I've never gotten a satisfactory answer. What should we do if it happens again?
MR. HUDLIN: You said that there was no riot in Florida. Actually, there was a riot organized by
the Republican National Committee in Miami-Dade County at the canvassing board that shut
down the voting. So, there were riots, just like in the Civil Rights Movement was a reaction to the
lawlessness and disorder of the southern governors and state legislatures and congressmen who
said, we will not follow the Supreme Court in integrating. We will block the schoolhouse door.
The Civil Rights Movement was a reaction against that lawlessness and so, we might, indeed
need massive civil disobedience across the country if the Republicans do it again….
MR. POWELL: I mean the other part of that is that we're jumping over things that we can do. I
hear the phrase or term violence being thrown out a lot. I was at the Republican National
Convention all four days. I was out there - most of the protesters - and I'm going to tell you I did
not see a lot of young black people. I saw a lot of young white kids out there protesting and so, I
mean, what can we do?
If you don't like the leadership that's out there, you don't like the stuff that's happening, you all got
to ask yourself, well, what have I been doing for the last three or four years? I'm sitting next to
someone who's a derivative of Brooklyn Young Democrats who's always on the ground. She'll go
to places like American Idol auditions and register people to vote there and she does a lot of this
stuff, if I can say it, seems like you do a lot of stuff by yourself.
I think it's unfair that this one young woman who's in her 20's is doing all this work and we've got
all these young people here who are constantly looking for answers outside of ourselves, but
what are we going to do? What do you plan to do?
…So the question is what can you do between now and November 2nd?…You have a number of
lawyers across the country who are involved in the process now - the Voter Right Institutes for the
Democratic party - they're trying to find 10,000 lawyers nationally to basically provide expertise at
selected precincts across the country.
From a legal standpoint, how can folks be galvanized to do something now before the election?
…Free legal advice. First, make sure that you are properly registered to vote, where you live, in
your district, in your state. A lot of people have been turned away, thinking they've been
registered to vote properly. If you have moved, if you're a college graduate and now you're back
home or you're now in grad school somewhere, it's very important that you make sure you're
registered to vote where you plan to vote this November…
…Ask your lawyer to get involved in what we call voter protection. We are trying to find 10,000
lawyers across the country to be part of voter protection, particularly in key states like Florida,
Michigan and my home state of Illinois, Georgia, other places, so that that lawyer is on the ground
the day of the election.
If you get denied the right to vote, if you are harassed, if you're not allowed to vote for some
particular reason, that lawyer can be contacted to make sure you get a chance to vote before the
end of the election day.
It's very important that we get lawyers involved in that process, so if you have a lawyer, if you
know lawyers, get them involved in your communities local…
MS. RACHEL BRAND: Hi, my name is Rachel Brand…one of the most important things to kind
of put out there is that there's more than one election that occurs on election day when the
president's being elected. A lot of time, if you can control who goes into the House, who goes
into the Senate, who is your state representative, those are the people that can tie the hands of
whatever president the Electoral College puts in…
MS. WILLIAMS: So, people are not everyday educated about their rights and it's something that
stems from just the education system. I remember being in school and…We learned about our
power as citizens, about our power as voters. We learned about the presidential process. We
learned about - that people - kids don't learn that anymore. They get it from people like me or
from other people that actually teach their kids or teach people on the block and that's something
that needs to be put back.
I think it's by no accident that it was taken out, but I think that's something that people need to
fight to put back in, because if you can train people at an early age…
AUDIENCE MEMBER: …The issue with the Right to Vote Amendment is that what it gives you
is a right to citizenship to vote – not the right to freedom of speech, a right to religion. So, we're
not talking about here your right to - a state giving you the ability to be a Baptist or the state giving
you the ability to be - to protest. We're talking about your right as an American to be able to
practice your own faith. That's what a Right to Vote Amendment would do.
…My question for the panel is…what more can we do to promote this amendment?
MS. WILLIAMS: …There is sending the information to people locally so that there becomes
wherever you are locally, whatever state, whatever county you're in - making sure that the
leadership in that county and that state knows about it and is pushing the agenda forward for that.
It starts with our leadership there.
…Give it to people so that they constantly bombard - I'm a firm believer in bombarding elected
officials and leaders until they can't get any work done…
Defining the Moment & the Movement: The Hip Hop Generation’s Political
Hosted by: CBCF Emerging Leaders Series
Panelists: Jovan Bowles (moderator), Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., Jeff Johnson, Omarosa Manigault
Stallworth, Farai Chideya, Kevin Powell, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore
The purpose of this panel was to explore the viability of the HIP HOP Generation as a movement,
examine its leadership, and dissect the relationship between younger African-Americans and their
engagement in the political process. Many panelists speculated about what role they believed the
HIP HOP Generation would play in the upcoming elections.
Recommendations for Action:
Use the Hip Hop Culture to Convey Politically Sensitive Messages
• Utilize hip hop activism in a focused way to convey messages about political engagement
and positive political leadership at the local, state, and national level. ( It’s not enough to
have urban gear or a red, black and green wrist band, oils, headband, a good rap, and
unable to call a meeting with people who make decisions about our collective destiny).
Look to a Distributed Leadership Model
• The hip hop community must employ new examples of leadership. The ideal model of
leadership for this generation needs to change from the messianic leadership model to a
distributed leadership model. The truth is that we all should play a role in our collective
Get Involved and Stay Involved in Local Politics
• Attend your neighborhood meetings, attend your PTA meetings, attend your city council
meetings, and get active and involved. A lot of decisions are being made at the local level.
Use all the Various Political Tactics Available to Achieve the Results Necessary to Bring about
• Diversify the political tactics that we employ as we advocate for policy stances that positively
affect the Black community.
MR. BOWLES: …Approximately half of all African-Americans eligible to vote are under the age of
forty. Yet, voting statistics show that this population is least likely to vote. Efforts are currently
underway to organize the younger African-American demographic under the banner of a hip hop
political movement. Russell Simmons and others have made promises to register unprecedented
numbers of young people in time for the November elections.
The purpose of this panel is to explore the viability of this movement, examine its leaders, the
relationship between younger African-Americans and the political process, and their likely role in the
upcoming elections. To start, I’d like to first introduce you to…Representative Jackson…
CONGRESSMAN JACKSON: …Let me first …welcom[e] our distinguished panelists…Dr. Maya
Rockeymoore; Mr. Jeff Johnson…Ms. Omarosa Manigault Stallworth…Ms. Farai Chideya…Mr.
Kevin Powell…
…I think the argument that I would make is that while hip hop is a relatively new genre, the great
problem with definition is to insure that our movement is part of the historical continuum. Hip hop is
not isolated; it’s not separate and apart from 450 years of struggle. The moment we see ourselves as
separate and apart…the moment we see and define ourselves as separate and apart from the
history of African-Americans who have struggled to broaden the definition of democracy and make
democracy real for everyone, I think we as a “movement” have a problem.
I say that because history is unbroken continuity…I’m suggesting to you, my friends, that history for
our people is unbroken continuity and we can not define our movements separate and apart from the
history and the struggle to make the United States better, and so not only does this movement and
this opportunity for us to use the genre of hip hop provide opportunity for political accountability and
political enfranchisement, but increasingly, Jovan, younger people are assuming the mantle and
accepting the responsibility for that struggle and that is where I find probably the most joy I think the
best opportunity for all of us…
DR. MAYA ROCKEYMOORE: …[There is] a larger situation that we’re finding ourselves in in this
country, particularly with the hip hop generation, those 40 and under surrounded by the style, vision
and sound of the hip hop music. We need to realize that voting and public policies and politicians
determine every aspect of our lives, and we have power as the hip hop generation -- the hip hop
generation is very powerful because we have a global platform. I mean, many hip hop artists can be
heard around the world, from Nairobi to Rio to London, and that’s a significant voice that we can use
as a method for empowerment.
We also have the hip hop generation as a coalition builder. I mean, people appreciate hip hop
across races, across gender, across economic lines, across nationalities, and the power and the
potential for coalition building is great within the hip hop community. Capital markets -- when a
rapper gets up there and he has on his gleaming jewels and his clothes and his cars and what not,
people are going out to buy that stuff. So the hip hop music genre controls capital markets in ways
that if directed and harnessed for a purpose can move mountains, and we need to remember that.
Of course, the power of analysis has always been there. If you listen to hip hop artists, many of them
–- some of them, rather, come with some analyses that are critical -- they are diagnosing what’s
happening on the streets. They're street scholars turned hip hop artists and they're telling it like it is.
So we need to take all of these strengths of the hip hop generation and turn it into a substantive
movement that could carry the ball forward from the Civil Rights movement.
We still have a job to do. There are many -- and you look around, housing, HIV/AIDS, you name it.
We got issues and we got to address it, and so I think that we can use this hip hop movement to
infuse it with the political goals that we need to carry on in order to uplift our communities and take us
to the next level.
I say this to say that we’re going to do this not only in terms of the ways that we’ve always
traditionally thought of. When we black folks think about politics and participating in politics, we only
think about voting, but there are myriad ways that we need to come together to put pressure on this
system in order to make it work for our -– us, for our communities and for our families, and so I want
to talk about it later…everything from fundraising to community organizing to lobbying to expressing
ourselves and writing our members of congress and our mayors.
We need to get more involved and engage in every aspect of civic engagement in order to really,
really basically lay it down and I argue that we need to go gangbusters on this system. A lot of folks
sit around and talk about, well, I don’t vote and I don’t participate because I don’t agree with this
country and what it’s done to my people. Well guess what? Unless you plan to move next year to
another country, the government that you’re not participating in is determining every aspect of your
life. And if you want to continue to be a slave and exercise no power over your future and your
existence then more power to you – or, no, less power to you. So this is a situation here where
we’ve got to basically turn the heat on and go gangbusters on this system….
MR. JOHNSON: …I think that as we begin to discourse on defining the moment in the movement,
we’ve got to understand that in –- we cannot, even in the beginning of this conversation, allow other
people to define what hip hop activism is. There are too many individuals that would, even in our
own community, begin to move to say that Russell Simmons and the Hip Hop Summit Action
Network or Citizen Change with P Diddy is hip hop activism. Discounting the countless number of
activists that have been working for decades and grass roots communities all over the country as
those that have used hip hop as a vehicle to engage not just young people but to address
substantive issues. So what we need to look at is, as we begin to define the movement, is to discuss
those individuals that laid the frame work and the foundation for what hip hop activism would like and
transcend into these institutions that in many ways can be benefits to what will ultimately be a
legitimate hip hop movement, and then that’s one piece.
The second piece is that we have got to understand that for young people all over this country there
is a perceived void in leadership. I say a perceived void in leadership because if we said that there
was a void in leadership that would discount brothers like Congressman Jackson, that would
discount brothers like Harold Ford, it would discount sisters like Maxine Waters, it would discount
individuals all over the country who have put it down and continue to put it down.
But the reality is that there are too few of these leaders that have the ability to speak to the young
people of this nation and so young people of this nation in street corners and in rural towns all over
the country are saying, Jay-Z is my leader because there’s nobody else there speaking to me. That
is a problem in communication between our community, not a void in leadership. However, we do
need to speak to the fact -- and I heard Tavis say that there are young people who are not aspiring to
be like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X because they believe that those achievements that they
made are too distant, are too far, too great.
… I’ve seen young people that come from the brokest communities in the world, hook or crook to get
a ride to a convention center and pay a ten dollar ticket to get a glimpse to see Russell Simmons
because they believe that even though I don’t have two cents in my pocket, I can be a millionaire
cause he can be a millionaire. The reality is they don’t aspire often to be social political leaders
because they don’t see them, and the reality is that there are too many individuals in our community
that play leaders but are not leaders…
We’ve got to move to a point where as we have this dialogue that we speak to hip hop activism being
focused, credible and beginning to create sustainability. Because if we don’t do that and we continue
to be so caught up in -- as long as I got on my urban gear or a red, black and green wrist band and
my oils and my headband and my rap that I’m a real activist, but I can’t get a meeting no where, I
don’t have no money, I don’t have an office, I don’t have an agenda, I don’t have a plan, but I
discredit every leader that’s out there even though I’m not doing anything. That’s not keeping it real,
that’s keeping it wrong, and so we’ve got to get to a point where we realize in this discourse that
we’ve got to be focused, credible and create systems to sustainability for this movement.
And last, in this election cycle, the hip hop community, more than any other community, has to be
critical in its analysis of the political landscape so that we are not pimped by either party. We do not
have the luxury to give our vote to the Democratic Party because the Civil Rights movement has said
that’s what we’re supposed to do. We cannot also say that because we, as black people, are
traditionally conservative and we believe in family values and most of us go to church -- that because
that we’re being tricked by the Republican party into believing that throwing out the issue of samesex marriages means that you have family values, we cannot be pimped by either party in moving in
that direction.
So we’ve got to be critical to maintain the value of our power so that moving through November 2nd,
we show that we have force by critically analyzing not just the presidential election, but every single
solitary election that takes place so that our value is real and not perceived, so that when we move
past November 2nd, realizing that this election is only one step in the process of a movement, we can
begin to move forward and what we have defined, not just in places like this but in grass roots areas
all over the country….
MS. MANIGAULT STALLWORTH: …At 23, I became one of the youngest political appointees to
the White House. I had an opportunity to sit in the Oval Office and observe politics at its highest
level, and I will tell you that it’s very frightening to know that there are not enough young AfricanAmericans involved in this political process. I literally watched some of our leaders flip a coin to
make a very important policy decision because they were caught between two of their friends. They
flipped a coin on a Social Security policy issue.
…As I express to people as I travel the country that I will run for office one day and hopefully be as
effective as you are, they discourage me, why do you want to serve in congress? Why do you want
to run for office? They’re frightened.
I’ve always been interested in a different side, not just the political side but the money side, and
Congressman Jackson can tell you that every day he’s raising money so that he can survive. Every
member of congress has to raise enough money to keep off their challenger…
I think it's important as I look at the sisters in the audience to encourage them to get involved in the
political process, and as I travel the country and I see young women who don’t know how to get
involved -- I see a lot of brothers and a lot of men who are involved, but we need so much of your
energy and your creativity.
I had a friend call me from the RNC -- from the Republican committee and said Omarosa, I know you
know some of those rappers and the Republicans want to get some of them to come and entertain.
They also want to tap into that hip hop thing you have going with your voters, so is there any way
that you can refer some of those rappers to us so that we can essentially exploit what’s happening?
They are afraid of the political movement and activism that is growing in our hip hop community.
They're afraid that Russell Simmons and Puffy are registering so many voters. They’re frightened
because we have an opportunity to make a great contribution to the political process of this country.
We have an opportunity to lend our voice to the political dialogue that’s happening in this country,
and I would almost remove the prefix of hip hop activism because political activism in any form for
our people is so critically important…
MS. CHIDEYA: …What I want to really talk about is the idea that the model of leadership that has to
occur in this generation, not just among people who are this generation, but in this period in history
has to change from the messy antic leadership model to a distributed leadership model. What I
mean by that is that messy antic leaders get shot. Malcolm got shot, Martin got shot, Ghandi got
shot. If there’s another messy antic leader that’s a risk, he or she may be shot.
However, there’s another model which is distributed leadership where each person is part of a
network and everyone takes responsibility for moving all of us forward together…[E]veryone in this
room is a leader, and I think we have to realize that and we have to realize that we’ve reached a
point in human history where our ability to do certain things, like create weapons, like move capital
from one part of the world to the other, exceeds our moral intelligence, our moral -– our ability to be
I think that African-Americans have been a great civilizing influence on American society, which has
been very hierarchal, and to which most of us who have relatives who were brought here in order to
be capital rather than to be human. We were part of a system of labor and industrialization which
relied on the dehumanization of people of color, and one of the great challenges that we have, which
is not just an American challenge but an international challenge, is to reaffirm the bonds of humanity
that we have.
I think that African-Americans by necessity have had to constantly reaffirm the bonds of humanity in
order to move forward. We did not have the individual power of a railroad baron or of a Bill Gates,
and so we have had to move forward collectively and I think that that has been challenged as more
of us have moved into different spheres. Some of us are rich, some of us are poor, some of us are
in-between, and one of the things that we can bring to the table, not just African-Americans but all
Americans and all people in this world, is to really think about what it means to be a human being
and to have some kind of moral imperative in a pluralistic society. I say that because I think that the
Republicans, for example, have been very good at using the word God.
…I was talking to these high school students and I said, that’s the essence of friendship, that’s the
essence of family, that’s the essence of humanity is that you realize that the person that you see,
regardless of skin color, regardless of gender, regardless of clothing, is a divine creature and that
something that’s divine in you can recognize the divine in them, transcending so many of the other
things that we see in front of us and I think that essence of divinity to me is what we need to seek,
not just individually but also in a public policy sense. If you believe that people are divine, you do not
warehouse them in prisons. If you believe that people are divine, you do not put them in schools that
look like prisons. There is a certain aspect of divinity that we need to reclaim, and I think that our
generation can do it….
MR. POWELL: …[W]hen I saw the title "Defining the Moment in the Movement: the Hip Hop
Generation’s Political Responsibilities"…I can’t help but think about where we’ve been over the last
20 years or so since the Reagan-Bush era, since [Congressman Jackson’s] father ran for President
in 1984 and 1988. I also can’t help but think about how hip hop has changed so much over the last
20 years. Let me say this because a lot of times we have these kinds of discussions and no one
bothers to define what hip hop is. To me, hip hop is a cultural movement, not a political movement,
and I’m saying this as a lifelong hip hop head who’s been in this business for 15-16 years, who’s
been a B-boy, a graffiti writer, a hip hop journalist. I represent four hip hop producers right now out of
the Bronx in New York so hip hop is in my blood and this is where I’m coming from. It’s a culture
movement that has socioeconomic context to it.
What do I mean by that? Congressman Jackson talked about let's stop separating these different
things from each other. If we understand hip hop and where it came from we know that in 1967, ’68,
a man named Dr. King, Civil Rights leader, was talking about organizing poor people into a poor
people’s campaign. We understand that. We also know in 1967, a man named Clyde Campbell
A.K.A. Cool Hook, came from a country in the Caribbean called Jamaica, West Indies, and became
known when he got to New York City in '67 as one of the founding fathers who became know as hip
hop culture by the 1980’s. Hip hop was created by poor African-Americans, poor West Indians, and
poor Puerto Ricans in a place called New York City while there was a parallel energy happening in
places like the West Coast among African-Americans and Mexican-Americans. We know that, if we
are really talking about what is hip hop.
When we talk about this culture and this thing that is happening now with hip hop as a political
movement, we've got to put it in some sort of historical context…[I]n 1984 when Congressman
Jackson’s father decided to run for President of the United States…I didn’t know that black people
could run for President in the United States…
So what his father represented to many of us, not just young black people but young people around
the country period, was that I, too, can do something like this. I, too, can run for office. I, too, can be
a leader. I’m here to say that every young person in this room, no matter who you are…everyone in
this room has the potential to be a leader. That doesn’t mean that you can get on a microphone and
be a big house speaker, but do something for your community as you pursue your own individual
career. You have to do it because our people are dying all over this country, all over this globe. You
have an obligation to give back. We would not be sitting here if it wasn’t for people who came before
us. We need to be clear about that.
When Reverend Jackson ran for President in 1984 and 1988, it inspired many of us to become
leaders. We didn’t know what to do. I’m here to tell you all as younger people we didn’t know what to
do, we just kind of did it by trial and error…
People like myself and other young brothers and sisters who were there in the New York City
Metropolitan area in the late 1980’s during the Regan-Bush era, during the era of crack and AIDS
beginning to hit our communities in serious ways, we’re the ones that said, we got to do something to
get young people to the table politically, and between his father running for President, it was hip hop
we were using. Hip hop we were using.
…The other part of this that’s equally important, and I’m just going to say it and I’m going to say it
with all due respect. Many of us, particularly after…Reverend Jackson’s second Presidential
campaign in 1988, lost our fire, lost our fire. Part of it was because of the way we felt the Democratic
Party treated Congressman Jackson’s father. What was it? Twelve million votes that he got that
year, something like that? Twelve million votes that year. We felt that the Democratic Party back in
1988 took us for granted. It wasn’t just this year or 2000 or ’96, we felt like this back in 1988. We felt
that many of the people who rode on the coat tails of those presidential campaigns in '84 and ’88
who become mayors of cities and governors of certain states, etc -- you all know who I’m talking
about -- did not be bothered to put in place what the Republicans put in place in the 1980’s, which
was an infrastructure to begin to mentor younger people to fall into these leadership positions.
What do I mean by this? When I was at Rutgers University, 1984 to 1988, young Republicans were
all over the college campus. Congressman Jackson and I are about the same age, so I know you
know what I’m talking about. They were all over the country organizing. There was no young
democratic movement on the college campus. There was no young progressive movement on
college. There was nothing, nothing, nothing.
And so what happened…Many of us just kind of went on with our lives, doing our individual thing.
We know during this time from the early 1990’s to now some very interesting things have happened
to hip hop culture. Hip hop is now the dominant youth culture on the planet, period. I’ve been all
over this country, I’ve been all over the globe, it is everywhere. It is the culture of today for young
people and we say hip hop generation, we even got to define that because it’s actually about three or
four different generations within the community now.
There are some of us over 40 who went with Grandmaster Flash and Cool Hook. For those of us in
our thirties, Run DMC and Public Enemy were our heroes. The heads in their mid twenties is Tupac
and Biggie. The heads now is Kanye West or whoever’s hot right now. Whoever’s hot right now. Lil
Chingy, Lil Flick. I got my DirecTV so I’m up on stuff. But again I say that it was all due respect, I’m
going to close here.
As hip hop over the last ten years has become this dominant youth culture on the planet, we also
have to acknowledge the fact that this has been an incredible dumbing down of our country. Not just
young people, not just hip hop, not just black people but people across the board are more ignorant
than ever.
What has also happened as this dumbing down is going on is this incredible emphasis on celebrity,
and I’m saying this to someone who’s on TV all the time. Where people are more interested in you if
you’re a celebrity than if you actually have something to say. There’s also become this division -Congressman Jackson talks about understanding where we came from during the 1960’s. If you
saw a Marlon Brando, or Sidney Poitier, or Harry Belafonte or Anita Sloan, any of these artists -- they
weren’t considered the leaders of the Civil Rights movement, they supported the Civil Rights
movement. It was understood that Dr. King and Fannie Hammer and Ella Baker and all the sisters
and brothers were qualified, just like Jeff is qualified, just like Joy Williams is qualified, to be leaders.
But what has happened -- and I want to have this conversation with Reverend Ben. A lot of folks will
not try to have this conversation -- is this separation where we have these hip hop events where we
bring out all the artists. In order for a young person to get in, they have to register to vote but as Joy
says so eloquently the other day, there’s no voter education going on. So even though we are
registering millions of young people to vote, we’re not going to guarantee that any of us are going to
the polls on November 2nd.
So when we talk about defining the moment and the movement - the hip hop generation’s political
responsibility. The last piece that I want to challenge you all on, and let’s not get caught up in hip
hop, hip hop, hip hop because this is a hot thing. Everybody calls himself a hip-hop something now
– hip-hop this, hip-hop that - I’m just a human being who’s an activist. And we didn't say back in the
day, I’m a jazz activist, I’m a soul activist, I’m a rock and roll activist. There’s a soul voting block,
there’s a jazz voting block, no. What are we going to do as human beings to carry forth our legacy in
this country to continue to make this country a democracy that it needs to be, and we got to stop
getting caught up in all this celebrity. If someone’s on TV, thinking because they say we should do
something, that means they actually know what they're talking about all the time. This is not to hate
these people - hate on these people, but the reality is we got to have two plans as I said at the town
hall meeting on Thursday. One is, we got to vote on November 2nd. I’m telling you all don’t vote for
Bush - I don’t care. But, the other part of the plan - the other part of the plan has got to be developed
post November 2nd. I don’t care if you call yourself hip hop, old school, new School, whatever you
are. Otherwise, come 2008, we are going to have these same conversations over and over again.
We’re strong with the hip hop generation and come 2008, I’m going to be in my 40’s. I’m not going to
be calling myself a hip-hop nothing Thank You.
MR. BOWLES: … Why is it, young people, why is it, hip- hop generation, why is it that we are the
most least likely people to be at the polls on November 2nd? Why is it that we are viewed as the
most - as the population least likely to vote?
MR. POWELL: …First of all, so many young people in this country, one, have never been
effectively engaged by any political infrastructure. Two, they don’t trust it, and…that is how a large
sector of our young people feel because they don’t see any of these people. We had a meeting with
a high ranking member of the Republican Party who finds his way by our office regularly. This high
ranking person is Ed Gillespie, who is chair of the Republican Party and Mr. Gillespie said in a
conversation, we as a party want to begin to compete more aggressively for the hip-hop vote. I
looked at him and said, that’s why you’re not going to get it because you’re looking at these
individuals, these young people, as votes and not as people, and until you’re more concerned about
the issues that young people are dealing with and not whether they are going to vote for you on
November 2nd, the hip-hop voters will not be tricked into the personality of politics. So many of our
parents have responded at the polls by who smiled the best at their church but never served their
church. So we have political figures that come through on Sunday mornings because they dropping
the Pastor a little envelope on the side. Dropping an envelope to the Pastor on the side but never
serving the people in that community. Young people aren’t going out like that, and so we as leaders,
we as concerned citizens, have got to get to a place because whenever we deal these questions we
hopefully got to deal with solutions. We have got to get to the place where we connect for young
people the issues that they care about with people that are involved in this election.
…[Y]oung people have got to begin to understand that the stuff that pisses you off is connected to
somebody in some office somewhere, and so the fact that your street looks messed up and the
garbage isn’t picked up is connected to a city councilman somewhere that isn’t doing their job. The
fact that the police are brutalizing you in your community is connected to a Mayor who appoints a
police chief who isn’t doing their job in making people in the community involved in policing. We got
to understand that somewhere there’s a state official who cares more about incarcerating young
people than educating them at a state level, and they need to be elected out of office on the state
level, and somebody in Congress that approved a bill just this week for 82 million dollars to be spent
over three years for suicide prevention, but they spend 260 million over three years for a satellite that
parachute doesn’t work. Something is wrong across the country and young people have got to
connect the issues that piss them off with somebody that they need to get out of office or somebody
they need to support in office to put their issues on the table.
MR BOWLES: …Dr. Rockeymoore, the question: how do you – people - how do we get involved in
political activism? How do we do it, as a generation?
DR. ROCKEYMOORE: …There are a variety of ways to get involved in political action and political
activism, and it’s not just a vote. I mean the vote is - just if you’re looking - if you’re thinking about this
in terms of a basketball game, the vote is just the tip-off at the beginning of the game. There are
other tactics they we have to use in order to eventually win the game, get the ball down the court put
it in the basket and what not, and we need to start thinking in a broad sense about what these tactics
are. Okay, the first thing, just start at your community level. Attend your neighborhood meetings,
attend your PTA meetings, attend your city council meetings, and get active and involved. A lot of
decisions are being made at the local level. You can just step out the door and start going to those
meetings and people ignore the flyers but that’s where it all starts, okay, your community. You can
volunteer - I mean if you want to become involved in the political scene, you can volunteer for a
campaign or something and get more engaged in the issues, become knowledgeable about the
issues that way. You can also fundraise. I mean a lot of people say, well, I don’t earn a lot of
money. But, you know what? Ten dollars makes a difference especially when it's aggregated across
200 people, and so what we are talking about is thinking about fund raising as a strategy.
Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. has to raise money all the time, just like Omarosa said, and just
like our churches need our financial support, our political institutions and people like Congressman
Jackson need our financial support. So, fundraising is another tactic. There are many tactics we can
use that we haven't engaged previously and it’s the responsibility of our generation to diversify, not
just protest, not just vote, but to diversify and use all the tactics in order to get engaged in our
communities and exercise our power.
CONGRESSMAN JACKSON: …I want to touch upon two points because as I transition from the
hip-hop generation to jazz and classical music I want to leave a little thought or two with you all as I
head on over this bridge. There are two reasons why I think you are the least likely to vote. The first
is history. I’m going to come back to that one. And the second reason…we talk to about least likely
to vote. We are only discussing people who are 18 or older, that’s the first thing. You are 17 years
old and you will be 18 by November, you are eligible to register and vote, so you don’t have to be 18
right now. As long as you are 18 by Election Day, you cannot be denied the opportunity to register
and participate, so that’s a technical issue. Most 17 year olds and 18 years olds have never voted.
So the idea that somehow they woke up on this 17th birthday or their 18th birthday and said, I got to
register and vote, trying to get to college, trying to do SAT’s, trying to get out of high school, trying to
get a GED. Some of our cases are, unfortunately, are trying to get out of jail and off parole. We
have a lot of issues right around 17 or 18 unfortunately. Some are fortunate trying to graduate. You
got to be motivated and talked into registration and participation. Secondly, on the collage campus,
where the 17 year old, 18 year olds are - we are plagued on a college campus by what I call localism
and local pride and provincialism. I’m saying this to you all before I leave this generation and before I
forget because when I was only a kid I registered on campus to vote, it was on my mind – and I ain’t
in college now but it ought to be on your mind…When you at that college campus, your house - your
place of residence is your dorm room. You have to register to vote where you live and under the law,
you live wherever you stayed the last 3 nights in a row. You ain’t getting back on no bus and going to
New York to vote. So, register right here. That’s a technical problem but it’s a real problem.
Now, the second…problem on why we are least likely to vote is history. History - and it plays into the
first problem - you see, the struggle of our people is about getting the franchise and achieving
equality in America. If you were, for example, a Jewish-American, every year for one week they have
something called a Sedr and Passover, and they go over the history of their people from Abraham
and Isaac all the way up to the Holocaust, all the way up to Joe Lieberman, all the way up to
whoever messed with them yesterday. I respect that. What I’m suggesting to you, my friends,
Kwanza ain’t that. Lighting the candles is important but it ain’t that. Black History Month – what
Harriett Tubman did - all of that is extremely important. I’m not discussing that. I’m discussing the
annual, for one people, rehearsing our history around the table and in our homes about the struggle
of our people to get over. That’s a different kind of thing because it’s such an annual event that
rehearses the history from the beginning to the present like a Sedr dinner of like a Passover dinner
leads us inevitably to the next election. I always ask myself the question. We kind of have Dr. King
raised up in kind of big position and Rev. Jackson is up there, Al Sharpton and others - our big
leaders who done made enormous contributions, but do you know what? In Jewish history, Moses is
just a bleep and he’s the guy who got them out of Egypt and showed them to the promise land,
delivered them the law. He don’t have no holiday. That’s for real. Because the biggest guy from my
perspective is the guy who got them out of slavery. He doesn’t even have a holiday, because that is
an event en route to where their people are going. We take momentous events and momentous
individuals and make them the event, when it is our event en route to where we are going as a
III. Economic Development
Economic Empowerment: Value in the Hood
Hosted by: The Center for Policy Analysis and Research (CPAR)
Panelists: Kelvin Boston (moderator), John Bryant, Dr. Lance Freeman, Dr. Julianne Malveaux,
Sheryll Cashin, George Fraser
Clearly much in the urban landscape has changed in the past 15 years. Many of the nation’s
urban areas have undergone unprecedented economic revitalization efforts. The goal of the
panel was to analyze racial exclusionism and gentrification in urban development.
The discussion began with a clear definition of gentrification. As specified by one of the panelist,
gentrification is the process by which central urban neighborhoods that have undergone
disinvestment and economic decline, experience of reversal, reinvestment and the immigration of
relatively well off middle and upper class populations. However, many of the panelists asserted
that contrary to conventional notions, whites have played a somewhat secondary role in this reversal.
It was noted that lack of property ownership and “black flight” played a key role in gentrification. A
failure of black investment and spending in black urban centers was identifies as a significant
problems. More specifically, various panelists asserted that African Americans spend close to $670
billion annually, yet only 5-7% of those dollars return to African-American communities. Various
recommendations for building an economic base in the African-American community were
Recommendations for Action:
Enhance the opportunities of all people to take advantage of the benefits of gentrification.
• Policy makers should aim to provide housing that is immune to the vagaries of the
market. Housing initiatives of this type include project based housing assistance like
the Low Income Housing Tax Credit or the now unfashionable Public Housing
Program, affordable homeownership, and community land trusts. Through
community land trusts community based organizations purchase and control the land
in their community and consequently dictate what type of housing development will
occur. To be practical, the community must act before land prices rise dramatically.
To complement this strategy programs like inclusionary zoning that either requires
new developments to set aside a number of units for affordable housing, or allow
developers to build at higher densities in exchange for building affordable housing
can be included in their development.
Empower residents so that gentrification is not perceived as only for the benefit of outsiders
• Give community residents a pivotal role in rebuilding their communities. Thus,
community involvement becomes an end as much as a means. To a large extent,
the community development movement has successfully made bottom-up planning
the dominant paradigm in rebuilding inner-city communities (Halpern 1995; Von
Hoffman 2003).
Stop prejudging the long-term value of people we meet;
• 49% said the most nagging aspect of networking is wasting time with people that may
not be of any help.
• Response: how would they know they are wasting their time; everyone is important;
everyone has value. Some of the most important things that have ever happened
come from the most unassuming sources.
Spending more of our time networking and cultivating new relationships;
• 70% spend less than 5 hours/week cultivating new relationships.
Response: studies show effective networkers spend 14% of their time cultivating
new relationships, but successful networkers spend 54% of their time working on
their relationships.
Increasing the number of contacts/friendships we rely on;
• 46% had less than 75 contacts.
Response: a good network requires 150-250 well-developed contacts at work, at
home and in the community. I have over 1,400 in my network.
Understanding that networking is “building rapport first,” not selling. Only 63% felt building
rapport was not important.
• Network to give, not to get!
Essence of networking is serving others
The purpose of life is to love, give, serve and add value to someone or something.
Response: most people are networking to get something, wrong, you network to
give/share and as you give, you develop rapport and friendships…than you get.
Finally, 54% said they agreed most with the statement, “it’s all about who you know.”
• My response: it’s not “all about who you know,” but about who knows you and what
is it they know about you. You can know 300 important people but if they all think
you are a jerk, you’ve got real problems.
Be careful whose toes you step on today. Because they may be connected to the
ass you will need to kiss tomorrow.
Have an inspired perspective.
• Translation: be positive. The Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people
perish.” The road ahead is not easy. Nobody promised that life would be anything but
difficult. You cannot have a rainbow without a storm first. To have hope is the first
step in having opportunity, because life is how you see it, and what you can make of
it. Life is ten percent what circumstances do to you and ninety percent how you
choose to respond to them. What is your response going to be?
Believe in people; Believe in yourself.
• We do not do business with companies, governments, or organizations; we do
business with people. There are six billion people in the world, and no one is just like
Make the connection. The 20th century was about race and the color line. The 21st century is
going to be about class and poverty.
• According to CNN, half of all Americans -- I did not say half of black folks -- are living
paycheck to paycheck. This is a 2001 report. There are more poor whites in America
than poor anybody else. Do not let anybody tell you anything different.
See America's inner-cities as opportunities, as communities of promise.
• South Central L.A. is 15 minutes from every major place you want to be -- the ports,
the ocean, and the freeway. It is five minutes from the three busiest freeways in the
world, the mountains, downtown, ideally situated real estate. And guess what? It
wasn't always black. It was once white, then converted to black, and is now Latino.
These are study marketplaces.
DR. LANCE FREEMAN: …[G]entrification has been increasing dramatically in African American
neighborhoods in the past few decades.
Although contrary to popular perceptions, whites have played a somewhat secondary role in this
reversal…[T]his is a homegrown phenomenon. It may be the case that…there’s certain instances
where white’s have played a major role and in the future where they may play a larger role, but up
until this point and in recent - the early stages, a lot of the changes have been triggered by blacks
…[G]entrification has been spurred by a number of factors, changes in investment climate in the
inner city, changes in - cultural changes, demographic changes and changes in federal and local
housing policy as well.
…I’m going to suggest that this is a trend that perhaps, started in late 1970s accelerated in the
1990s, and given current conditions is likely to continue in the future. So, I think it’s very timely that
we come together and discuss this situation now and to think about how we would like to handle this
or how we would like to address this issue in the future.
…[W]hat exactly is gentrification? This is a definition I took out of the encyclopedia of housing; it’s
published a couple of years ago. There’s a lot of different perceptions or ideas about what
gentrification means or what it is. This probably comes closest to a consensual definition, it’s the
process by which central urban neighborhoods that have undergone disinvestment and economic
decline, experience of reversal, reinvestment and the immigration of relatively well off middle and
upper class populations, okay.
…[T]his is what I use to try to measure the trends in gentrification in the past few decades, okay.
The research that I’ve been doing on gentrification is based on data from the decennial census from
1980, 1990 and 2000. The way I measured gentrifying neighborhoods were to take neighborhoods
that were located in the central city that were below average in income, that have an older than
average housing stock.
If you think about these first three criteria, these are somewhat characteristics of what you would
consider inner city, relatively poor neighborhoods. I measured gentrification as neighborhoods that
experience an above average increase in income, also in education and also an increase in housing
prices. So, this is how I went about measuring gentrification using data from the decennial census.
This first chart illustrates patterns in gentrification for two decades. The one on the left is the period
from 1980 to 1990, and the period on the right is from 1990 to 2000. The purple or lavender chart
represents predominately black neighborhoods, which I defined as neighborhoods that are more
than 50 percent black.
The darker or purple color are all other neighborhoods. These are neighborhoods that are not
predominately black.
…[O]ne thing that stands out to me…is that, while the rate of gentrification hasn’t increased that
much overall in other neighborhoods, among black neighborhoods there was a dramatic increase. It
went from about 353 neighborhoods nationwide to about almost 800 nationwide in the latter decade.
So, that’s a dramatic increase in the number of neighborhoods that we can say experienced
gentrification over the past 20 years.
I think this chart comes closest to illustrate what I was saying earlier, that gentrification is increasing
in African American neighborhoods and it remains to be seen what will happen during this decade. If
trends continue, we might expect to continue to see more gentrification in African American
…This next chart illustrates a percent white in these neighborhoods and if you recall, I also said that
whites seem to be playing a secondary role in the gentrifying process in these African American
neighborhoods. This is a period between 1980 and 1990, these are predominately black
neighborhoods that were experiencing gentrification, and on average, there was actually a slight
decline in the white population.
Now, there are a couple of things I should note. One is that if you look at metropolitan
neighborhoods overall, there was a much bigger decline in the white population, so compared to
what was happening in these black gentrifying neighborhoods it was a much bigger loss in the white
Nonetheless, I think there’s a popular perception that gentrification in black
neighborhoods are that gentrification means whites coming into the neighborhood.
In some cases that’s clearly the case, but if you look at the average over the entire country, that’s not
necessarily the case. This next chart…is for the decade from 1990 to 2000. Again, it shows a
modest decline in the white population in these predominately black neighborhoods that were
experiencing gentrification.
…Overall, central city neighborhoods have been losing whites dramatically. In these gentrifying
neighborhoods, the rate of loss has been relatively slow. Nonetheless, it is still, in absolute terms, a
modest decline.
…These next two charts, I just wanted to put up some of the major cities that experienced
gentrification in the past couple of decades. This shows the period of 1980 to 1990 and you can see
from this chart that cities in the northeast dominated the trends, particularly New York and Chicago
alone accounted for about 40 percent of the gentrifying neighborhoods. You also see Washington,
D.C., Newark, and Norfolk were some of the other cities that experienced large numbers of
gentrifying neighborhoods during the 1980 to 1990 decade.
This next chart shows what was happening in the 1990’s. You see New York is still among the top,
but interestingly you see a couple of other neighborhoods, some that we may not have anticipated. I
was just speaking with one of the other panelists a few minutes ago about Cleveland. He was
describing to me the experience of the Huff neighborhood and the gentrification that has been
occurring there.
You can see that and you see some of the other cities like Atlanta, which is well know for
experiencing gentrification. Also cities like Detroit experience reinvestment in some of its depressed
neighborhoods and I think that’s showing up here as well.
So, hopefully that will give you somewhat of a context in terms of the magnitude of gentrification and
what are the overall trends. I also would note that although gentrification is increasing, it’s still a
relatively small percentage of all black neighborhoods. Somewhere in the order of maybe 15 to 20
percent of all predominately black neighborhoods, so it’s still a relatively small percentage of all black
Nevertheless, it is a trend that seems to be increasing over time. What’s responsible for the dramatic
increase? What happened in the 1980s and particularly in the 1990s that would contribute to this
increase? Well, there are a number of factors. One was some significant changes in policy. The
Community Reinvestment Act was reinforced. It was given some teeth so that community based
organizations could use that to leverage additional capital.
The community development movement, as a whole, sort of came into its own and became a mature
industry so you have community development corporations that had the know-how and the ability
and the experience to reinvest in these neighborhoods to develop housing in these neighborhoods,
to develop shopping centers and the like. There are numerous examples of them across the
The low-income housing tax credit increasingly became a tool to build more housing. The Hope 6
was a program that revitalized some severely distressed public housing programs. So, I think all of
these things kind of came together to create an environment where not only was - where community
groups investing in these neighborhoods and not only was the federal government funneling dollars
into these neighborhoods, but the private sector also came to realize that there was money to be
made in these neighborhoods and they were less hesitant to enter into these environments.
So, you had a dramatic reversal of say the previous two or three decades when money was being
drawn from these neighborhoods where there was a change in the environment where there was a
further investment…I would also say there have been cultural changes in society.
Researchers who write about gentrification have talked about how people have started to become
less attracted to the sort of cookie cutter, somewhat sterile suburban environment and more attracted
to sort of the eclectic colorful neighborhoods of the central city. I think that as the black middle class
grows at something that’s being merit among ourselves.
Historically, the sort of goal was to buy
your house with a white picket fence in the suburbs. You can see that very clearly in Washington,
D.C. with the large black suburban population in Prince George’s county. I think though as the black
middle class diversifies, you’re going to increasingly find some blacks who have the means to do so
who may decide to stay in inner city as opposed to moving to the suburb. So, that’s another factor
that I think will contribute to blacks moving into or staying in the central city and contributing to
…[A]nother change, I think, attitudes towards integration. Historically, whites have been very
resistant to living among blacks. White flight, housing discrimination, all those things have been
driven to some extent by whites not wanting to live amongst blacks.
That’s something that seems to be changing slowly. Certainly there’s still a lot of racist attitudes
towards housing integration, but if you look at the historical trends, clearly, that’s starting to erode
slowly but surely. Certainly if you walk around neighborhoods, you walk around U Street, I live in
Harlem, I walk around Harlem, you’ll see more white faces. So, there seems to be somewhat more
acceptance toward integration.
The white middle class being much larger than the black middle class, you would expect that that
could contribute to gentrification in black neighborhoods as well as these neighborhoods are no
longer viewed as off limits to white.
Finally, I think demographic changes also have been driving gentrification and will continue to do so
in the near future. In particular - I will put up another chart…the top part of the chart illustrates other
households; the bottom part, the sort of lavender color, illustrates households where the head is
college educated and they have no children.
This might be viewed as the households most likely to move into gentrifying neighborhoods because
they’re less worried about having the space for their children or worried about the equality of the
schools in the central city, which have a reputation for being poorer then those in the suburbs.
You can see in the early - in the middle parts of the 20th century, it was virtually - you can’t even see
the number of households with college degrees with no children was very insignificant. It’s still
relatively small, but you can see it’s starting to increase over time.
…I think you’re going to see that continuing to grow as more African Americans become educated,
as the child birthrate or fertility rates, particularly among college educated black women continue to
decline, you’re going to see a pool of educated, relatively affluent African Americans for whom the
suburban lifestyle might not be that attractive and they’re going to be increasingly drawn to central
city neighborhoods which are viewed perhaps as offering more of the type of lifestyle that they’re
more interested in.
…[T]o sum up, I think…gentrification is something that has been increasing dramatically. I think it’s
very timely that we come together and talk about this issue. Contrary to what might be popular
perception, it’s something that - at least in the initial stages - is probably being driven by the black
middle class more than whites, although certainly there are instances where that’s different.
There are a number of factors that are contributing to this celebration of gentrification and looking at
trends like this, I think this is something that’s likely to increase and continue into the future…
DR. KELVIN BOSTON: …Gentrification and urban renewal is just a continuation of the long
struggle that we have to go through…[I]t reminded me of Langston Hughes and a poem entitled “Still
Here,” where Langston Hughes talks about the black experience through his fictional character
Jesse B. Sample. Listen to what Langston writes about the black experience in America:
“I’ve been cut, stabbed, run over, hit by a car, trumped by a horse, robbed, fooled, double crossed,
dealt second and might even hear black male, but I am still here. I have been under fed, under paid,
under nourished and everything but undertaken. I have been bit by dogs, cats, mice, rats, parrots,
fleas, jiggers, big bugs, grand daddies, mosquitoes and a gold tooth woman. In this life, I have been
abused, confused, misused, accused, falsed arrested, tried, sentenced, paroled, blackjacked, deep
third degreed and dared about lynched. I done had everything from flat feet to a flat head. My man,
I was born with the measles, and since then I’ve had small pox, chicken pox, whooping cough,
cromped appendicitis, athletes foot, tonsillitis, arthritis, backaches, mumps and a strain, but I am still
here. Daddio, I am still here.”
My friends, I think we are still here because in spite of all of the difficulties, in spite of our trouble, we
have always come together in gatherings like this to talk about what we can do individually and
collectively to move our economic, social, political agenda forward, and that’s why we’re here today.
Indeed this discussion’s very, very important, because the truth of the matter is that black America is
still here, and we will still be here a year from now or five years from now or ten years from now. The
issue to me is when you look at urban renewal and you look at gentrification, the question is how will
we fair politically, economically, and politically.
…One of the biggest concerns I have…is the fact that many of our black constituents, for lack of a
better term, we don’t realize the value of the property that we’re now living in. As I crisscrossed this
country talking about wealth building in different black cities across this country, African Americans
are not buying houses and businesses in African American communities.
In some instances, we are selling our properties, moving somewhere else, and we cannot afford to
buy the same type of house that we just left. The reality is that many of the congressional leaders
that we’re here talking about can’t afford to live in Washington, DC…
…This is a very, very important topic and for the most part, we’re not talking about it. We are not
talking about it.
DR. JULIANNE MALVEAUX: …The African American population is dwindling daily…What I
observe is the concept of eminent domain, so we can talk about this in economic terms all we want we can filter through the data, but the fact is that urban renewal was once called Negro Removal.
We know exactly why that was, because when they did urban renewal in some of our cities, the
people that got kicked out didn’t get to come back
…So, you see some of this kind of petty criminal behavior that young black men can’t get away with
that in the name of zero tolerance we’ve eliminated on the part of black folks to make the city safer
for white folks when they come in and decide that they don’t have to obey the law. That seems to
me what’s going on in our cities that you can’t quantify some of it and like I said, it’s personal.
…We have a tanning salon on U Street, okay. Does that not send a signal? A tanning salon.
Anybody - I just want to be curious, a show of hands, anybody in this room partake with regularity of
tanning salons?
So, we’re not going to be the market for the tanning salon, if you know what I mean. When I knew
that our neighborhood was shot when we got Fresh Fields. As soon as we got Fresh Fields, I said
here come the white folk and sure enough. Because you have people working in Fresh Fields who
are making less per hour then the cheese costs per pound.
I mean, it’s a poignant comment on the demographics of what are happening and the class dynamics
here because there’s not just race, it’s also class. I mean, in honesty, I am an African American
person who can afford to live in that neighborhood, and there’re other African American people who
cannot. The fact is that the complexion of the neighborhood is changing, part of it is driven by this
concept of eminent domain.
Eminent domain just means it’s mine and you know what, it was because neighborhoods that we
called black neighborhoods were never owned by black people. I mean, this is the piece of this
whole conversation that we forget. We live there, we rented there, we paid for other people’s
mortgages, we bought it for them, but we didn’t own it. So, we had no power in the dynamic of how
the neighborhood changes. If you have ownership, you have power.
Now, there has been…an attempt - certainly in the past ten years, in my neighborhood and in others,
that data - macro data not withstanding, Lance. I think that when we look at certain neighborhoods, it
might be ten percent overall. It’s getting to be about 30 percent in Shaw. It’s getting to be like 20
percent in Harlem. In Chicago, I think, the gentrification is mostly white. San Francisco, my
hometown, I mean, black people are now an endangered species.
…In other words, we know what markets are about; money determines who gets what, when where
and why. So, if you have the dollars to pay the rent, you get the property. If you can’t afford to pay
the rent, you don’t get the property. Are markets the only thing that we use?
It’s interesting to me how people will fall on market economics when it’s convenient but not when it’s
inconvenient. For example, is a baseball stadium a self-sustaining enterprise? Why then - if it’s not
a self sustaining enterprise why are we going to spend public funds on a baseball stadium but we
won’t spend public funds on preserving some of the African American institutions that exist in D.C.
Well, conventional wisdom suggests that a baseball stadium will bring tourists and they’ll spend tax
money. That was what they said about the democratic convention in Boston, the republican
convention in New York. I was up there last week. It looked like a cross between a ghost town and
a police state, where like every ten feet there was a cop, but there were like no people, except for
down at Madison Square Garden.
…In any case, the theory was that if you bring it they will come. It’s not clear that if you bring it they
will come in terms of a baseball stadium, but indeed if they do come who gets the benefits of their
coming and who pays? I mean, should general tax revenue be used to bring a baseball stadium that
provides profits to a small number of people?
I mean, yes, it adds to a city’s prestige to have a baseball stadium, but this is Washington, D.C. We
have the president, I mean, generally, that adds to our prestige - maybe not for the past four years but in any case, the economics of what we consider attractions are something that we ought to
investigate. The theory about what we ought to spend public dollars on ought to be something that
we need to pay attention to.
Well, part of this is an issue of consciousness. You see, under Mayor Marion Barry - say what you
will about Marion Barry, but he created a lot of black millionaires. If there was development to be
done in Washington, D.C. under Marion Barry, black folks had to play a part in it. He was just like
Maynard Jackson whose mantra was subcontract or no contract. That’s what Maynard Jackson said
in Atlanta when a white developer came he said, where are your black subcontractors? You don’t
have any, you can’t play, period, end of conversation.
…What you see is, well, ebbing away from African American especially developers in Washington,
D.C. not moving toward that. At the bottom line here, we’re talking about an issue of initial
allegations - allegations, yes I must be thinking about something someone said I did and I didn’t.
Allocations in terms of how we keep power in inner cities. We didn’t start out with power, so if you
don’t start out with power, you can’t keep it. We started out with presence but not power and our
presence was not connected to the ownership of property. Kelvin referred to the homeownership
This is something that is serious. Whites own 74 percent of their homes while African Americans
own 47 percent of their homes, 47 percent is the other way around, 74 percent of whites, yes, 47
percent of African Americans own their homes. That means we have less wealth, that means that
we have less power and in terms of this gentrification issue, we have less sticking power.
Cities have done some things, theoretically, to help residents. For example, in Washington and in
many other cities, senior citizens get an abatement on their property taxes. Additionally,
homeowners, resident owners get an abatement of about a third on their property taxes. That’s a
good thing. At the same time with property taxes in some cases nearly doubling, we just capped the
property tax in Washington as well, in terms of the rate at which it could increase. So, those are
good things, flip side.
Because people so enjoy the presence of folks with a whole lot of money, we started giving away
$5,000 to people who would move into cities. Well, what about $5,000 to the people who stayed? I
mean, you literally are giving an incentive to people to come in suggesting that they are valued more
then existing residents are. Suggesting that they should be compensated for the disadvantage of
coming into the cities.
Well, that doesn’t make any sense to me, in fact, I think that it’s almost an attack on existing
residents and it makes it more difficult for them, not less, because these folks come in with their
$5,000 credit and essentially change the terms and conditions of life for existing residents.
So, in some ways of the policy about attitude - and again, I would suggest that the attitude has been
eminent domain. If the attitude is one where you want to keep people of color - and especially
African Americans in cities - then there are things you can do. You can certainly do minority
business set asides. You can certainly do set asides for developers. There should be no developer
that comes into a city that is 60 plus percent African American that does not have African American
subcontractors. Simple. There should not be.
You need legislators and others who will play that. Now, we have come into an age where it’s very
popular to say race doesn’t matter anymore and we don’t place the race card. Again, in Washington,
D.C., we have seven white folks on a city council in the city that’s 64 percent black, so part of this
has to do with do black folks vote? How do we vote? What is wrong with us?
I don’t suggest you just say I’m voting for all the black folks, because there’s some crazy black
people that I would never vote for. The flip side of this is what is it about this notion eminent domain
that means somebody else’s ice is colder?
I know that I’m being profoundly politically incorrect and I, quite frankly, do not care. Because the
fact is that if we are not politically incorrect, here is what is likely to happen. We’ve created a base there are 39 African Americans in the Congressional Black Caucus. We’ve created a base that’s
built on urban presence and that urban presence is being diluted. We’ve created a political base that
transcends the urban reality because you have urban legislators who raise issues like the black
You have urban legislators who raise issues that affect all of us. Those urban legislators frankly, are
in danger if we decide that we will sit silent and allow gentrification to happen without saying
something. Now, I know that it is almost impossible to stop market forces. I mean, stopping
gentrification is like stopping globalization.
…In any case, while you can’t stop market forces but they can be modified. What you need is
legislation and activism to modify those forces.
So, the questions that were raised - do these efforts assist existing residents? Marginally? You have
to really balance that out - do existing residents stay? Many existing residents have left. Some of
the early flight from Washington, D.C. certainly was a movement into what some of us call Ward 9,
Prince George’s County.
Because of conditions of living and because of the conditions of schools, but more recently areas
that have been traditionally African American areas are now areas where people can’t afford to buy.
Howard - the area around Howard University is becoming more and more expensive. The areas in
the southeast are becoming more and more expensive.
So, literally if you want to come to Washington, D.C. to live, you have to bring more money then you
had to bring just a year or so ago. In fact, Baltimore is being touted as the affordable alternative to
Washington D.C. I don’t know.
… I think there are displacement efforts and the second question, do they solicit the input? Not
really. There has been no formal way to solicit people’s input. There are community meetings, but
the community meetings around U Street in particular, that I had some experience with through the
sisters at Sisters Space were very carefully organized.
So, that if you had a dissenting opinion, you often were not allowed to speak and essentially this was
a group of eminent domain folks coming and saying, this is what we want to happen to your
neighborhood, like it or not and a couple folks standing up to say, oh well.
We need to reexamine this notion of market forces. We suspend market forces when it’s convenient.
We want a ball state and we want something else, we decide that we can subsidize. The question is
can we subsidize or can we make easier the continuing African American presence in our cities and
we would have to make a policy case for that, if so why?
The policy case is not the power case; the policy case is really a case for diversity. Are we able in
cities now to afford class diversity? Again, we’re not talking about all cities; we’re talking about the
top 25 cities - the cities that have essentially been our urban base.
If we don’t look at these particular cities, we, in ten years, after our next census, might be looking at
five fewer members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Some of the shifts will be interesting. The
shifts will not be from black to white, but from black to brown, and that’s not a bad thing, necessarily.
Some of the other shifts may be inimical and we need to be clear about how inimical those are and
what we’re prepared to do about it. Again, I say that policy and activism are the ways that we make
gentrification conform to our terms and conditions.
MS. SHERYLL CASHIN: …Let’s be honest, as Julianne’s talk pointed out a lot of our concern about
gentrification - a lot of our disease about it is this fear of whites coming in and taking over our
neighborhoods. Dr. Malveaux talks about the risk of dilution of our votes. Yes, the black community
is an urban base. What I want to point out is part of the reason we’re in this situation is because of
our own choices.
The black middle class is suburbanizing at rates much faster then the white middle class…In the
context of talking about where we are with race and class integration or the lack there of it in the last
50 years since Brown, I’ve talked to many, many African American groups that are very hostile
toward the notion of integration. Very weary about that – well, we’ve done been there, tried that and
there’s an incredible nostalgia on the part of black people for the pre-integration intact black
If you look at what black communities were like in the Jim Crow era, these were economically
integrated communities in which all of black people from the talented ten, the elites, the black
professionals and low income folk who were struggling were all right there in the same community
and participating in the same institutions, in the same schools, in the same churches, using the same
stores, etcetera, etcetera.
What I say is if you are concerned about what you are hearing from the Brown level, I’d say that you
really have to think about your own classes…Where should you live if you’re a black person who
actually has the economic means that you really do have a choice about where to live?
What the American Society really offers the black middle class person is a rather extreme choice.
They can go to a neighborhood where blacks are few or they can go to an overwhelming black
neighborhood. There’s not much in between. The real sad and painful reality is that most job
growth, nice amenities, wonderful schools tend to be concentrated in overwhelmingly white poverty
free areas and black communities are struggling. Why?
Because, try as you might, as a black middle class person or upper income person, you are not
going to be able to escape your lower income brethren unless you’re willing to be an integration
pioneer and move to these elite overwhelmingly white communities.
So, if that’s the case, then if you want to cultivate a strong vibrant black community, you have to
check your classes and embrace your lower income brethren and return to institutions that try to
bring all communities along. Unfortunately, perhaps with the exception of the black church, I don’t
think there are that many institutions that are trying to build bridges between upper income black folk
and lower income black folk.
…[M]y take on gentrification is that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I was really pleased to see
Lance’s statistics. The popular perception and yes, there is a reality…
…I was pleased to see that Lance’s data debunks the popular perception all though we do have this
phenomenon of whites coming into black communities. Gentrification offers the possibility of
reconnecting black middle class people and low-income people and I think our public policies could
be doing more to harness these markets and move them in a more inclusive direction.
Now, nothing different is going to happen without an advocacy base that pushes back. That pushes
back, for example, on Mayor Williams and his policies. All of the economic birth is happening, we’re we are right in the crucible of gentrification…
Without advocacy as always the outcome of most public policy choices reflects the most organized
wealthy interests. Yes, developers aren’t on their own going to decide well, let’s include ten percent
of the units for low-income people.
Another policy that could do a better job of allowing the most marginalized and let’s face it the most
marginalized people in American Society are low-income black people is Section 8 vouchers. We
have Section 8 vouchers that give the few low income people that actually have the ability to get one
- and find an apartment where they can use it, but if you put a Section 8 voucher in the hands of a
low-income person and actually give them some assistance in finding a moderate income apartment,
what does that do?
There are a host of studies that show that a low-income person does a lot better when they are
placed in a middle class setting. So, gentrification is not necessarily bad if you can cultivate a society
where low-income people get to stay - at least some low-income people get to stay and participate in
this new economic growth and we have policies for other low-income people to move to other areas
where affordable housing develops.
So, I’m going to wrap this up and just say that there are policies on the book to harness the potential
positives of gentrification. I believe and I argue strongly throughout this book that we should be a
society that’s not premised on fear of black people as we are. Most of the public policies that have
pushed us in a very separate and equal direction have to do with a 50-year history of being fearful of
black people where they exist in numbers.
I’m arguing for a very different America that’s placed on race - premised on race and class inclusion
and we can cultivate a fair society for everyone if we form the advocacy groups, if the people who
care about low-income black people build alliances with middle class black people and very different
Money Talks: The Hip Hop Generation’s Guide to Economic Equality
Hosted by: CBCF Emerging Leaders Series
Panelists: Simone Griffin (moderator), Rep. Elijah Cummings, Sandra Gillespie, Tony Fair, L.
Londell McMillian, Dedrick Muhammad, Michelle Singletary, George Fraser, Jovan Bowles.
Focusing on the tools of Hip-Hop, panelist at this forum openly discussed ways to use the
economic messages conveyed in inspiring wealth accumulation among the group of young to
older individuals that identify with the Hip-Hop generation. Various panelists noted how effective
hip-hop has been at creating entrepreneurs. Both the limitations and strengths of the genre of
music in its ability to stimulate a pursuit of financial literacy by individuals that identify with the
culture were also discussed at length. A common theme throughout the hip-hop culture is
hustling – conversations around this term included how the skills of hustlers could be transformed
into skills for street-wise businessmen. The features of entrepreneurship evident in the hip-hop
culture were identified, as well as specific strategies to building wealth. Ultimately,
recommendations for true economic empowerment were offered before the end of the panel.
Recommendations for Action:
Strategies for wealth creation
• Education about personal finance, entrepreneurship and business development
• Discipline and a strong work ethic
• An ability to use tools to get us where we need to be
• An ability to focus on ownership, job creation
• A commitment to our community and raise our consciousness so that once we do all
of the above-referenced, we can reinvest and recycle it and partner with the rest of
the world.
Student Homeownership Opportunity Program - created in 2003 for students at historically black
colleges and community colleges throughout the country to encourage students - graduating
seniors - to purchase homes
• Participate and expand like initiatives
• Increase the number of young individuals who purchase homes within the first few years
of graduation to get students on the road to building wealth, starting with
Saving and Entrepreneurship
• The first step to a sound financial plan is saving. Create your own wealth and invest
it for your retirement, for your business ideas or for other activities that matter.
MR. JOVAN BOWLES: …What we're going to be talking about today is how, as a people, we're
going to become economically sound, and how, as a generation that's considered the hip-hop
generation - what that influence and what that is - what that means to us and what that influence is
going to do for us…
MS. SIMONE GRIFFIN: …We want to start by introducing our panelists…Mr. Dedrick
MR. DEDRICK MUHAMMAD: …I…[will] talk a little bit more about the policy side of economic
empowerment. I mean, I think there's two key components, and I think sometimes we are played
against each other by trying to focus on one or the other.
Some people try to focus much more on policy - government policy - how that's going to help,
how that's going to hurt economic development. Other people focus much more on our own
spending habits - investment versus consumption.
There is no true economic empowerment without a mixture of both. I just really push forth this
idea and I'm going to focus more on the political aspect of it - that, of course, we should all know
this - that economics is political, that the reason that we have so much money in politics is not just
because people are concerned about civic activities, but because politics provides a lot of money
and funds and really is an engine which creates wealth development.
That is why when we engage in economic discussions, we can't only talk about our own personal
situations. We have to talk about how this is going to be connected to a larger, political economic
empowerment strategy.
I think one thing I wanted to really highlight, again, is that there's this debate back and forth about
how involved government should be - how government - how involved government should be in
economic policy.
I want to point out that those who make this argument are usually those who are trying to change
government policy. It's not that they're against government being involved in economic policy.
It's that they like the way policy is working for them at this moment and they don't want changes
about that.
The government policy has always been about distributing wealth in this nation. I think what we
need to think about, as we look at economic policy, is is it distributing it to us, or is it distributing it
to others?
Now, I think we see over the last really 30, 40 years, it is a bi-partisan issue. There has been a
government redistribution of wealth that has been concentrating wealth at the top. Because of
historic discrimination and oppression, we have not been at the top to receive this new
redistribution of wealth…
MR. TONY FAIR: …I think one of the things that we really stress and what we're working with
now are a lot of HBCUs and college students across the nation to stress the importance of voting
in this election and how it will affect your small business in how you will be able to strive in the
different things that affect your building wealth and creating wealth and being able to find money
to start your business and to be your own business owner.
…The general market is really looking at the power of hip hop and some of the things that we're
doing in a positive way. Yes, there are a lot of negative things associated with hip hop, but major
corporations now are seeing its power and it’s positive power and they understand that they need
to start looking at this consumer with a different light. They're actually putting money towards this
MS. SANDRA GILLESPIE: …I'm going to talk a little bit today about the value of education and
believing in yourself…
We'll all say that there's truth to the statement that money isn't everything, but financial security is
an important thing…
...I have caught onto those values…The thing I want everybody to know today is that we should
never limit ourselves to what we think we can be…
We actually have a supplier diversity council that's also under my direction, so we teach suppliers
not just how to be competitive - women and minority suppliers - we also teach them how to be
global, because you have to be global to compete in this environment….
MR. L. LONDELL MCMILLAN: …If we're talking about hip hop, we really need to know what the
power of hip hop is and why it's so relevant and why it's so powerful.
In brief, hip-hop is a culture. Hip-hop is a movement that started as a young person's movement.
People who are now in their mid to late 30's and early 40's, actually, were the kind of founding
fathers and mothers of the movement and children today are still continuing this movement.
If you look at our generation, it's interesting because we're the only generation, conversely, that
has not had, of all African American people, had a political movement, to speak of, that has been
major, with the exception of maybe our efforts in these South African Apartheid movement. Much
of our focus has been largely around this cultural movement of hip-hop. So, it begs the question
as to why.
We need to look at the limitations of it and the strengths of it. We need to see how we can take
this young movement - this cultural movement - this movement that does talk about money, but it
uses different lexicons than the financial language that we use when we talk about economics
from a policy standpoint or from an educational standpoint.
It talks about it from a street vernacular. So, we need to move that type of mentality into a kind of
united construct so that we can all relate to each other and build together.
…We're talking about the empowerment of wealth creation strategies. We have to be talking
about one, education. We have to be talking about two, our discipline and our work ethic. We
have to talk about three, our ability to use tools to get us where we need to be and the largest
…We need to talk about the third thing - the tools we use - the power of networking and the art of
Ladies and gentlemen, we are not where we are because of anything other than the actions that
we take and we won't get anything because of what we deserve. You get nothing from what you
deserve. You only get what you negotiate in life.
…The fourth and the fifth - the fourth and the fifth is, I believe, an ability to focus on ownership,
job creation, and the fifth, and the most important, is our commitment to our community and raise
our consciousness so that once we do all of the above-referenced, we can reinvest and recycle it
and partner with the rest of the world.
We've got to start with us, but we have to look at the world, all of the people of the world - our
brothers and sisters at some level - but we've got to start with us. Once we build each other, then
we can start taking on the rest of the world and making money…
MR. GEORGE FRASER: …For those of you at the Town Hall Meeting, you know what I'm talking
about - is that we must connect the dots. We must network. We must leverage our collective
resources and intellectual capital. That God has given black people everything that they're going
to get. We are a 670 billion dollar annual economy. If we were a nation, we would be the 11th
richest nation in the entire world. From just my generation alone…We have amassed over five
trillion dollars of intellectual capital from just one generation alone. Nearly 60 percent of the black
workforce in this country - nearly nine million of us are in executive, managerial, supervisory,
professional specialty, vocational, technical, administrative, sales and business ownership
Now that is an army of potential role models and mentors to help those who are stuck in the cycle
of poverty. In fact, there is no army in the entire world larger than the army of black folks who
have succeeded in this country. So, make no mistake about it. Success runs in our race. So, we
have everything we need to succeed. God ain't giving us anymore.
We have freedom. We have civil rights, voting rights and public access. We have education.
We have treaty and we have money. The only thing we need now is each other, because that's
the glue that bonds us together. This is what God wants us to understand at this moment in time.
…We need each other and every other cultural group in America understands this but us.
Whether it's our Jewish brothers or sisters, Hispanic brothers or sisters, Asian brothers and
sisters, Arab brothers and sisters, we need each other. It is time to connect the dots and to stop
being not only dispersed, but being disconnected…
MS. GRIFFIN: …First question. This is for all of our panelists. How does the hip hop generation
view money and how have these views affected its ability to build wealth…?
MR. MUHAMMAD: …I, first, would like to just deal with, I think, a common - I think, in some
ways, maybe too frequent criticism and I guess trying to pathologize the behavior of the hip hop
One thing that I think is very important to note is how effective, actually, hip-hop has been in
creating entrepreneurs in our generation. For all the negative aspects you want to talk about hiphop, you don't see any industry that has produced as many millionaires from poor, working class
black backgrounds.
There needs to be something highlighted about the strengths and positives of this, because I
think one thing that happens is some of the self-hate that we have, as black people, and that
some of the self-hate we have of our lower class brothers and sisters comes on this idea of hiphop and why hip-hop is so evil.
We don't look at the lessons that people in hip-hop have, I think, been teaching my generation
which is, as the speaker had just said, that the only person who is going to do something for us is
us. I think that has been an overriding positive quality of hip-hop - is that you're going to have to
go out there, hustle on your own, learn how to put together a business, though no one's really
trained you to - no one's trained you how to do so. You can do it and it's been proven it's been
done. So I think, in that way, it's been very successful.
I think a negative or critique of what's been happening in hip-hop is not just in hip-hop, but it's
throughout consumer American culture, is we confuse symbols with substance. We confuse that
if you have an expensive car, which really should be a symbol of wealth, you confuse that with
So, the whole motivation, economically, is not to really become wealthy. Wealthy would mean
you bring security to yourself, to your family, to your community. You're creating opportunities for
future generations. We get so caught up in the symbols of wealth - expensive car, expensive
house that you can't afford - you have no security. You're not providing anything for your family
or really the long term yourself.
So, I think that is something we have to look at more. These idea of symbols with substance and
focus on the substance of wealth…if you really care about someone's wealth, look at their wealth;
don't look at their trappings. Look at the substance.
MS. GILLESPIE: My opinion on how the hip hop generation views money…[is] there's a positive
and a negative aspect of it. I, personally, would like to thank Mr. Russell Simmons for changing
how we are viewed in the boardroom, because when you're the only one in the boardroom, it's
important how you're viewed. He's changed that whole thing and it's been very important.
I think that the hip-hop generation has been great creativity in what they've been promoting. I
think it's been helpful to the young people to aspire to want to be something that other than the
images we've seen in the past. From the negative side, I guess I'd like to say I just recently
attended my cousin - who's my little goddaughter - her graduation and, as he said, it was real
important to her - she had a Dooney & Burke purse that actually she didn't have enough money
to put in the Dooney & Burke purse.
So, I was trying to explain to her that later, you're going to need gas money to go into the car, so
you actually could have bought a cheaper purse or asked whoever gave you that purse to give
you some money to go in that purse.
From the standpoint of the hip-hop generation, I think that we, as he said, we have to be the role
models. We have to actually teach the younger people and that's why I think it's important that
we work in the community to teach them how to save. I actually spent time to teach my kids that
even if you get a job that's a minimum wage job, if they're offering you a 401(k) program - if you
can only put a dollar a week in that program put a dollar a week in that program, so you're
investing in the future, because they are the future….
MR. MCMILLAN: I think it's important for us to kind of, again, define what we're talking about. If
we're talking hip-hop generation, I want to distinguish that from the hip-hop artists and hip-hop
industry personalities. It's very important, not just here, but in the conference, and as we move
forward as a people, that we don't get it mixed up. Because the hip-hop generation, again,
covers a generation of people from young people today to early 40s, and we can't necessarily put
all of those people in the context of a cultural movement.
Because, otherwise, you're talking really about a post-civil rights generation. So, we can't give all
credit to any one thing, particularly a cultural movement and I say that critically after - from a
history and a career of representing Russell Simmons, JZ, DMX, NAZ, L'il Kim and Scarf Bass
and almost every major hip hop artist, and I love them. I still represent most of them.
But, we have to be careful to lump a whole generation of folks, the Honorable Kendrick Meeks,
myself, all of us on this panel, in the same context, because we're not always influenced by the
same thing.
Now, with that said, the question was, how does the hip-hop generation view money? Well, it
depends on who we're talking about. We're talking about the overall hip-hop generation, it
depends, because we're multi-faceted. We got different views. Okay? We're talking about hiphop artists, how they view money. They view money, for the most part, they get money however
they get money. Okay? They get money the old way, by any means necessary, based on their
opportunities. Okay?
Some of them get money like the same way the cats on the corner get money from the
neighborhoods that they come from, by any means necessary. But interestingly enough, what
they do is they do apply the principles of networking and unity, okay? Because the way they've
gotten money has set a kind of way that the way they think, they roll in crews. They roll in camps.
They roll in codes. They sometimes roll in silence.
They roll, and they often roll together. There's a part of the hip-hop generation that's not the hiphop artist mentality. These young brothers and sisters are on Wall Street. They're making major
moves…They're doing big things. They're also part of that generation.
They're standing on the shoulders of so many people who died, had dogs sicced on them, okay?
In Selma and in the deep South and all over the country, they're still part of a hip-hop generation,
but their motivation is based on other things. They benefited from education. They benefited
from their parents sweating from sunup to sundown and they're at the institutions of America,
making things happen.
…I say that it's because there are two groups of young people moving at one time. What we
need is that bridge. Because if we can connect those two groups at one time, network, as
George said, but then once we get together - once we come to the conference, George, once
we're networked, what are we going to do? That's what I say. We've got to start negotiating.
We've got to know what we are going to do and what we're going to do.
…I just want to create that distinction because I'm seeing at this conference hip hop – hip hop
everywhere. If someone is truly a hip hop chap you grew up with, who's represented almost
every major artist, I cannot allow our people to get this whole thing confused and then we run
down this burner, his logo, and we get pushed into some ocean that we don't even know where
we're going.
…[L]et's be careful what we're talking about. We're talking about the overall generation understand, that's a wide generation of people. If we're talking about the hip hop artist culture,
that's a different thing. Thank you…
MR. FAIR: …I want to kind of take it to the next step as far as what the hip hop generation sees,
which is the celebrities, which is a totally separate group and how that affects their mindset. I
think the first thing that it does is it creates a lot of entrepreneurism. It has since the 70's - since
1977 when DJ Cool Hurt was making tapes and selling them and that's the beginning. I mean
that's early on.
I know when you all or the hip hop generation watches videos and sees the money, they're not
thinking about only I want to be a rapper or I want to be - they're thinking about medicine, they're
thinking about public service, they're thinking about government and having their own business. I
think that that is some of the reflections that hip hop has given to the rest of the world. It's I want
to - I see all these other guys, making their own money and owning their own thing - that's what I
want to do.
It may not be in the hip hop or music industry. It may be in fashion. It may be in consulting. It
may be in architecture. That mindset still sticks and please, tell me if I'm wrong, but I've met
more small business owners in the last few years that are CEOs - I mean I've gotten a resume of
someone who's 19 and he's CEO of six companies.
It's a good thing. It's a good thing. I didn't want to say it as a bad thing. It's a good thing in that
that person wants to start to find the money to make their own thing happen in their own
The other point…is it does start with you and it starts with saving. There's nothing really sexy
about saving…but that's what you have to start doing - to creating your own wealth - to having
your money where you can invest it, either for your retirement, for your small business, whatever
it may be. But that's - it starts with you…
You know, a lot of people are looking for small business loans and their credit is terrible or they
don't own anything because they haven't saved any money. So, they can't get a loan. It - I just
want to start with that first point of saving money and not trying to keep up with the people you
see in the videos. Because it's not going to happen. You won't keep up with them.
…I think the other thing…was teamwork and networking…I think that a lot - it's - a lot of people
first look to network with people who've made it. That's a great thing.
One of the…philosophies that myself and my team had was let's network with people who are at
the same level as us. What we found over the years is that they were growing, we had access to
them so it was building a team kind of atmosphere and where it is great to network with people
who have made it, CEOs and higher ups when you're just starting off.
It is also great to network with your friends who are also doing it and doing things similar and are
like minded as yourself because, as they grow, they'll be your team in the fields out there…
MS. MICHELLE SINGLETARY: …This is what I do know - that for African Americans, it is not
true that the road to wealth is through business ownership. It is not true that the road to wealth is
through stock ownership. It is through savings and homeownership.
The vast majority of Americans - African American or otherwise - achieve wealth through those
two avenues, hands down. If you read this book, and you must read this book called The
Millionaire Next Door, it talks about the average millionaire and, although a portion of them are
small business owners, most of them are teachers, government workers or janitors, or your
mama and your daddy. Those are the people who achieve wealth.
My concern for the young generation is that you are growing up on credit. When I go visit at
universities, the biggest issue I find is that young people are in credit card deb…If you are in
college and…you don't have a full time job, you should not have a credit card. It's as simple as
that. We are being mis-educated about the need for credit. I think that, hands down, for this
generation is the biggest problem. The average credit card debt for a college student is about
$2,700. For about 13 percent of college students, it is more than $7,000 on credit cards.
…[B]efore you decide that you want to hip hop your way to wealth or that you want to even own
your home, you need to get a grasp of how to handle your money…Saving your money, learning
how to manage your money is the most empowering thing that you can do…[T]here's a lot of sort
of stereotypes about African Americans being sort of the bling-bling. The studies that I see show
that when you hold constant for income and other education and other factors, we spend just like
everybody else in America.
…What the difference is is that we have less to fall back on when things go wrong. We may own
a home, but it's often in a neighborhood that's redline, so that we can't tap into that equity
because that equity's not there.
Another someone who will be talking about homeownership - one of the great factors is that we
don't own homes. About 47 percent - 48 percent - depending on the latest census bureau - of
African Americans own their home, compared to nearly 80 percent of white America.
So, you want to get rich, buy a home. You want to get rich, put those credit cards away. You
want to get rich, live below what you make. You want to get rich, pay yourself first…this is basic,
basic stuff…Save and don't use credit.
MS. GRIFFIN: …If you're going into the work world, without really having had your first job, with
$30,000 worth of credit card debt, you can consider yourself just in debt for at least a good 15 to
20 years.
…[L]et's address this right now. How does - what role does credit play in wealth creation and
how does your credit history affect your ability to build wealth?
MS. SINGLETARY: First of all, you just - you guys got to say to yourself, credit is evil. …I don't
care who you get it from. It's evil. Unfortunately, for the young generation, we are a credit card
nation. We are living the American dream on borrowed money. Unfortunately, that has damaged
so many lives.
I used to cover bankruptcy and lots of folks think people are in bankruptcy because of credit card
debt. It's not the credit card debt itself. It's that that credit card debt puts you over the edge when
things went wrong.
So, if you leave here with nothing else today, I have to tell you, you need to manage that and
there's this misconception that you need credit - you need to establish - have credit cards, in
particular to establish credit, especially for young folks. That's not true. I asked young people. I
said, well, what do you need credit for? For emergencies. Okay. So, Domino's - the last time I
checked, getting a pizza was not an emergency.
Lots of people say, I get a credit card because in case my car break down. Now, I rode on the
way down here and I didn't see not a one broke car and most of you use that same excuse. It is
a hindrance to your financial future, if you live on credit card. If you have a credit card - I won't
ask you this question because I already know the answer percentage-wise. If you are not paying
your credit card balance off every month, you are in credit card trouble.
…If you are not paying your credit card balance off every month, you are in credit card trouble.
As the gentleman to my right said, that is one of the biggest hindrances to getting small business
loans, because of your credit. So, it is so crucial that you learn to live on cash and below your
means. So, it is, by far, the biggest barrier to our country, and particularly to African Americans.
Not because we are spendthrifts, but because have less to hold onto when something bad does
MS. GRIFFIN: …Since we are talking about work, we're talking about credit, but it does have to
do with our income and what not, tell me, what are the economic benefits to having more African
Americans in corporation?
MS. GILLESPIE: The economic benefits of having more African Americans in corporate America
is that we basically all can reach one to help one. We have to reach back and help each other…
So, there are benefits to helping in the community, to owning your own businesses and basically
just reaching back and teaching, for one thing, teaching what I've learned to others in the
community and also to helping your family members because that's basically what we do. That's
what we've always done. That's what we will continue to do and that's how we actually will build
a future for our children.
Because, by me having the knowledge of what the economic advantages are, being in corporate
America, I was able to teach my children how they had to also get an education so they could
also work and get good jobs and secure their future and basically help others.
MS. GRIFFIN: …What are the benefits of entrepreneurship and how does being an entrepreneur
aid in wealth creation…?
MR. MCMILLAN: The benefits of entrepreneurship is that you can get exponential wealth. You
can become a millionaire next door by owning a home, but you're not going to hire 100 people
unless you get a whole bunch of homes. I believe that what I just heard is absolutely correct, 100
However, for those who are ambitious and want to create a wealth community, entrepreneurship
creates the opportunity for you to help create multiple millionaires. It's the way to take a dream
and an idea - and the world is governed by ideas - put together a plan, a team and go out and
make that idea capitalized around the world.
There are no limitations to it. You will need some credit, but not really. You will need other
assets that you may or may not have. When you're an entrepreneur, you're putting people to
work. You're putting your ideas to work. You're able to reach out and touch and to impact the
world. You're not just making money, but you're putting together a product or a service that,
hopefully, can benefit somebody.
So, I'm a big proponent of entrepreneurship. I believe that the civil rights agenda of our time is
through economic development and empowerment, however you get there. I think they're all
related. Public and private partnerships in this government - and that's why we're here - this
government has been a major partner to so many wealth builders throughout the world.
They have to now start partnering with African American people. We've gone from picking cotton,
now picking presidents. We need to go from sharecropping and being major shareholders and
not just employees.
…We're also working with companies - small companies, even like my company, that start small.
You may not be an owner, but you want to start talking about what is the value that you're
bringing and can you turn that value into an ownership proposition down the road? There's
something called stock options. It means you have the option to invest and have stock in
something that you're creating if your service or your work contributes to the exponential profits.
So, entrepreneurship allows you to create wealth for yourself, for your family and for so many
MR. FAIR: …I believe that there's huge financial benefits to owning your own business, creating
millionaires. I think that - I found out that I was an entrepreneur a very, very long time ago. The
dollar sign wasn't at the end of the - of my goals. It was a passion and it was a mindset that I had
that I wanted to leave this world with something behind in having a company, a brand of service,
that is still in existence that I started, that I created, that will outlast me.
I think everyone always asks me what is the most important things that an entrepreneur needs to
have and I would definitely say courage and passion for what you're doing, that is quickly
followed by a lawyer and an accountant, but -When you have that passion that drives you - I have met so many people who own their business
for six months, twelve months, things didn't work out, they didn't meet the right people. They
weren't ready. They just weren't ready at that time to keep it going. There's - it goes back to
something that Ms. Gillespie said earlier, which I'll stress, is education - education, education,
education. That starts with finding the money to go to school, I know. Which we're going to be
talking about.
The more you know, the closer it seems, which then drives your spirit and your passion to
continue moving forward. That's all I have to say about that.
MR. MUHAMMAD: I wanted to…give a different opinion on this idea of blacks inherently improve
the economic situation of African Americans by being in corporations. I think, to me, an analogy
of that is people try to put forward that it is somehow advantageous for African Americans that
Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell in the Bush administration have not seen any economic
advancement because of that.
Just because we have black faces in a room, doesn't mean a black agenda's in a room. It
doesn't mean black power's in a room. What could happen and what hopefully will happen with
blacks in corporate boardrooms is that blacks in corporate boardrooms will advocate for the
I don't want us to just nod our heads and say, yes, having black people in positions with no power
is somehow inherently economically advantageous to the African American community. We must
have a strategy. We must have a vision that, no matter who's in the room, is being focused on. I
think that is a much more effective way of economic empowerment for the African American
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS: …[E]very year, we try to do something on this whole issue of finance
and hip hop generation and making sure that we are creating some kind of wealth. We see how
much money we're spending. You can read almost any magazine like Black Enterprise and see
the money that we're spending and see that, so often, our young people, who are not buying
houses - hello - at an early point.
I see it in my own community in Baltimore where literally an African American area is turning
white and the way it's being done - and I've talked to a number of them - and this is how they're
building their wealth.
They'll get a house. Mama and Daddy will help them get the down payment on a house. They fix
it up a little bit. The house goes up in value. They get an equity line of credit. Equity line of
credit. Take the equity line of credit and then buy a house, renovate it in an area that used to rent
for $500 one bedroom, now renting for $1,000, $1,200 a one bedroom - they'll set three
apartments in there and they do fine.
Of course, the equity is being built up not only in that one house, but in the second house, and
then they do another one and another one and another one. So, next thing you know, we've got
some young guys in my area who are - so happen to be white - like 23, 24 years old, basically
buying up half the block.
So, I just think that we have to - and I listened to Bill Cosby yesterday talking about personal
responsibility. That whole issue of personal responsibility goes a long ways. It's just not what we
do as parents, certainly it’s what we do with our own money and our own resources.
…Someone said God bless the child who has his own. So, I'm just hoping that we will - as we
move forward and as we get a little bit older, I don't want you to come to a point in your lives,
when you come to the end of your life or you begin to go into your twilight years and you begin to
have regrets about what you didn't do.
So often, people go through their lives regretting and regretting and regretting, and you all have
seen them. You ever seen the old people that are mad? You know why they're mad? Most of
them? Because they did not take advantage of opportunities that they should have taken a long
time ago.
…It is a time where we have to stop just worrying about moving from paycheck to paycheck and
start trying to figure out how we take some of that money - not all of it, but some of it - and maybe
not do all the things that we would have done - maybe not buying that new car, but buying a used
car or whatever, and saving that money so that we can go into the future much more secure, so
that we can make things better for generations yet unborn.
MS. GRIFFIN: …I want to put back some figures to what the Congressman has talked about and
I'm going to use myself, personally - we all like to talk about ourselves.
Let me just say, I bought a house. I graduated from Hampton University…in 2000. All right? I
bought my first house in Washington in 2001 because I was not waiting. I was not living with my
parents. I was not doing any of that. I bought my house. I bought it for $30,000 and I don't know
how many of you all are from Washington, but it's in the Trinidad neighborhood.
Now, I know many of you all think that may be crack running and all kinds of other stuff. I don't
care. I don't care. I've got my dog. I've got my alarm and I've got strength. I've got my house renovated that house. I put $100,000 worth of work into that house. Got it done. My house
today - that was in 2001 - my house is worth $357,000.
…There is no way and I am - I just turned 27 - so there is no way in the world that you can tell me
that working in a non-profit - I love my job, but it's still a non-profit. Working in a non-profit or
working anywhere, for that matter, is going to yield me that much money that fast. That is why
homeownership - and quite honestly - I was starting out my first job - at that time, when I bought
that house, I was making $30,000 a year.
So, it's not about how much money you make either. Now I was fortunate. I did have good
credit, as Ms. Singletary was talking about. I did - I did - my parents were just as pressed for me
to get out of their house as I was to leave. So, they said what do you need to do? Now, they
didn't give me any money, but they surely gave me a lot of support. They gave me a lot of
assistance in understanding the process.
So, please let me let you all know that we talk about it and talk about it, but I'm here to let you
know there is no reason why any of us - any of you all that are in college - even those of you who
are 85 or 86 years old - no reason why you can't buy homes, even in a Washington metropolitan
area, where the cost is going up. Just look at a condo.
There are things that you can do and I promise you, if you decide that this is something that is
right for you, whether it be homeownership or just generally building wealth, you will be able to do
…Mr. Muhammad, what are the pressing economic policy issues of concern to communities of
MR. MUHAMMAD: I think one thing that we really need to look at and people oftentimes will try
to frame it in very partisan terms - particularly in an election year - and talk about how bad a
Republican is for the African American community. Some will say how bad Democratic policies
are - economic policies are for the African American community.
I think if you look, honestly, at the last 40 years, African Americans have made some great strides
in economic progress, but it's also been really just very slow. If you look at - we did a report
called State of the Dream - looked at African American economic condition 1968 until about
You look at 1968, African Americans made about 55 cents on every dollar the white Americans
made. Look at 2001. We make about 57 cents on the dollar that every white American's made.
At that rate, it will take about 581 years to reach just parity of income. Income is not wealth.
Those are very different things.
I believe a strong part of that is that the economic policy of the last 40 years - Democrat or
Republican - has become more and more regressive. I don't think it's coincidence that as soon
as African Americans had won the right for people of color to get government entitlement
programs and be treated like every other American citizen, then there was this conservative
movement to end government programs.
…It seems like that's kind of what's happening with government programs. As soon as African
Americans are being integrated into programs - the housing programs or we're helping
homeownership - white Americans became majority house homeowners, not just because of their
individual work, but because of the FHA program of the 1940's, which African Americans were
systematically kept out of.
…[T]hese are larger pictures that we need to look at. We need to say we need not to use credit
card debt. We need to be responsible. We need to hold the government responsible. You can't
talk about real economic empowerment as - in the last 20 years - the top one percent's ownership
of wealth has increased by 150 percent, which means the rest of us have lost out.
It is mostly us, because not many of us are in the top one percent. So there's an overall trend,
whether it's Bush or Kerry, they are not going to put forth progressive policies which will benefit
the African American community as a whole unless we demand and put strong force in that.
Again, the way - when African Americans have best moved forward is when there's been
progressive policies, meaning policies that focus on using money from the wealthy to invest in
American citizens. Now that we're finally American citizens, we shouldn't be, like, well let's stop
spending money on American citizens. No, we never got ours. It's time we get ours and reinvest
in America, this time for all Americans.
MS. GRIFFIN: …I want to ask the question…how does voting affect young African Americans
and their economic stability…?
MR. MUHAMMAD: I guess I'll put forward something. I don't think - I will not put forth the
argument that, if African Americans vote, their economic stability will increase. I don't believe
that. What I do believe is that we have to have strategies of political empowerment and economic
empowerment and they're both about education.
If you just go vote and you don't know what you're voting for - if you just believe, I'm going to go
vote for a tax cut, which you will never receive any money from because you don't make enough
money to get the benefits of the tax cut, that's not improving your economic stability.
You have to educate yourself politically and economically on the policies that are being
discussed, how it affects you, and then what you vote - best interest. So, education and activism,
whether it be economic - actually, not whether - it has to be in the economic sector and the
political sector - can help strengthen your economic stability.
MR. MCMILLAN: …I also go back to it's a matter of what we negotiate. It will help if we can
negotiate equal opportunities in housing and lending, credit opportunities, business opportunities.
I wish the Congressmen - they were here as well because we have these conferences but they
could benefit a lot by the information that we're talking about often.
It's important, in terms of what they negotiate and what we, as a community, negotiate with these
parties. We keep electing people and we keep trying to get out the vote. Get out the vote, yes, is
important. What are we getting out to vote for?
…We have to have some kind of deal in place for what we're voting for because if we don't get a
deal soon, even with this Democratic party, it's going to be time up for them. Because we cannot
keep doing the same old thing and not getting a piece of this pie. We didn't get the 40 acres and
a mule. We keep staying in the party. We need to make sure that we can feed our families.
So, the question will be it depends. It depends on what we negotiate. Certainly having larger
numbers may help us on the back end.
…[W]e've got to put financial literacy in the schools. We have to negotiate some favorable and
fair equitable terms from this government and all of those who do business with this government
for our vote.
MS. GRIFFIN: …What is being done to change the image of hip hop to encourage the youth to
be business owners or in other areas than clothes - than clothes or music…?
MR. MCMILLAN: The number of organizations - the Artist Empowerment Coalition is probably
the leading organization that's encouraging young artists in hip hop to use music, art and culture
to educate the community and to change the way the music business is done so that the creative
people can earn more of what they create. There are also political organizations…[and] there are
a number of initiatives that are coming out….
Again, I think what's happening because of the generational change, hip hop, we're now parents
now, so a number of us that were leading that culture, leading that movement, we're really
looking at that and saying wait a minute, we've got to do better. So there's a lot going on.
Really, it's going to depend on the young people. It's a matter of what they like, what their tastes
are. We've got to talk to our children and start what the parents - teach their children at home,
what they want to see. If they want to see the same old things on TV, that's what they're going to
So, the power is with us. There are organizations that are trying to hold these young people
accountable and try to hold the industry accountable because the industry is investing the billions
and billions of dollars in the same type of music that we keep seeing, the same type of videos that
we keep seeing.
They're not just getting up there just because that's the only thing we, as a people, create. we
still do a lot of gospel, too. It's just what they invest in.
So, there's a lot of movements going on and I'm trying to recruit people to get involved with this
fight because music, art and culture's a major, major aspect of not just our education, but our
economic wealth going forward as a people.
MR. FAIR: …There are a lot of positive things that I think, being a part of the hip hop community,
we all need to magnify because they're not magnified in the media.
As Londell mentioned, the Hip Hop Action Summit Network, where Russell Simmons is doing, is
amazing. I mean the tours - that he's hitting the small towns, educating people on the need to
vote in this election. Citizen Change is Sean Comb’s action - political action group. He's just
starting off, but there's going to be some big things from that.
It's all - they're both working together for the same cause. I mean when we look back at when
Russell Simmons organized the protest in New York City about the Rockefeller drug laws that
was a positive thing - about getting more school - money to public schools in New York City.
Once again, I mean, we were just starting off, but I think there's a lot of positive movements that
are going to be coming out of hip hop very soon.
MS. SINGLETARY: …[C]an I just be the anti-hip hop? I hope you all aren't getting your money
morals from hip hop because it's - I mean it's just not going to happen. I mean the foundation for
your financial education comes from your home. Without a doubt, the biggest influence in our
children's lives are their parents.
So, if you're watching videos to get some sort of moral about how you should spend your money
or not spend your money, then you're looking in the wrong place.
…[L]et's just be clear about this. Hip hop is entertainment. They're entertaining you. When you
want to dance and be entertained, then you turn it on. When you want to learn about your
money, you pick up the business page of The Washington Post or Money magazine or Black
Let's just be clear about what is going on. Now, clearly, they are doing some things in the
industry, in the community, I mean, but if you want to build wealth, if you want to save money, if
you want to learn how to use credit, I hope that you're not turning to these artists to do that,
because that's not where it's going to come from.
MR. MCMILLAN: Well, you're talking about what it should be versus really what it is.
…I'm telling you what - young people - they're being educated unfortunately and you're right. So,
we've got to turn what it should be into what it is.
MS. SINGLETARY: So, shouldn't we turn it off until it is what it is?
MR. MCMILLAN: I guess like if you're dealing with an addict, do you just cut off the drug?
MS. SINGLETARY: Yes, you do…
MS. GILLESPIE: …It first starts in the home. It starts in the community, so I just don't work in
the corporate environment. I also work in the community with minority children or any children,
for that matter.
The other thing is we also teach financial independence at our church. Our pastor has actually
taken the people in church that have the skills necessary. It doesn't matter whether you're young
or old, but - so we have three avenues that we can come at that from - the home, the church,
which we have always, historically, depended on, and also the community.
MR. MUHAMMAD: I'd like to point out - I don't think that hip hop is just entertainment. I would
also like to kind of lay out the idea that if you look at commercial radio - and that's going to define
to you what hip hop is, that defines what commercial radio is. When people talk about the high the good old days of hip hop - when hip hop was political. When hip hop was political, it wasn't
on the radio.
There's still political hip hop. There's still hip hop where you can educate yourselves and these
kind of things, but that is not what - it's not just in hip hop. It's about the bling-bling. It's been
about the bling-bling in the United States for generations.
…It's a movement of consumer culture and it'll teach you how to be consumers. Ideally, it would
be great if everyone had parents who can sit home and would teach them proper economic
lessons - that the difference between consumption and investment.
The thing is that's oftentimes not happening. I see it all the time. It's not a good thing.
Babysitters are much of hip hop generation are younger and particularly, the last 20 years, is
television. The things they're learning from the television is very dangerous. You can just say
just turn it off, but it's not just going to go off.
So, we have to figure out how we can reach out into communities and do that. Again, I want to
say hip hop isn't just what Russell Simmons is doing. It's what people who come from the streets
from this kind of urban environment who are working hard to do something positive for the
community. It also is them. It's the Malcolm X grassroots movement. It's many different groups
across the country who don't have top singles.
If we limit hip hop to just what's on the charts, I think we've already pretty much destroyed the
importance of the culture. So, I just wanted to help decipher that a little bit.
MR. FAIR: I just wanted to add too - and I know - I think that I wasn't - I’m not talking to you all,
because I know you know. I'm talking about people that you interact with that the only thing that
motivates them is entertainment in America, which is unfortunate.
MS. SINGLETARY: It is unfortunate. You all are talking like that they can't stop. I mean it's just
unbelievable that we're sitting up here saying you can't turn the TV off, parents can't tell their
children not to watch this stuff. That these people gyrating on the screen and bling-blinging and
liquor and fast cars and don't cause a wreck because you've got a girl on the side.
MR. FAIR: I think that that conversation, which yesterday, Mr. Cosby defended his statements,
which I don't really want to get into that and that's not my point about parenting. My point is - is
for people in the inner city squad not motivated by anything but hip hop. It's a tremendous thing
of the positives that are coming out of hip hop to get them motivated and open up their eyes into
some other aspects other than what you see in the videos.
MR. MCMILLAN: It won't stop…until you replace it with another beat. That beat is the
movement that we have to create. So, it's one thing to say it. It's another thing to build it. So, if
we build something that young people can connect to, that they can make their own. Every
generation wants to define their own movement and their own heroes and sheroes. Okay?
We have to put out in the consciousness something that young people can take and replace what
we have now because the reality is that it's not going to stop just by saying it's not right. So we
have -MS. SINGLETARY: Study after study after study which I look at all the time show that the
biggest influence is the home - the parents. It's not the videos, it's not the movement. It is the big
influence is what's happening in their home. So, if their parents are not listening to hip hop, then
how is the message going to get to the young?
MR. MCMILLAN: You're right, but if the parents are not in the home and we're dealing
with…Crack babies whose parents - See, they're not talking like our parents. We're coming from
a place where we were straight. We're talking about those who are loose.
…[W]e've got so many people that - we've got to look in the global community of we. In the
sense of it, we're looking at who hip hop is speaking to. Hip hop is not speaking to the people
really that's altering the conduct of people with the parents and the education. I mean they see it
as entertainment.
…But for those who don't have the pastor in their life, their daddy and their mama in their life,
those institutional family kind of learning and teaching tools, the street will teach you. The hip hop
is the culture of the street.
MS. GRIFFIN: …Troy's other question was, as a struggling entrepreneur and a graduate student
with long debt, what can I do to gain startup capital without incurring additional debt?
MR. FAIR: There are grants out there, which you can research and I can give you some
information for student entrepreneurs. Sometimes, it's not a lot of money. You can do two or
three or four but start small. If it is starting off just within the community of your school in building
a track record - in building a brand, even.
I mean, it's going to take time, but there are ways to find money. A lot of times it's also going to
be - I know it is tough with student loans - but it is going to be family and friends. Even if it's time
that they're giving you, that's - recognize the value of that, too.
MS. SINGLETARY: Recognize one of your biggest jobs right now is to try to reduce that debt,
too. I mean you don't want to go into your business life with a lot of debt. So, you have time and
the best investment you can do is to pay off those loans.
MR. MCMILLAN: It's going to be very difficult to raise capital if you're in a lot of debt because,
often, when you're trying to go for substantial sums, whether it's banks or venture capital
companies, they want to see three years personal and business tax returns. They want to
evaluate how you spend money - how your financials are.
Just - just start the process and get used to it because any fundraising for small businesses and
for individuals in general is extremely difficult. Unless you're above a mid-cap company where
you're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, even some of the companies that we know
that were brand names companies like Vanguard Media that had businesses like Honey
magazine and all these - you look at them on the stands, you think they're making a ton of money
and they just under-capitalized.
They just - very difficult to raise money and they're very intelligent, smart people. They go out
and try to raise funds. They try to do one, two, three rounds of financing and that, personally,
they're pretty - I think - well off, but it's very difficult to raise money.
So, again, going back to what does the voting mean for us? The voting should mean for us - we
never got the 40 acres and a mule but there are a lot of different investment firms and venture
capital companies that are sitting on billions of dollars worth of capital dollars in the capital
markets that we need to start talking about.
How do these funds come together for these young college students who have business ideas so
that they can capitalize their businesses and create homeownership? So, it's tough, but it's
started and it's always going to be tough. It doesn't matter if you come out of college. It doesn't
matter if you've already had successful businesses.
Raising money is always difficult unless you have success after success after success. Even
Russell Simmons - he has a hard time, often, raising money. So, that's just a general rule.
MS. GRIFFIN: …In our capitalist society - and anyone can answer this - where's the
responsibility of those who market the black community to purchase symbols of wealth, much of
which we cannot afford? Is there a line between marketing and exploiting the black community?
…Basically, is there a line between marketing and exploiting the black community? In our
capitalist society, what's the responsibility of those who market the black community to purchase
symbols of wealth, many of which we cannot afford?
MS. GILLESPIE: That's an interesting question because, again, at some point, I guess, in our
lives, we have to take responsibility for ourselves and I guess I look at that when I look at the
clothing that they sell in the stores, the shoes and I take it back to my own cousin's graduation,
where someone, an adult, bought her the Dooney & Burke purse that she couldn't actually put
$10 in.
It is a capitalistic country, so everybody has the freedom to do what they want. We have to be, I
think, educated to know the value of the dollar and what we're doing. We have to take the
responsibility of teaching the young people - and I pulled her aside and I tried to talk to her and
explain that to her, but, again, it was very important to her because of some of the images that
she sees in the community and on TV.
Does an individual have a responsibility how they market themselves? I believe they do, yet
there's no way to police that. So, we have to actually, again, teach our own communities and
ourselves how we want to grow and develop economically.
…There is a responsibility, but the truth of the matter is this is America. So if you - even if you
weren't marketing something, who's to tell you that you can't. So, I'm going to, in my home and in
my life and in my family and my community, I'm going to take the responsibility as an individual to
teach my children…
…So, again, I took the responsibility like I take responsibility, not just for my child, but for other
children in the community. I think that's what we have to do because you can't really say that
somebody's going to police what people are doing in marketing.
MR. FAIR: I don't believe that is the company's fault or they're doing it intentionally to market
high priced items. I think I agree - I agree with Ms. Gillespie in that it's our responsibility to know
and understand what we can afford.
I think it's the media that kind of shapes the images of what we're supposed to have. If we can't
afford them, also like Ms. Singletary said, I mean, you shouldn't be buying them. Believe me,
automobile companies and your high fashion - they're not putting a lot of money to market their
products to someone who can't afford it. That - it just doesn't make sense.
So, once again, I'm a marketer, so I don't feel that it's the fault of the company itself.
MR. MUHAMMAD: I would - I'd like to put forth a disagreement with what's being said. I think if
you want to talk about responsibility but then want to end it when it affects their own personal
economic situation. Like I see people on the street selling drugs. I don't hate them. What they're
doing is harmful to the community. I think it's irresponsible. I think it's harming the community.
I've met people who are pushing credit cards on young people who can't afford it. I don't hate
you. I think it's harmful to the community. That's where you choose to make your money, that's
where you choose to make your money.
People want to put all these things about how rappers shouldn't be doing this on videos and then
go on and talking about the corporate practices they do, which can hurt far more people in equally
significant ways.
…[I]t is up to individuals to decide what the moral responsibility is, but don't just tell the kid on the
block who's trying to make $1,000 he has to be more responsible, but the person we see there
who's doing a massive marketing campaign to people who can't afford. There's lots of credit card
debt in society. There's a lot of marketing to most of America's people who can't afford what they
buy, which is why we have credit cards.
So, that's why the economy keeps on going. As long as the consumer keeps spending, whether
they have the money or not, go business. So, I think if we want to be responsible, let's be
responsible throughout. Let's not just keep poor people trying to be responsible and make them
look up - be mad at them because they don't fit into a boardroom image.
…I want to add to that products that affect health is a completely different - I mean, we're talking
about cigarettes and liquor and things like that. That's a different topic and a conversation. I was
referring to the high - like the Cadillac. I mean that's it's hard for me to fault them in their
marketing dollars and where they spend that because they do target people who can afford
MR. MUHAMMAD: …I would like to hit upon responsibility and I think it is very important, again,
we need to watch our spend money. It needs to be very much more self-fiscally conservative.
Again, we also need to hold everyone responsible. We need to hold corporate practices
responsible. We need to hold government practices responsible.
I think there's a lot of mess out there which I think make black people look like it's our fault for the
situation we're in. White America didn't just become rich because they were so good at saving.
They became rich through massive redistribution of wealth through government programs. Fair
Housing Acts, the GI Bill, Homestead Acts, discriminatory practices in every kind of every federal
social spending program.
There is a massive difference between black wealth and white wealth. Black people can save
and like we should, we just save more and work harder, but really the racial wealth divide is not
going to bridge just by our saving because there's massive billions of dollars being distributed
unfairly to white America.
So, we need to also look at this larger issue of government policy and how we're going to affect
that. Again, it's not saying just wait to government. Government's not just going to solve the
issue by itself. You have to take care of self.
We can't - people want to hold only certain people responsible and it's usually us. It's usually the
people who aren't doing well. They want to hold them responsible. They don't hold the people
who are benefiting from a discriminatory and oppressive situation.
MS. GILLESPIE: The message, I guess, I'd like to leave today and I'll just reiterate it over and
over is education, education, education. Coming from the background that I came from and I
specifically was enjoying hearing the young man here speak, I had an interview earlier this
morning where they actually asked me how did I leave southeast Missouri? I don't even
remember how I left southeast Missouri…I was so inspired when I left and it was so in my head
because of the teaching that they had given me. They put it in my head over and over and over
that education was the key. That was the way out.
So, I've clung to that my entire life and it's been important to me. It's been important to me in the
boardroom. It's been important to me in my church and it's been important to me in my
I am actually also in the work environment that I'm in - I make sure that I try to reach out to young
people. We have co-op students that come every year. I make sure that I'm one of their mentors
and that I actually get to talk to them personally and watch their progression through our company
so I can make sure that they're a vital part of that company when they return.
So, I think it's important that we remember education is the key and that we all have a
responsibility to reach one and teach one.
MR. MCMILLAN: …Education and economic empowerment. I choose to use my career through
music, art and culture as a tool to help educate young people, but educate them about the broad,
creative, diverse, soulful contributions that we, as a community, make.
I think it inspires us to be great in so many ways. The hip hop generation - we talked about it
earlier. We have to distinguish between hip hop generation and hip hop artists. Again, the hip
hop generation starts from early 40's on down to young, young teenagers today.
So, we have to be careful when we use that word because we need to know what it means.
Again, so many of us are standing on the shoulders of people who fought in the civil rights
movement so that we can do wonderful things and we can help move society forward. We have
to be careful in how we use our words.
Whatever you're going to get in life, it's not what you deserve; it's what you negotiate. You have
to have passion about whatever you do, young people, be passionate about it. Don't let anybody
veer you off. You've got to get a plan. Turn your passion - put it in the plan and then you have to
network with as many people as you can. Your people, your friends, white people, green people,
I don't care what people - but you've got to network so you can get where you need to be and
then you've got to negotiate the best deals for you.
Life is not what you deserve. It's what you negotiate…
MR. MCMILLAN: Well one thing you can do is that if we can create music that speaks on the
issue, we can certainly get it to more people than you coming into this panel, interrupting it with
that statement. We can get it to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
Minister Farakhan said something that was very telling not too long ago. He said one great song
has as much power as a thousand speeches or even a hundred thousand speeches. Because if
we can put in a melody the madness of what we see with the financial collapse - we can put into
melody - I think it could be helpful.
It's not going to solve the problem, but it can certainly be helpful and I invite you to really get into
the melody and the soul of what we, as a people, do because I think that you'll really appreciate
the contributions that we make to America and we can then join together and try to change some
of the very problems you're talking about….
MS. SINGLETARY: I think what I'd probably like to leave you the most is that if you want to
economically empower yourself, it starts with your personal finance. It's as simple as that. Any
small business owner will tell you - the most successful ones - it always started with how they
handle their personal money.
If you want to have economic empowerment, you have got to get off of that credit card trip that so
many young people are on right now. You have got to learn how to live below what you make
and to save. I thought it was interesting when you said saving isn't sexy -…I happen to believe that saving is extremely sexy. It is the most powerful thing. If you talk to
any couples - those who are most successful are those who aren't fighting about money.
So, whether you want to be an entrepreneur, whether you want to work for corporate
America…Whatever road you decide to take, the basic thing is to handle your personal money. If
you come from a home where they aren't teaching you that, then you need to learn it yourself.
There's really two paths we're talking about here. Clearly, there was a system in place that was
unfair to us. Clearly. From housing to credit to job. Clearly.
We still are fighting on that front. While we're fighting on that front, you've got to fight at home.
It's one thing to say the government isn't being fair …So, you have to take care of your personal
finance. Whatever you make, spend less. You're not going to get there wearing the bling-bling.
You're not going to get there buying these new cars. You're going to get there by saving. I was
raised by a grandmother whose husband was a drunk. My parents were nowhere to be found.
Yet, she managed to pay herself every paycheck and take care of five grandchildren. Not on
So, it's not like I'm coming from a background where we had money. I know what I'm talking
about. So, I fight on two grounds. I try to get the policies in place that will help you get the jobs that money - so that you can buy that house. I also believe that you need to turn off that TV. You
need to turn off that radio. You need to pick up a personal finance magazine and the business
section and read about how to get a house. Read about how credit is operated.
I bet most of you can't really tell me how credit is operated at. Most of you, really, if I asked you
some deep, financial questions, couldn't give me the answer to it. Yet, every day, you use
So, if you want to have economic empowerment, you've got to go back to the basics.
MR. FAIR: I just want to end basically talking about the passion and what motivates you. I
moved to New York with $250. I started three businesses, two of which have been sold or found
investors. What motivated me - and they're not related to hip hop - the hip hop industry.
What motivated me, however, was hip hop and the music and the industry. What I want to
basically say is whatever it takes to motivate you to save money, to re-pick up the business
section, to pay off your credit card debt, let it motivate you in that way.
…Hip hop gave me the passion and motivation to do that. If it's medicine - if it's - like I said,
political service, public service, government - whatever motivates you - hold that and let it take
you as far as it takes you. That's what I'm going to end with. Thank you.
Thinking Outside the Box: Transforming America through Tax Reform
Panel Hosted by: Rep. Chaka Fattah
Panelists: Cassandra Butts, Dr. Bernard Anderson, Dr. William Spriggs, Dr. Julianne Malveaux
Many key questions about the structure of the U.S. tax system were thoroughly debated during
this panel. Pertinent questions were asked such as: Why do we have a tax system? Could a
transaction fee instead of payroll taxation generate sufficient revenues to meet the necessary
federal budget obligations? What is more progressive? How might fluctuations in the economic
conditions affect federal revenues under the proposed plan and could a transaction fee be used
as a tool of federal fiscal policy to influence economic performance? The dialogue around these
questions provided for a rich discussion about taxation in the U.S. More importantly, it provided a
platform to discuss openly innovative strategies to taxation that might also help eliminate
disparities in resources by communities based on various demographics that dominate groups,
for example income, race and education.
Recommendations for Action:
Replace the Tax System with a Transaction Fee and Eliminate Payroll Taxes
• Eliminate payroll taxes at the federal level on individuals and corporations by replacing
the tax system with a fee on all transactions.
Simplify the Tax System
• Simplify the tax system by taxing the broadest possible base so that U.S. residents can
have the lowest possible rate.
Conduct a Policy Analysis on the Impacts of a Transaction Fee System
• More work should be done to estimate the impact of the transaction fee system of
taxation on federal revenues and the sensitivity of transaction fees to fluctuations in the
economy. Also, it is necessary to ascertain how the proposal might affect federal deficits.
Develop a New Taxation System Utilizing a Transaction Fee System that retains Principles of
Income Redistribution
• A new system should retain principles of income redistribution or progressivity whereby
the rate of taxation is positively associated with the income of taxpayers.
MS. BUTTS: My name is Cassandra Butts…what I’m going to do is first just introduce each of the
panelists… Congressman Chaka Fattah…Dr. Bernard Anderson…Dr. Spriggs…
REP. FATTAH: …[T]he present [tax] system is hard to, difficult if not impossible, to defend. When
we think about it, the present tax system is generating less revenues than we need. We have an
annual deficit this year of over 420 billion dollars. There is a great deal of evasion in terms of
responsibilities – people to pay taxes. The Government accountability office just completed an
examination released in the last six months that showed that more than 60 percent of the businesses
in our country paid no taxes over the last five years in terms of the federal government.
There have been a number of examinations that place the compliance costs along with the tax code
at over some 200 billion dollars. The Congressional Research Service and others have said that
there are billions of hours applied to the effort to comply with the very complex code that we now
have, so on one hand we have a revenue generation system that is generating too little revenue that
a lot of people are evading. You look at the work, the book just released by Jay Goldstone,
“Perfectly Legal”, shows that the top income earners in our country, the top 27,000 individual filers,
500,000 and above pay little or no taxes legally.
It talked about billions in income for individuals who are able to escape because of the thousands of
pages of tax deductions available to them and hiring the best help that they can find, to really evade
any responsibility to help shepherd and share the load in terms of helping to provide for the public
So I think that on the first level, I think there could be broad agreement that the present system is
lacking in a great many respects, and then at least up until this moment there have been a couple of
alternatives proposed, the flat tax, a national sales tax, a V.A.T., and these discussions have been
going on for decades in many respects, none of which have generated enough enthusiasm or what I
would call currency in the public square to move the country to fundamental reform, and so even
though the majority party in the Congress, and they have been a majority for a decade now even
though every two years, when an election approaches, they have promised to work at fundamental
tax reform. They have promised to work to simplify the code. They have said that they were going
to proceed either down the road of a flat tax or a national sales tax. They literally have done nothing,
and, in fact if you more closely examine it, what they have done is actually made the code more
complex. They’ve actually added thousands of pages, a further complexity of the code, so when
Speaker Hastert in December came and said, well the 108th at the halfway mark had accomplished a
lot, but the one item that we needed to focus on was fundamental tax reform, that our economy was
being robbed of some of the jobs and prosperity that could be generated if we had a system that
better allowed people to pay their civic responsibility and then Tom DeLay rose in May and said,
look, next year, if you just re-elect us, just give us the majority again next year, we’re going to – we’re
really going to look at tax reform.
We hear the President say now that he’s for a simpler fair system. When questioned in February the
White House said they had simplified the Code. When ABC Terry Moran in questioning the
President’s spokesman said, wait a minute. What do you mean you simplified the Code? You’ve
added 17,000 pages. And he said what we mean is that we cut taxes. Well, the issue that we really
have brought forward with this proposal is that we think that there should be a different approach,
and I think – I’m reminded of what Jesse James said. He said, look, I rob banks because that’s
where the money is. That’s why I focused on transactions. I think that one of the things that
happens when you talk about tax policy is sometimes people want to make it complex, and I want to
try to simplify it which is to say that the first thing you need to know is that you want to tax the
broadest possible base so you can have the lowest possible rate, and so the one thing that happens
the most in our economy is there are financial transactions. That is the incident that happens the
greatest. Some 53 trillion dollars is transacted in the American economy. There are millions of
individual transactions, and for a few exceptions, because I want to focus not on transactions under
$500. I really want to focus on where the money is, so on larger scale transactions it is clear based
on research done by the Congressional Research Service that for a very small, almost unnoticeable,
percentage of these transactions, we could finance the entire Government, get out of the payroll tax
business, get out of the income tax business, stop trying to focus on capital gains tax or corporate
profit tax, that we could simply as a toll for people operating on the Economic Highway if you will in
our country -- an economy that couldn’t exist without the Government in terms of its regulation, in
terms of our court system -- that we could finance the cost not only of what we need to defend
ourselves and provide our basic needs, but I’m even arguing that we should at least study going
beyond that -- that we should look at paying off the national debt. There is no discussion in this town
about that. Everybody talked about the deficit, but the debt of our country which is approaching
some eight trillion dollars now is a burden of over $90,000 on each individual in our country once this
President is through with his really bankrupt fiscal policy of this administration.
It’s even going to be worse. We’ve had to raise the debt limit twice, and we’ll have to raise it again
before this year is out, that is put – that’s what we said we had to simplify this…I think that’s totally
irresponsible, and so I’ve suggested that we should think about some not just revenue neutrality,
even though that is a point at which policymakers should be able to make a decision, but that we
should also have this examined in a way where we can look a revenue neutrality, look at paying off
the debt over some timely basis, that we should also be able to look at what transaction fee would be
necessary, what level of fee would be necessary, to make some other important investments.
I would argue that we need to significantly invest in equal educational opportunity, the K to 12 level. I
suggested that we reform – move away from the property tax system and provide a 50/50
partnership with states who would be finally willing to actually provide an equal educational
opportunity to poor children in this state. I think the federal government should match their
expenditure on a 50/50 basis. That is a part of this proposal and some other needed investments
including an economic investment tool and revenue-sharing program in urban and rural areas so that
we could further develop new markets.
So, there may be other things that people in the policy debate might want to add, but I think that we
should at least take a minute and pause and think about what kind of country we want to have 100
years from now, what kind of system we need to finance both the defense and to promote the
general welfare of this country that we want to have and think about whether the present system that
we’ve had this income tax system for almost 100 years, and it may have served its purpose, and I
would argue its time has come, and we should think anew about how we want to go in this country,
and so I’ve offered what I think is a superior idea…
DR. ANDERSON: …I recall that during the 1976 campaign I was an economic advisor on the team
to Jimmy Carter in that campaign with my colleague Larry Klein from the Wharton School, and
Candidate Carter ran up and down the length and breadth of the country saying that our income tax
system was a disgrace to the human race.
Over the years, the only thing that’s happened is that it’s gotten worse, and so I think there is no
question that we need to look at this issue in the ways that the Congressman has suggested, and we
really need to have the adoption of his bill to have the Treasury Department look very carefully at the
proposed transaction fee as an alternative to the federal income tax system.
Now I would not be intellectually honest if I did not raise what I think are some critical questions
about the proposal that are germane to determining the feasibility and usefulness of the proposal as
an alternative to the current income tax system, and I would like to pose three critical questions about
the transaction fee.
First, is the transaction fee consistent with the goal of progressivity in the tax system?
Second, would the proposed transaction fee generate sufficient revenues to meet the necessary
federal budget obligations and to support the increased federal funding that the bill would require for
K-16 education and urban and rural development?
Thirdly, how might fluctuations in the economic conditions affect federal revenues under the
proposed plan, and can a transaction fee be used as a tool of federal fiscal policy to influence
economic performance?
Let me pause and say that there are two devices that we use in our economic system to influence
economic performance, that is the pace of economic growth. One is monetary policy, and that is
controlled by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Each month when the Federal Reserve
Board Open Market Committee acts on interest rates, that is a tool of monetary policy which is
intended to have an influence on the pace of economic growth or to influence the rate of inflation.
The other very important tool though for managing the economy is fiscal policy, the centerpiece of
which is tax policy, and it is a fiscal policy that is in the domain of control of the Executive Branch and
the Congress as they determine the level of spending and the level of taxes, so the question then is,
if we reform the federal income tax system by removing the taxes, would the transaction fee be a
useful or effective substitute for the management of fiscal policy of the federal government?
…A progressive tax system is one in which the rate of taxation is positively associated with the
income of the taxpayer. The proposed fee would apply to all purchases, saving, and investment
decisions. If the fee schedule is set at a flat rate for all transactions, it would be regressive, and that
would be harmful to low and moderate income families.
Now the fee may be set at several rates for transactions in different value ranges, but even then the
fees would have minimal progressivity in my view. The degree of progressivity is determined by the
frequency, value, and type of transactions undertaken by persons in different income classes. Those
in higher income groups are likely to have fewer yet higher value transactions than lower income
groups. As a result, fees paid by the higher income groups would be disproportionately less of their
income than fees paid by lower income groups. To equalize the relative fee burden and to assure
progressivity in the fee system would require setting the rate at a very high level for higher income
groups, or one could set very high rates for transactions that are frequently made by high income
groups but less often by those in the lower income classes.
For example, sharply different rates could be set for consumer purchases and investments. Higher
income groups will make relatively more investment decisions than lower income groups, and the
value of the investment decisions will also vary sharply. An analysis of spending and investment
behavior among different income groups is necessary to determine the optimal fee schedule for
different types of transactions. Of course, the analysis would have to take account of possible
changes in transaction behavior in response to the tax rate applied to different transactions, and let
me pause and say at that point that one very important feature of a transaction fee is the potential
impact it would have on spending and investment decisions of individuals. It is an axiom of
economics that the cost of a transaction will affect the decision to engage in or refuse to engage in
that transaction, and so by setting a transaction fee on certain transactions, you will generate a
certain type of behavior that might have detrimental effects on the overall volume of transactions.
Let me address the issue or speak on the issue of revenue goals, which is the second question, and
that is whether the transaction fee would produce sufficient revenues to meet national needs. The
proposed fee would have to generate revenues to meet projected federal budget requirements for
domestic spending, homeland security, national defense, international assistance.
The revenue will depend on the type of transactions covered, the rate structure, and the level of
business activity which in turn will affect the volume and value of transactions.
Total revenue from the transaction fee will be most affected by its coverage. The fee is unlikely to
meet its revenue goals if certain types of transactions are excluded or if rates are set too low. Special
interest concerns inevitably will be introduced when the fee schedule is developed. The effect on
revenue might be similar to that for state sales taxes which vary more sharply across the country in
their coverage than in their rates.
The coverage issue will spark serious debates similar to that now raging over whether and how to
apply state sales taxes to internet purchases. To minimize unfavorable effects on revenue goals, the
transaction fee would have to be structured in a way to achieve the broadest coverage while
minimizing the incentive for fee avoidance. The proposal requires federal revenue sharing to support
public education in urban/rural areas while maintaining other federal budget priorities. Based on
revenue estimates, included in the Congressional Research Service study, which is in your packet,
certain current budget priorities adding to two new programs transaction fee revenues would have to
be 23 percent higher than the CBO report of revenues in fiscal year 2001. That is the revenue in
order to meet all of the needs would have to be 23 percent higher than the CBO revenues that were
reported in fiscal year 2001.
Let me address the third question, and that is revenue sensitivity to economic conditions.
Fluctuations in economic conditions greatly affect tax revenue. Income tax revenues are most
affected by fluctuations in employment, but other taxes such as excise and capital gains taxes also
vary considerably under different business conditions. Transaction fee revenues might fluctuate less
than income tax revenue over the business cycle.
With a downturn in the economy, unemployment rises, personal income declines, and income tax
revenues will decline proportionately, but the number of consumer transactions are likely to decline
less than income when unemployment rises. Stated differently, the demand for consumer
transactions is income inelastic. If you lose your job, become unemployed, your income declines,
you still have to buy groceries, pay your rent, and engage in other consumer transactions, so if a fee
is applied on those transactions, you will pay that fee whether or not your income has declined.
Investment also declines in times of rising unemployment. Indeed the decline in investment is a key
determinant of economic downturns. Since the value of investment transactions is likely to be higher
than that of consumer purchases, investment transaction revenue will fall faster than that from
consumer purchases, but total fee revenue should fluctuate less because employee compensation
accounts for about two-thirds of the GDP, the gross domestic product.
Another feature of a transaction fee is that it would be best effective than the income tax for
stimulating the economy when economic growth is low. Tax cuts for wage earners are implemented
through a reduction in the wage and salary withholding rate. With more take-home pay, wage
earners are expected to increase spending, thereby increasing demand and spurring economic
growth. Firms will increase output to satisfy the increased demand. Earnings will improve, and
capital investment will rise as firms buy more plant and equipment. This process of spending and
investment will contribute to job creation, which, of course, is the essence of recovery from an
economic downturn.
But how might an adjustment in the transaction fee effect the volume and value of transactions? A
consumer purchase is the end product of earnings or transfer payments, and if earnings are down
because of employment, it is hard to see how reducing the transaction fee would generate more
transactions and stimulate the economy. Similarly, the volume of investment transactions such as
purchases and sales of stocks and bonds will decline in times of slow economic growth. Reducing
the fee on investment transactions is unlikely to increase the volume of investment unless corporate
earnings are rising and share prices are expected to rise. This, incidentally, was the rationale for
President Bush’s proposal to eliminate the dividend tax which was introduced in 2001, I think.
If a transaction fee system replaced the income tax, the federal government would lose one tool for
stimulating the economy and would be left with only direct federal spending to spur growth. The
direct spending could be in the form of public works, transfer payments to the unemployed, and
grants to state and local governments. Now that might not be a bad thing, but the point is that in
going into the introduction of a transaction fee, the fact that one of the critical tools of fiscal policy
would be lost should be kept clearly in mind.
In conclusion, in moving forward with the consideration of a transaction fee system as an alternative
to the income tax as a source of federal revenues, more work should be done to estimate the impact
of the proposal on federal revenues and the sensitivity of transaction fees to fluctuations in the
It is also important to consider how the proposal might affect federal deficits. Further, the study of the
proposal might well bear fruit in – or further study. What I would conclude is that it is very important
to study this proposal, because a study of the proposal might well bear fruit in seeking a viable
alternative to the current income tax with all its miserable flaws. Thank you very much.
DR. MALVEAUX: …I’m especially pleased because tax policy has not been something that the
African-American community has focused significantly on. We’ve treated the tax system as it just is.
I mean, at the very best we’ve tried to fine-tune a flawed system by perhaps writing in exceptions or
deductions or those kinds of things, but we really haven’t looked at the structure of the system, so
this is a unique opportunity I think to begin to look at the structure of the system.
…What I think is most important is to get our community talking about the tax code, because I don’t
think that we’ve thought enough about it, but I think even as we talk about it, we didn’t get an
opportunity to revisit why we do taxes. I think this transaction tax idea, Congressman, really is quite
revolutionary. I’m not sure whether I like it or not. The reasons I’m not sure is I don’t think we have
enough information. I simply think a lot more study needs to be done. I would challenge the notion
of the Treasury Department should be the only place that should be done. I would suggest to you
that perhaps some form of a commission might begin to look at this in the same way that the Social
Security tax was looked at, that there be something – with people who basically share some of your
goals about this issue, and I understand what made this exciting is that you are motivated to do this
as you talked about property tax and education, and this is – literally when you look at the ways that
we see differences between our young people and other young people especially young people
captured in the inner city, that fact is that as long as education is funded by a property tax you will not
have educational equality.
Indeed, the most recent studies show that an inner city child is a third as likely as a suburban child to
put their hands on computers. I mean people constantly talk about the District of Columbia having
the highest per capita expenditure per pupil, but if you look at some of the schools in our area in
terms of infrastructure, you also have to look at the level of bureaucracy that goes into our schools.
…But stepping back, let’s ask a couple of questions and see if the transaction tax meets the test with
these questions that are raised about the purpose of the tax system.
Why do we have a tax system anyway? First reason is to generate revenue, and certainly the
transaction tax as Dr. Anderson has laid out will generate revenue. There are clearly some concerns
about the level of the tax that will be imposed will be one percent, two percent, five percent, and at
which point does the percentage become a disincentive for people engaging in transactions? So –
but the revenue generation goal in and of itself is met.
A second goal of an income tax – of a tax system has been, and we can argue this both ways,
income redistribution. Now, the Bushies believe in income redistribution to them. Progressive
people believe in income redistribution to low income and moderate income people, but in any case,
generally we have used tax systems to redistribute income hopefully in a progressive way but as Ms.
Butts pointed out earlier, the system has become more and more regressive.
Does a transaction tax meet the test of redistributing income, and can it? It seems to me that it does
not. Although there are possibilities for redistributing income depending on which level of
transactions are connected with which level of fees, but I think then we begin to open that interesting
can of worms that moves us past into the same kind of complications that exist without system now.
So, the issue – if indeed income redistribution is a goal of the federal government, and this is
something that, of course, we’ve been debating for the past 25 years since Ronald Reagan was
President of the United States…
…We’ve probably it before that, but clearly people who do not believe in redistribution to the bottom
have held its weight for the past 25 years, so it’s a legitimate question to raise and a set of
concomitant questions would be are there other ways through the federal spending system that
aspects of redistribution can be incorporated. In other words, are there ways, for example, of
employment tax credit that was redistributive. How would you replace something like that in a
system that said that you’re only taxing transactions? I don’t think it’s an insurmountable issue,
Congressman, but I think it’s something that we want to think more about: (a) whether or not we think
redistribution ought to be a goal; (b) if it is a goal, how does the system get to that; (c) if this system
does not get to that, is there another way through the combination of taxation and spending that
redistributive purposes can be met?
Now a third purpose of the tax system has been to incent certain behavior. As Dr. Anderson has
pointed out, some of that happens through fiscal policy. We want to encourage people simply to
spend putting money into the system or not spend, taking money out of the system, but if you look
carefully at the existing tax code, there are other ways that we’ve attempted to incent certain
For example, homeowners are favored over renters in the existing tax code. If you’re a homeowner
your mortgage interest is tax deductible. Do you intend through this system to maintain a home
mortgage deduction and at the same time we might ask questions about the implications of that
deduction. After all, 74 percent of whites own their homes compared to 47 percent of AfricanAmericans and Latinos, so one might argue that the home mortgage deduction while worthy from a
macro sense has hit our community unevenly in a micro sense. Our community has not been a
major beneficiary of this. Indeed there was, I guess maybe about, I guess about 10 years ago the
mortgage interest deduction was amended so that houses that were valued at more than a couple of
million dollars that additional interest was not deductible, because before it literally used to incent
people to take out the biggest mortgage that they could, to have the biggest house that they could
because they got basically a tax deduction for that.
So while many of us look at the mortgage deduction as something that’s desirable because we
benefited from it, there are some long-term issues that we may want to ask about. That’s one
The marriage tax or marriage penalty or whatever the conservatives want to call it is another area
where we’ve attempted to incent or modify behavior through the tax code or discuss the desirability
of certain behavior through the tax code. Literally as the Congressman’s fact sheet says here. We
have thirty-five hundred and thirty three tax code changes, so there are other kinds of behavior that
we’ve attempted to incent. The question that we’re left with is do we see the tax code as the only
mechanism through which we would incent or discourage certain kinds of behavior.
You see, what you’re doing here is really raising questions about the back door way. We’ve done
public policy through the tax code. As opposed to saying from a front-door prospective this is what
we’re going, we have essentially gone through the back door. Looking at the tax system differently
then forces us to go back and look at the front door.
I think it’s a massive and at some level revolutionary attempt to talk about how we fund our
Government, and I think it raises some interesting and provocative questions.
So those are the – looking at those purposes, those I think are the questions that we have to raise.
Can we incent behavior? Is this redistributive, and does it generate enough income – enough
Now there are a few other things that I want to say about this in terms of a legislation. It’s not clear to
me that the four things that the Congressman has listed in the legislation as other goals or other
features of this transaction tax – debt reduction, educational transfers, health care, and the
community reinvestment portion. While I think that all of these are worthy, I would also raise a
question as to whether or not they are murky, because in some ways you’re doing the same thing
that we’ve done with the other tax code.
Certainly I think that educational transfers are extremely important, and I think the health care issue
is one that is driving us extremely importantly as well, but is this the place through which to fund this?
I would argue that the issue of debt reduction is not critical. Many economists see debt reduction – if
we manage debt in a countercyclical way, debt becomes a tool for us just as it does for us
personally, so I’m not clear, although I do realize that our debt is a little out of control, primarily
because no one ever found the weapons or whatever – mass distraction – but in any case among
other things, but it’s not clear to me that we want to say let’s eliminate debt. Again, I would connect it
to another piece of legislation not necessarily to this particular piece of legislation, although I think if I
understand correctly we’re probably trying to win the votes of some of the fiscal conservatives or
some of the support for them by raising this issue up.
The other thing that I think is really interesting here and that we should talk about and think about is
who the stakeholders are in the existing tax system, and what this means to the way they do their
work, because I think that if you talk about this simply as an idea, it’s an idea worth discussing. If we
talk about this in terms of political reality, then we have to talk about who gains from having a
complex, biased, weird tax system. Well, tax lawyers for one. And the list goes on, but I think that
it’s important to raise that because then you begin to see who some of the people are who may have
a reason that this legislation is not attractive to them.
The interest too in terms of – one of the things that was mentioned was the whole notion of
potentially discouraging speculation. I like Dr. Anderson’s idea about treating different kinds of
transactions differently. One might argue that they can speculate all they want, just make them pay
for it, but at the end of the day, the question is will a transactions tax discourage any forms of
transactions and what are the implications of discouraging transactions? Who has the power to get
around this kind of tax in terms of the ways that they organize their affairs? What does this mean?
Also, what does this mean in terms of business?
I think when the flat tax idea was initially introduced, the big issue was what was its implication on
business, on the self-employed, and on others. I think the transactions tax fee gets around some of
this. I’m not sure that it gets around all of this.
…[T]he last issue that I have here is the whole issue of the implications for state and local
government. While clearly the Congressman has anticipated this question by talking about the basic
movement of federal government to state and local governments, the question of how do you
actually save people time, effort, energy, and money if state and local governments keep their
existing tax systems while the federal government goes to a new one.
In other words, part of the purpose, the motivator for this seems to be the number of hours that
people spend doing their taxes, but many people’s state taxes are predicated on their federal taxes,
so unless there were some notion of input from some of the states and from local governments and
some ways that they – what the revenue impact was on them, I think that a series of challenges are
being raised.
…I think that this is an exciting moment for African-American people and for progressive people,
because essentially what we’re doing here is looking at stuff that we don’t tend to look at. When you
look at an array of progressive issues, we very rarely look at tax policy, very rarely look at deficits.
I’m more likely to have been accused of being more likely to quote tax and spent, so to get us out of
the box as the session is titled and pass a tax and spending to assert that we have some interest in
the actual ways that taxes are levied, I think is significant.
To also talk about busting the current tax system because of its complexity, to give us something
that’s a bit more simple, I think is important, and I think that finally if this proposal can be more
carefully studied especially by people like Bill Spriggs at the Urban League, people at the Joint
Center for Economic and Policy Studies, a question for our community, not a general question but a
question for our community, is how does this affect the African-American community. Now as we
know, we look at the economic status of African-American people, it’s different than those of others
but not as different as it was 20 years ago. Now one in seven African-Americans has an income of
over $100,000 a year. This is an important – one of seven African-American families, an income of
at that level, we have more owners, so we begin to look more like a majority community. So, again,
special attention, I think, has to be paid to the way that this particular proposal affects the poor.
I think that that’s been addressed in exempting expenditures of under $500, but I think some of the
other things you might want to look at are home transactions below a certain level, perhaps below
the national medium, homes that are being sold for let’s say under $100,000, and something
regarding rent, because I think that when you look at those things the issues of equity are more
equally addressed…
DR. SPRIGGS: …[M]ost discussions in D.C. around the tax code are hiding some other agenda,
and they are hiding some other agenda because taxes are the key part of the federal budget, and as
we all know in our personal relationships in our own households, the debate about money is normally
a debate about priorities.
People really don’t fuss with their spouse about money per se, it’s what did you spend the money on.
That’s what the real debate is about.
Now, so I find it hard to be moved by the complexity issue because most of the people I care about
don’t have complex tax forms, and so complexity doesn’t quite get to them. The folks who do have
the complex tax form have it because we have this disincentive about the Earned Income Tax Credit,
and we’ve made is so complicated for people to access the Earned Income Tax Credit, so they face
a complicated form, but most of them don’t, so I’m not as persuaded by that.
Now the reality is that we do have these complicated forms because Congress has decided that
under the way that the Republicans have viewed things at least that spending money is bad, but
spending tax expenditures is good, so they mask programs that they want by spending tax revenue,
so there is a list that you get from the Joint Tax Committee on tax expenditures, so things like
Julianne mentioned – the home mortgage deduction – that’s a tax expenditure. We say to a set of
folks, we’re not going to collect money from you, and that’s the same as spending the money
because as the Congressman pointed out in the long run, Julianne is right. We don’t want to fuss in
short whether we’re in deficit or not, but in the long run the government is going to pay back all its
So, in the long run, if I say to someone I’m not going to collect taxes on you but I am on someone
else, that’s spending money because you’ve got to balance it somewhere along the line.
So that’s a major tax expenditure, and we have this complication because Republicans have decided
that instead of being tax and spend, they’re just joint to be spend and spend because they do it
through tax expenditure, so they just spend the money, and we can get these huge deficits because
that’s the way they look at it.
Now ironically I end up or I have ended up in the past couple of three years worrying about the tax
expenditures because when we get rid of some taxes then the incentive for some of the tax
expenditures goes away, so, for instance, when the President said let’s not have dividends taxed and
let’s have corporations not worry about that portion of their income, well that had implications for the
Low Income Housing Tax Credit because you now disincentifies doing that because I’ve got my
money tax free through the dividend, so when we transform the system, there are a number of tax
expenditures which African-Americans do not benefit from. In fact, the two biggest tax expenditures
are Julianne mentioned the home deduction. The other is health insurance. We don’t tax your
health insurance premium, so those are the two biggest and disproportionately African-Americans
don’t benefit from those deductions, and as Julianne pointed out, it is so important for AfricanAmericans to finally get into this debate. So regardless of where you come out on liking this
particular discussion, it is so important for us to be in on the debate.
President Bush spent, and if he gets his way in making permanent his tax program, is going to spend
six trillion dollars on the wealthiest one percent of this country. He is going to spend six trillion dollars
on that top one percent, and as I pointed out to folks, when most of us have argued about what
would reparations be, we’re in like in the six to nine trillion dollar range as a starting point for having
the discussion, so he already did reparations for this one percent. I’m like, well, let’s multiply that out.
We’re 12 percent of the population, so if you’re going to give them six percent – six trillion – let’s do
six times 12. Let us have the – six times 12 is 72 trillion dollars. I’ll go home. We can stop. 72
trillion sounds like a good figure for reparations, but they figured it out. So while we’ve been asking
for programs. Can we have a 300 million dollar after-school program? Can we have a 500 million
dollar this, a 200 million that – he stole six trillion dollars, so talking about the tax code is exceedingly
important because that is where the money is. The real money, not the 200 million, not the two
billion. That’s where the trillions of dollars are, so it’s very important that we be active in the
The etiological argument that has been driving the Republican argument and what they have been
very successful in doing in the last couple of years is deciding that we should not tax unearned
income, and I want to emphasize unearned income. We should shift taxes to wages and wage
earners, and so a lot of the discussion has been on why a consumption tax is good. Because we
want people to invest, and we want people to have investment income. Well, this is a real radical
thing, so only people who have unearned income should be tax free, and the rest of us should be
taxed and again it gets to a behavioral thing. It’s bad to consume, and we have to tax these bad
consumers. We’ve got to really benefit these people who are doing good for the economy by
investing as if the economy runs only on investment and has nothing to do with consumption.
That’s a real value judgment hidden behind a lot of the discussion of consumption taxes, so one
thing is the Congressman has properly changed the focus. This is not a consumption tax. This is a
transactions tax so that even if you are exchanging stock or some other instrument from which
people get unearned income, we’re going to tax that activity. We’re not saying consumers are bad,
investors are good, so at least on the level at which we think of income ought to all be equal no
matter how you got the money, whether you got it as capital income or whether you went out and got
up on the early bus and went to work this morning and got your income that way. We should treat all
of it the same, so I think the transactions tax is important and progressives need to keep in the
forefront, but you got to keep everything the same, so consumption and sales taxes which punish
those who consume and give a holiday to those who don’t has to be taken into consideration.
It does mean that those of us who are progressive are going to have to step to the plate if we
transform it in this way, though…things that are current tax expenditures that some of us have
worked to get or defend like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit as an example of one of those
things. These are expenditures which we have to figure out how we’d get the momentum and
change the way people look at government expenditures, and let’s be more honest about what’s an
expenditure and what’s not an expenditure and keep people from hiding behind taxes, but we’re still
going to be left with these equity issues.
One of the problems with the transactions tax is a cascading effect, and you see some of that
mentioned in the CRS. What rich people consume a lot of are personal services, so they are far
more likely to do things like hire attorneys, far more likely to have personal trainers, and far more
likely to have personal service expenditures that are just not going to happen among low income
people, but a personal service or getting something more directly from the producer means that there
is less cascading, so that inherent in what rich folks buy would be a lower tax because there are
fewer transactions before it gets to them.
…There is going to be the issue of enforcement about who is going to collect this because again on
personal services, it’s harder to enforce. That’s why a lot of states are losing out now because they
don’t have a way of taxing personal services as efficiently as they do your typical retail sale where
you go into the store, and the store already has everything in place to collect a transaction tax. I
think we have to look at studies of how many transactions are involved in the type of things that low
income people consume, how are they different for high income consumption, and unfortunately I
think we’re going to open up Pandora’s box again, because you’re going to have folks saying there is
– as Bernie was saying, at the state level people say well you shouldn’t tax food. This is something
that low income people are going to buy disproportionately; it’s going to be a big chunk of their
income. Why are you taxing food? Everybody has to have food. What about clothing? Why are
you taxing kids’ school clothing. You know we have to buy that, so we’re going to get into the same
complexity I fear, and so I think more fundamental even than the answer is the set of values that you
are raising for progressives to interject into this debate…what is it we think the government really
ought to be doing?
What is the revenue it takes to do that? How do we get to that revenue becomes the next question,
and what is the most fair way to get that more revenue, but we have to engage people on the size of
government so that even under this system we could have Republicans saying well, why don’t we
cut the transactions tax? We could get into a debate forever, but I’m for a tax cut, and they keep
cutting the transactions tax and we shrink the government to the size that it can’t do what we want it
to do, so I think we have to get people to buy into the size of government and what the government
needs to do, and what are the services that we have to have, and then we can argue about the
revenue side, and then we can argue about is that a fair way to get to that revenue, and that has to
be key in the discussion.
If we do do this transactions tax, I agree with Julianne, let’s have more than the Treasury Department
involved. Let’s have a commission that can have the voices of those who get the good tax
expenditures so that we can be honest about how do we get those tax expenditures into the…
REP. FATTAH: …First, I think it’s critically important that the issues raised by the panelists today be
answered, and I think that the answers will help drive the debate, and I think that the debate will end
up with fundamental reform of our tax system much in line with what I proposed. That is to say that I
think that all of these questions would lead us in the right direction, and let me just try to respond to a
few, though.
One is that it’s clear to me that we would generate the revenues, Dr. Anderson, that would be
needed and let me as part of a response to that question tell you that there’s a lot of transactions that
take place in our economy today in which the government receives no revenues from those
transactions, so if Comcast, which is a Philadelphia concern, had purchased Disney for 50 plus
billion, say there had been a check written for that or there had been an electronic transfer or there
had been a stock deal. Essentially none of those revenues would have been captured by the federal
government as part of that purchase.
…In the underground economy in which people are doing things that we would prefer they not do in
which they don’t file any forms, comply with any laws, they then go out and make purchases and
make transactions that under the transactions fee would bring revenues to the federal Treasury that
now are not present because the federal government doesn’t collect any fees on transactions, and
I’m making an overly general statement, but in 99.9 percent of all transactions we don’t generate any
We would both capture money from the underground economy, and we would capture money in the
multi-million and multi-billion dollar transactions. The Federal Reserve - as part of our analysis we
would out that there are lots of transactions every single day in our federal banking system well over
a million dollars. There may be enough high value transactions in our economy to substantially raise
the current revenues as indicated by CRS that is the 1.9 trillion as collected in 2001, but if you round
it off to an even two trillion dollars, and you say you got 53 trillion in transactions each year, all you
need is just a few pennies out of those transactions to start to generate that kind of revenue.
We want to exempt people who are making small transactions no matter what those transactions
are. We don’t want to be chasing cash transactions, and one of the features of the proposal is that
the fee be considered to have collected a fee when people access the cash rather than try to chase
down the actual transactions involving the cash, so because I think that would be impractical.
…[O]ne of the big questions…[is] about whether or not the goal should be to redistribute income, and
progressives have argued for a very long time that that should be a goal of the tax system, and I
really think that we should think anew about that, and I really am proposing in this forum that we
redistribute opportunity. It’s not the income that we’re concerned about.
…We really had to think anew about all of this, and what I’m suggesting is that what we really need
to do is insist that children get a quality education, that we provide health care, that we invest in new
…Reforming the tax system is just a way – a means to an end as far as I’m concerned, and I think
we should join the debate of the conservatives and Republicans, one, because I think they have
been essentially impotent in this whole matter in terms of actually doing anything about the tax code.
Number two, I don’t think that their ideas brought to scrutiny would withstand any real analysis. That
is, in terms of their actual ability to move the country forward, and I think that when you think about
the big questions of the day. You talked, Dr. Spriggs, about tax expenditures. I serve on the
Appropriations Committee. If we invest our money in nutrition program for children and infants in the
country, there is a number attached to it. If the Ways and Means Committee meets and says we’re
going to exempt a certain industry from taxes, or we’re going to exempt a certain company or sets of
companies. They do all kinds of things. They can spend 10 times as much. There is not a peep in
the paper about it. There is no discussion because nobody even understands it. Nobody
understands that they just said, well, we need to have a domestic motorcycle market, and so we’re
going to let Harley-Davidson not pay any federal taxes for the next 20 years. Nobody says a thing
about it because you can’t figure it out.
One thing that the public has figured out, though, is that the present system as far as the majority of
the people in this country it is not fair. That whatever complication there is to it, it’s to benefit people
who have a lot more money than they have and that if we could peel away some of the complexities
we could maybe get at both generating the revenues, and not the revenues that we have now even
though that’s a starting point. I think that that’s a fair starting point. I have revenue neutrality, but I
think that that would sell us short and sell the country’s future short because the revenues that we
have now don’t accomplish what we need to accomplish. If you look at any analysis of the
infrastructure in the country, roads and bridges. If you think about the questions of homeland
security and whether or not we are doing in an adequate way the things that we need to be doing in
terms of protecting nuclear and chemical and biological plants in our country or look into the
containers that come into our ports. If you think about any of the challenges facing the country, this
own adminisrative’s department, their own analysis says in every respect that we need to be doing
more, but the problem is is that the public has been convinced in a combination of ways that the
present system doesn’t work very well and they have less of an appetite to invest in it in any way that
would be meaningful, so I think we need to think anew about it…
I think we should have a full-fledged discussion and debate about this idea and any others that
people want to put on the table because the status quo should not be a point in which we feel
comfortable with.
Every year the Joint Tax Committee issues a report on the number of people who earn over a million
dollars and have paid no taxes legally under our system, and over the last 10 years that number has
grown each and every year. Thousands and thousands of people who are earning well over a
million dollars who are paying nothing, and again if you look at Goldstone’s book, Goldstone’s book –
what is it?
REP.FATTAH: …Twenty-seven thousand of our top individual filers 500,000 and above paying
perfectly legal nothing, little or nothing, to contribute to either the hundred thousand troops we have
unfortunately in the Iraq theater or any of our needs here at home, so those who are benefiting the
most have found ways to evade this system, and we need to think anew…
…[W]hat we’ve asked for is answers to those in the public domain so that we can have a debate,
and I think in the end with comparison to the status quo or compared to any of these other ideas –
the flat tax or the national sales tax, because at some point we can agree that there won’t be a
perfect system that captures this revenue, that there will be distortions for instance in all ways, that
they will be cascading. There is cascading in the present tax system. They will be cascading in the
transaction fee. I think in a better way, but nonetheless it will be there.
There is going to be no perfect system. The question is among the available alternatives, which is
superior, number one, and assuming that you want to change from the status quo, and I would offer
at least on the public record as of this moment, there is no alternative that the public has rallied
around, nor had the policymakers. The flat tax, the national sales tax, the people who have
embraced this, that is the leaders of the majority party in the Congress and the Senate, the people
who own those ideas have not even moved them forward, and that is because they have no support
at a level that would be meaningful, so obviously what’s needed is some new ideas in this debate or
an acceptance of the status quo….
MR. ZAKIYA: …There have been a bunch of debates that have been around the fair tax, around
the consumption tax versus income tax…
REP. FATTAH: …Let me just respond generally to the notion of a national sales tax. I have some of
the same concerns that Dr. Spriggs pointed out which is that if we just taxed consumption it will have
an unfortunate impact. There is a report by William Gale of the Brookings Institute that talks about
what the effective rate may be. The proponents, like for instance, the organization that the gentleman
is representing says that while it would be a retail sales tax of something above 20 percent, Dr. Gale
says it would have to be an effective rate at more than twice that amount, but regardless of the
amount, I’m opposed to a consumption tax, and what I favor is a transactions fee, however, what I
think is useful is that there is this proposal. It is not a new proposal. It is a proposal first offered by
the majority leader, Dick Armey, and is supported by Tom DeLay and a number of other people, and
I think again the majority would be interested why they don’t bring up for a vote on the floor if they
believe in it, or have at least a committee hearing at Ways and Means on fundamental tax reform
because if there was a discussion, if there was a debate, then we may have an opportunity to have
my proposal interjected in that debate, and so we look forward to it. I want to say hello to Tommy
Bratlaw. I saw him in the back, and I’ll turn it over to Dr. Spriggs.
DR. SPRIGGS: …[S]o often in the progressive community it becomes other folks’ ideas and then
folks don’t want to listen to Black folks…and I hope you can understand the consumption tax takes
us away from treating all things equal to definitely concentrating and punishing one set of behaviors
as opposed to treating all income or all transactions equally.
I think progressives do themselves a disservice by not at least acknowledging and engaging Black
leadership on this…[P]rogressives have to challenge themselves to engage Black intellectual ideas,
and so often when we talk about being taken for granted by progressives, it is because precisely they
seem not to think that our ideas matter…
AUDIENCE MEMBER: …Congressman Fattah, what is your strategy for moving this along to the
public stage specifically and recognizing that the party in which you represent does not control the
agenda in the House nor in the Executive Branch. How are you going to get this to where it needs to
be so that there can be some relevant discussion on this?
REP. FATTAH: Well, the first thing is that we plan on offering the idea publicly. We have a website
that allows the public to respond online and to engage around the idea and make suggestions about
it, and so on, so we have asked a group of economists nationwide to review it and offer their
comments. You heard from some of the leading economists in our nation this morning. We’ve
asked business schools, we’ve asked think tanks. We think that the first step in this process is to
have the idea, that is to have challenging critical analysis of it, to have hard, probing questions, to
have full public discussion and debate about it, and that because we think that a lot of enthusiasm
can get rid of the status quo. There is a dearth of support for the known alternatives that have been
– you know when Ford ran for President on flat tax. This is 14 plus years ago. I mean if this idea
was going to catch on, it would have caught on by now, so we think that there is plenty of room for a
new idea. We don’t think that it necessarily is that we have cornered the market on this, but we think
that this could be the base point from which we might be able to build a new system of taxation in this
country that does the most important thing which is unreached economic potential. I mean for a
small business people to be able to think about opening up a small business without the burden of
payroll tax, corporate profit taxes, and all of the other things that hinder thereto. And to be able to go
about one’s widget making and in the incremental way on transaction after transaction and
essentially pay your civic rent as you go along might at least under the Congressional Research
Service initial study of this might generate a wealth of economic activity in our country that presently
doesn’t exist, and so we think there is a lot of opportunity and we’re starting really today with this kind
of forum and we’re going to join the debate. There are indications that others are listening.
…Well, I think that it takes awhile down here, but I think people are catching on, and I think that if you
have a better mousetrap it’s said people will make their way to you. At least in my case I think not
only do we have a superior idea, but I’m willing to meet people halfway.
DR. ANDERSON: …Is this idea signed onto by the Congressional Black Caucus and do you have
as co-sponsors of this legislation all members of the Congressional Black Caucus?
REP. FATTAH: We have not solicited co-sponsors to the proposal. This is an idea for a study, but
we have offers from members and interest from members in this idea, and I think that it will – I think
that not only will we have support in the Caucus, but we’ll have support throughout the Democratic
Caucus as we go forward, because what we’re really saying is that as Democrats, we can’t deal with
45 million people who are without health insurance. We can’t deal with equal educational
opportunities. We can’t talk about investing in new markets…if we don’t have a system of generating
revenue through the Government, if we allow a 420 billion dollar deficit this year and in two trillion in
deficits until – just as we walk through the next five-year budget plan, that will really bankrupt the
government’s ability to respond to issues that we need, so it’s not that we don’t have support.
What we have done is to say what we would like to do is have a study. We met with CBO. We met
with the Treasury Department. We’ve had Congressional Research Service do a preliminary
analysis on some of these issues like the cascading issue, and some of the other issues that have
been raised, and we hope by January to have a bill and we think we will have a lot of co-sponsors to
that including my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus.
MS. JACKSON: Just a quick comment…[T]here is an angle of tax policy that I’m looking at that I
think is of value to what you’re talking about, and that’s actually the issue of globalization, I should
say more particularly global tax policy, and in particular there are not any studies that I can cite
about a transaction tax being imposed in other countries, but there has been significant fundamental
tax reform in several other countries that can provide kind of illumination to the issue that you’re
addressing…to actually talk about what fundamental reform has occurred in other countries, in
particular the Netherlands and Switzerland have experienced significant simplifications of their tax
codes. They are not transaction taxes, and they are not flat taxes, but there has been a significant
value that they have seen both in terms of increased revenues, eliminating all tax expenditures,
increasing social policies spending…
REP. FATTAH: There has been a lot of discussion around the world around tax policy, and there
has been some very creative tax role, but you’re right. There is no other – this really would be a new
approach, and I think that you do raise in a different way another point that I forgot to mention earlier
about new revenues that would come to the government.
The other group of people who have raised taxes in the – even though they make their money here
in our economy – are foreign interests and foreign corporations who are doing transactions here but
avoid taxes. Under this system, under the transaction fee, their transactions in our market, in our
economy, those fees from those transactions would accrue to the (inaudible) so that – one of the
things I think that people who are trying to get a hold of this idea need to look at is that we’re talking
about bringing revenues in from activities in from groups of people who are not now contributing to
their responsibilities or what should be their responsibilities in our marketplace…
DR. ANDERSON: …With respect to financial transactions – transactions at financial markets, and
say that one of the very important methodological devices that must be used in any study of this
question is the impact of taxes, fees, or so forth, on economic behavior, and it goes back to a
comment that you made about the potential purchase by Comcast of Disney. Now, that transaction
would have taken place in the United States securities market, but it would not have to take place in
the Unites States securities market.
If you look at what happened in Sweden when Sweden applied a two percent securities transfer tax
on all transactions in Swedish stock market, the number of transactions at the Swedish stock market
declined by 70 percent. In a global economy, these kinds of transactions need not take place in a
particular geographic area. They can take place anywhere, so my concern would be that if there is
any significant fee applied to securities transactions in the American securities market, much of that
business will go someplace else. They can do it in London, they can do it in Zurich, they can do it in
other financial markets or securities markets. They can do it in Japan, although Japan has a very
small fee now also.
Much of that business could go abroad and so, therefore, unless you could capture the fees on
transactions of American corporations that are listed on foreign stock exchanges, but because they
are American corporations you can capture that and bring it back home, then you would lose that
revenue, you see.
The other point, though, is that the size of the fee in relation to the value of the transaction can be
altered so that the transaction can be broken up into different parts, and you will have a higher rate
on higher value transactions. All that would mean is that the actor would reduce the value of the
transaction. That then would further reduce the amount of revenue derived from fees.
So, the legality of how this fee could be applied and how it would be implemented would be a very
important part of the investigation of how much revenue is likely to be achieved from applying fee
rather than incur an income tax.
Let me make it clear that I think that your idea is one that very much needs to be examined in the
public domain…We’ve got to get beyond just a consideration of the value added tax, or the flat tax or
sales tax. In considering a different way of raising revenue in order to achieve the public purposes
that you mentioned, but I think that the analysis of the study should be dynamic rather than static, or
we won’t get the right kind of answers for informing the public debate.
REP. FATTAH: Well, I think it’s critical…One is that the Congressional Research Service in its
analysis look at trying to quantify transactions. If you’re going to take a fee of transactions you need
to know something about what these transactions are, so looking at – and our interest is in non-cash
transactions. That is transactions that don’t involve cash, that are taking place inside the federally
regulated banking system in our country and involve purchases by check and the like. Forms of
transactions that you can track down. So you say, look you’re close to 750 some billion of these
transactions, non-cash transactions, each year. Then you have this group of transactions that your
question focuses on which is in securities. There are some 250 billion transactions taking place
daily, and in the financial area, obviously these are transactions that would be ultra-sensitive to a fee
question versus like transactions in other sectors in our economy, so you’ve got to separate out
these 750 billion transactions over a year and from these securities transactions, and then you’ve got
to think about where – how do you set a fee that doesn’t create unintended consequences in that
What you’ve got to think about is in context, see I’m thinking about in context when a person puts
$100,000 in a bank down the street from me, and that bank like we saw in the savings and loan
scandal goes belly up, the taxpayer covered that. That’s why we have – we as a society provide a
security blanket on people’s holding of cash in our society.
If they make a transaction and they think it didn’t go down right, we provide – the taxpayers provide a
court system. They can go in and seek redress in the court, so we regulate the securities market.
We look at products that are not produced right through in our county. We provide a lot of services
that allow our economy to function, and what I’m saying is that there is nothing wrong if those people
were benefiting the most out of this economy paying a fee for the comfort and safety and security of
being able to do transactions in the world’s greatest economy. So that if we have to think about the
will-be efforts at evasion, there are by the GAO’s own analysis 60 percent of all our businesses over
the last five years evading the present system. We know that the top income earners are paying less
than nothing now, so the question of evasion is that you can’t create a system in which someone
can’t figure out a way maybe to avoid some part thereof, but we can think anew about this. We can
look at it in – if people want to keep their money under their mattress, that might be a way in which
they can evade this. If they want to go buy property but have no deed for it or no ownership papers
for it, but if they want to operate in the general norms of the society I think we can track most of these
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I didn’t get a question to look at the bill, but I’m wondering if it includes
repealing the 16th Amendment so we can’t have income taxes again, and if Dr. Spriggs could
address how you don’t see complexity in this system considering we have six billion hours invested
in tax compliance right now. Thank you.
REP. FATTAH: The bill calls for the elimination of all of the federal taxes including the income tax
which is the one you speak about, the payroll tax and on and on, all the corporate taxes, capital
gains taxes, and the like. It doesn’t actually repeal the 16th , but it eliminates those taxes, and this is
a replacement for those existing schemes.
DR. SPRIGGS: The vast majority of Americans fill out the 1040EZ form and when you look at the
income distribution for African-Americans the vast majority of whom only have earned income from
wages, that’s what they’re filling out. They’re filling out that form. Those who are eligible for the
Earned Income Tax Credit do have a very complicated form, but that’s much more because we
punish people who get the Earned Income Tax Credit. It has to do with the need for complexity
when it comes to the Earned Income Tax Credit, so when you really look at it, it’s folks who have
capital income, who have other income who had to fill out a number of forms and figure all of that out.
For them, yes, this is probably confusing, you know. If you’re a small business owner and you have
to fill out different schedules, yes, it’s confusing, but the vast majority of Americans fill out a post card
and send it in, so I think the complexity issue and as I was saying the folks that I have normally been
advocating for just fill out the 1040EZ form. I do a lot about why is the Earned Income Tax Credit so
hard to get, and I don’t understand why we can’t make that as simple as the 1040EZ form, but this is
a debate about people within a certain income group when it comes to complexity, and it is complex
because we are hiding all of these tax expenditures within the code, and those tax expenditures each
require several pages to explain, and it would take several pages to explain even in this – even with
the transaction fee if you wanted to try and figure out some equity issues so that cascading wouldn’t
induce higher marginal tax rates for some transactions as opposed to others.
You’re still going to have the number of pages, and if you try as Dr. Anderson was talking about to
keep people from taking a small transaction and to hide a big transaction, you’re going to have tax
codes trying to explain that series of transactions and gave them a specified amount of time that
we’re going to understand that to be one transaction, and we’re not going to let you game us on that.
Well, you’re going to have several pages for that, so I think you’re going to realize that at some point
even this system will lead to some complexities, and you’re going to get people who will say I’m not
really bungling here, I’m a small business person and these really are a series of small transactions,
and I’m not trying to hide something. So I mean, there are going to be some complexities for folks in
a certain income level anyway…
IV. Education
Educational Apartheid in the US: Tracking Policies and Re-Segregation in
America’s Schools
Hosted by: The Center for Policy Analysis and Research (CPAR)
Panelists: Dr. Maya Rockeymoore (moderator), Terah Venzant, Deborah Jewell-Sherman, Gary
Orfield, Ron Ross, Jawanza Kunjufu, Marian Wright Edelman, Dr. William Cosby
Marking the 50th Anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, the final symposium
explored the state of K-12 public education in America. Topics included: the Talented and Gifted
program, the Special Education system, funding inequities, and tracking in schools. Over 500
people attended this panel on public education. The goal was to develop an action strategy that
would guide efforts to change the current state of public education and the underperformance of
African American students. Remarks offered by Dr. William Cosby largely set the tone for the
panel. While acknowledging that systemic factors do a play a role in hindering black progress, Dr.
Cosby made it clear that he does not believe that African Americans can afford to wait for people
to assist us in turning around the performance of African American children. He argued that now
is the time for black people to step up and for parents to take action and expressed immense
concern about the anger that children harbor today as a result of dysfunctional family conditions.
Recommendations for Action:
The federal government should rethink its approach to federal Title I policy.
• Instead of mandating a particular approach to education, it should consider what
each level of government does best and how the federal government can best work
within the intergovernmental structure to improve Title I policy. At the federal level,
this includes an emphasis on providing additional resources directed at low-achieving
students living in impoverished communities, actively monitoring and enforcing nondiscrimination, and providing incentives for states to try new things. To assure
accountability, the federal government should develop a reasonable way to measure
accountability that would show progress on a variety of educational outcomes. It
should assure that Title I money is spent on policies and programs that have been
proven successful in previous research.
The administration and Congress should work collaboratively with state officials and local
educational professionals to revise NCLB.
• Any revisions of NCLB should recognize the tremendous variations in state
educational systems, differences in their capacity and priorities, and should reflect
the best research on policies and processes that produce successful reforms.
Instead of imposing a single model of test-based accountability on all public schools, states
should be allowed to experiment with different models for measuring student learning and
school performance.
• Specifically, achievement gains permit accurate assessments of how schools
contribute to student achievement. Schools should also receive credit for improving
student achievement along the entire distribution of test scores. That is, schools
should receive credit for improving student achievement within different performance
levels, not only improvements in the number of students who cross over the
proficiency threshold.
Accountability systems need to broaden their definitions of what counts as evidence of
success and set goals that are realistically grounded in past experience.
This might mean, for example, examining the largest average improvement in Title I
schools and using that as a benchmark for developing performance targets. If
policymakers set goals in light of actual performance trends, such expectations for
improvement are more likely to be attainable with sufficient resources, effort, and
time than current AYP expectations.
Revised methods of assessing progress under Title I should include graduation rates
calculated by cohorts or based on individual level longitudinal statewide data.
• Since its 2001 national conference, “Dropouts in America” the Civil Rights Project has
been working to secure better accounting of dropouts and graduates in American
public schools. The analyses we have commissioned consistently show that the
reported figures on dropouts greatly understate the number of students who fail to
complete school and receive their diplomas. It is apparent in our work and in reports
on recent scandals that excessive pressure on increases in test scores creates an
incentive to remove low-scoring students from schools. School districts and schools
should look less rather than more successful if they increase their dropout rates.
NCLB should reinforce the historic commitment of Title I to improving the educational
opportunities and outcomes for low-income and minority students.
• As such, school accountability should focus on narrowing the achievement gap
between low-income and middle-income students, on one hand, and minority and
White students on the other. The focus of this accountability should be broad and
include students, educators, policymakers, administrators, researchers, and parents.
Given the dearth of research on appropriate testing practices for students with disabilities and
English-language learners, more information is needed before high-stakes decisions about
school performance are based on the test scores of these two subgroups of students.
• Instead, we strongly support federal laws guaranteeing special education students’
right to participate in state and federal assessment programs, such as the National
Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). We also wholeheartedly support
efforts to collect diagnostic information on the performance of students with limited
English proficiency through NAEP and other state and local assessments. However,
more systematic and careful study is needed before scores for these two subgroups
are used for high-stakes accountability.
Revised methods of calculating adequate yearly progress for accountability should be
developed that will track the progress of different groups of students within the special
education and English Language Learner subgroups.
• Neither of these subgroups should be reified as one category. Instead, an empirically
based method of calculating the progress of these students should be developed for
accountability purposes that includes taking into account students who start at vastly
different places, have different types of disabilities, and who leave the subgroup
because they no longer require the services.
The notion of “scientifically-based research” plays a prominent role in NCLB and is mentioned
over 100 times in the federal statute.
• These standards should be applied to the accountability policies that lie at the heart
of NCLB, and support ongoing research that examines the central assumptions of the
law. For example, how do low-performing schools respond to the threat of
increasingly intrusive federal sanctions, and under what conditions might these
policies work best? How do we know if scores from students with disabilities and
English-language learners provide reliable information and permit valid inferences
about their academic achievement? Without better answers to these and other
questions, it will be exceeding difficult for legislators to understand how best to
minimize the disparate and adverse impact that accountability policies have on
minority students and the schools they attend.
The federal government should not mandate transfers as a sanction for all schools that are
identified as needing improvement.
• Not all schools identified as needing improvement are “failing” to improve student
achievement. Yet the NCLB accountability system imposes a single sanction on
schools that have few similarities and major differences. Some schools identified as
needing improvement may have adopted effective instructional policies that produce
consistent improvements in student learning over several years. Other schools may
have low achievement levels that stem from a chronic failure to upgrade the quality of
teaching and learning. The federal law should distinguish between improving
schools, on one hand, and consistently low-performing schools, on the other hand.
The federal government needs to develop mechanisms to ensure that students in persistently
low-performing schools have access to better schools.
• This includes developing better ways to assess the performance of sending and
receiving schools, and implementing incentives to encourage transfer policies that
expand access to high-achieving schools. These mechanisms should encourage the
expansion of better options through both intra-district and inter-district choice plans.
Within a given district, students in chronically low-achieving schools should have an
opportunity to move to schools with substantially higher achievement levels and
substantially lower poverty rates. While average test score levels and poverty rates
are not the only criteria for determining school quality, they are at least two factors
that should be used to determine which schools actually receive transfers. If
transfers were limited to low-poverty schools and high-achieving schools, the NCLB
transfer policy would not overwhelm schools that already enroll large numbers of lowincome students. The transfer policy would also facilitate access to schools with
higher achievement levels.
If there is limited capacity among high-achieving schools within a school district,
federal policies are needed to encourage local officials to adopt transfer policies
across district boundaries. The federal government should encourage inter-district
transfer plans by providing additional resources to districts that actually receive low
performing students and to districts sending students so that these sending districts
do not lose resources. Inter-district choice plans would create more schooling
options for economically disadvantaged families and alleviate the administrative and
financial burdens that the NCLB transfer policy imposes on urban school districts.
The NCLB transfer policy should do no harm to existing transfer policies.
ƒ The federal law should respect existing local transfer policies that are popular with
and familiar to parents. Federal policy should support local efforts rather than
imposing additional administrative and bureaucratic requirements that complicate
these efforts to expand schooling options for parents whose children attend lowperforming schools. Finally, the NCLB transfer option should not disrupt federal
desegregation plans, which are intended to promote school integration and
educational equity.
The federal government should terminate the supplemental educational services program as
a mandated sanction for poorly performing schools.
• Until there is solid empirical evidence of its effectiveness, the provision of
supplemental educational services should be limited to a series of field trials
implemented on a small scale and in a way that does not disrupt other school reform
efforts with demonstrated effectiveness.
The federal government should fund randomized experiments that assess the effectiveness
of supplemental educational services in improving student achievement.
• In keeping with the legislation’s focus on “scientifically-based research,” which give
preference to randomized experiments, supplemental educational services should be
subjected to the same rigorous standards of evidence required of other educational
interventions. Evaluations should also assess the costs and benefits of
administrating supplemental educational services and research should be conducted
to identify the best ways to design a program that will insure maximum educational
Policymakers need to revisit the supplemental educational services provision in light of the
earlier consensus on the direction of Title I services.
• The idea of mechanisms that would integrate the Title I program with the regular
school curriculum and give schools greater flexibility in how to use their federal Title I
resources has merits and should be strengthened.
If the federal government continues requiring supplemental educational services—which we
do not recommend—the set-aside should be forward funded.
• By forward funding supplemental services, resources would be available for other
school reform initiatives at the beginning of the school year rather than at the end.
As we have learned from general funding for Title I, money that comes late in the
school year has little value and discourages long term planning. It is essential that
the federal government find ways to fund supplemental educational services that do
not rely on diverting resources away from the most disadvantaged schools.
Punishing schools that serve our most vulnerable students by removing resources is
unlikely to help them improve.
It’s time for America to pass Bonhoeffer’s test. The blueprint to end the Cradle to Prison
Pipeline has been laid out with the comprehensive Dodd-Miller Act to Leave No Child Behind
(S.448/H.R. 936)(not to be confused with the single-issue, under-funded No Child Left Behind
Act). Building on the best practices and recognizing that children do not come in pieces but in
families and communities, the Act gives the President, Congress, state and local officials, and
all Americans the opportunity to:
Get every child ready for school through full funding of quality child care and Head
Start, and new investments in preschool.
Left every child from poverty by 2010.
Ensure every child and their parents health insurance.
End child hunger through the expansion of food programs.
Make sure every child can read by fourth grade and can graduate from school able to
succeed at work and in life.
Ensure every child a place called home and decent, affordable housing.
Protect all children from neglect, abuse and other violence and ensure them the care
they need.
Ensure families leaving welfare the supports they needed to be successful in the
workplace, including health care, child care, education, and training.
There is a tremendous need to proactively keep students in school and out of trouble and to
help them academically, emotionally and socially. Schools must provide:
High quality mental health services for students;
Increased parent involvement so parents can reinforce student learning at home and
schools can better understand students’ individual needs;
Expanded community collaboration between schools and other service providers so
students’ health, mental health, housing and child welfare needs do not overwhelm
their ability to learn and stay in school;
Smaller, more responsive learning environments where students feel respected,
valued and receive more individual attention;
Challenging, relevant curricula that includes service and other experiential learning;
Higher quality teaching force that better represents the population of students in
public schools.
To improve student outcomes and respond most effectively to all students’ needs,
accountability systems must:
• Hold the federal government, states and districts accountable to ensure equity and
adequacy of educational resources for all children;
• Never use a single test to make high stakes decisions about schools and students.
Instead, examine success in the most comprehensive, fair way by considering a
variety of collateral academic indicators of student performance in addition to tests;
• Use only high quality assessments that employ multiple measures of student
achievement that assess higher order thinking skills and understanding, not just rote
memorization and test taking skills;
• Ensure that there is an accurate measure of and accountability for dropout rates,
disaggregated by race, ethnicity, income, disability and limited English proficiency
status; and,
Conduct Nationwide Analysis.
• Many independent studies have been conducted on the phenomenon of school
tracking. Some research has been large-scale, others have been more localized. In
addition, the phenomenon of within-school segregation has been seriously neglected
and should be studied as well. Most importantly, national attention to this critical
issue must be garnered. Congress and the White House must begin to recognize
these important challenges to educational equality (Losen & Orfield, 2002; National
Research Council, 1997; Oakes, 1995).
Clearer Gifted/Talented Standards.
• Many states do not require that schools maintain records of their gifted and talented
students. This opens the door to subjectivity and ambiguity regarding the issue of
under-representation of minority students in high-track environments. Standards
regarding placement of gifted/talented students must be implemented and
requirements for data collection must also be mandated. Much like schools must
keep detailed records of the racial makeup of their special education courses, so
should they be accountable for similar statistics on their gifted/talented classes. In
addition, increased focus and research on the gifted/talented phenomenon must also
be conducted to more fully realize the impact of tracking on this population of
Alternatives to Tracking.
• Many studies have explored alternatives to tracking, ranging from minor modifications
of the current system to reduce racial bias, to deconstructing the system of tracking
altogether and requiring heterogeneous groupings. In addition to analyzing the
system of tracking in general, an analysis of the alternatives to our current system of
tracking is another critical component of the task.
Fund Detracking Projects.
• More data needs to be collected from schools that have undergone detracking
reform. These projects need to be longitudinal and large-scale so that more specific
information on the process can be gathered and the ramifications of these changes
can be understood. Detracking will likely be strongly resisted, so concrete, specific
information as well as positive success stories will be critical in getting schools,
teachers and parents on board with this project. In addition, funding must be made
available to schools to encourage their participation in these studies. Many schools
would perhaps be resistant to detracking reform due to lack of funds and information
on how to proceed. This barrier must also be addressed to ensure sufficient
statistical significance.
Targeted Funding to Early Education.
• Tracking decisions can be made as early as preschool. Often, these decisions are
based on non-academic factors, but have lasting effects on the placement of
students throughout the educational system and workforce. Increased funding to
programs like Head Start is crucial, as is targeting resources toward education of
preschool teachers, administrators and parents to the problems of tracking in order to
lessen unfair ability groupings. Heading off disparities early and therefore before
they gain momentum and have lasting effects is key, and this means focusing
increased attention and funding on the youngest students in our classrooms.
Diversity Training.
• In addition to increasing funding at early levels, training programs to dialogue with
teachers, administrators and other school personnel within the entire K-12 system is
imperative. For any plan to implement detracking reform to be successful, the
support of school insiders will be essential. Further, given the disconnect between
schools and research on tracking (with 85% of schools continuing to employ some
type of tracking program despite 85% of the research on tracking documenting its
negative effects (Wheelock, 1992)), an information campaign seeking to more fully
understand the nuances of this phenomenon (from all perspectives) becomes even
more important.
Restrict Tracking.
• While studies regarding the feasibility of tracking are still being conducted it is
important that further disparities are avoided. For this reason, Congress must restrict
or end the use of permanent ability groupings in elementary school, particularly in the
earliest grades. Before definitive evidence of tracking effects is available this is a
temporary step that must be employed.
Responsible Education Funding.
• Now is the time to increase educational funding so that resources in schools can be
more equitably distributed. While the No Child Left Behind Act was passed by
Congress, full funding for the program has not been forthcoming. This leaves
unfunded mandates requiring schools and students to be increasingly accountable,
but without the funding necessary to implement these changes effectively or with any
real meaning.
End Conservative Trends.
• The last several years have seen a disturbing trend surrounding educational
programs. The University of Michigan affirmative action case serves as an example
of a disturbing trend regarding the advances made during the Civil Rights Movement.
While the decision came out in support of affirmative action policies, there was
sufficient uncertainty and opposition to take notice. Congress must take a proactive
role in reversing this trend and ensuring that all students have access to higher
education. When the issue of affirmative action is viewed in light of these
institutionalized disparities it becomes clear that these policies are exceedingly
necessary. Students of color are disadvantaged throughout the k-12 system.
Affirmative Action policies are a critical step in tempering these inequalities and
counteracting the advantages that white students have traditionally enjoyed by virtue
of their skin color.
Revise No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
• As outlined above, given the historical legacy of segregation and unequal funding
that have plagued our schools—particularly those in urban areas—the requirements
in NCLB are almost impossible to achieve. These schools are dealing with significant
challenges that, put in the context of the civil rights events since the 1950’s (and the
continued failing of our nation to adequately deal with these issues), cannot be met
within the parameters of the current NCLB policy. The premise of the Act is to
improve student achievement and prevent students and schools from failing.
Unfortunately, without intervention, failure is exactly what we may be setting them up
Appreciate Different Learning Styles
• Mandatory in-service training for teachers on African American males’ learning styles.
Greater class monitoring by staff-making a disproportionate number of special
education referrals and suspensions.
MS. ROCKEYMOORE: . . . Ms. Venzant, what is tracking, when did it become prevalent in the U.S.
schools, and how does it help or harm African American children?
MS. VENZANT: …It is a complicated question…[T]here are a lot of ways to look at it…a lot of
different variations. But basically what it is is separating students according some kind of measure of
ability and then placing them into different levels of achievement based on that perceived ability.
Tracking policies has been a pall on our nation since its inception really, in terms of some sort of
stratification based on any number different characteristics: class…it didn't become a wide-spread
policy until I'd say, the 1920s was the first wave, probably, of tracking policies and that was really
fueled by three separate things.
First was comprehensive schooling, so students of -- well, comprehensive schools changed from
rural or local schools and offered several different curriculum components, vocational education and
more liberal arts components in the same school. The[re] was also compulsory attendance laws,
which required all school age children to go to school, so for the first time you had a very large
volume of students all attending the same facility.
…[T]he third impetus was increased immigration rates, which also really diversified the student
population. So all these things really acted as a catalyst to some kind of stratification measure, some
way of sorting out the leaders, or by managers of the world from people who would become the
workers and there is actually a lot of interesting work about, you know, what is the purpose of
education at this time?
Is it in part to teach people how to be Americans? That's certainly part of it. Another part of it is to
teach people what their station in life is and to accept it. So that's another component. Then there's
a second wave that happened in the 1950s and sort of -- there's two different parts to it. The first is
called the Sputnik satellite sent the United States into a space race, and we needed to have an
educated workforce, a very specialized workforce, and tracking was a way to separate people out
who had an aptitude for science and math, but that was a small factor.
But then also, just as integration was a huge impetus for contemporary tracking policies, in terms of
schools not being able to segregate students, obviously, but constituents really calling for
segregation in schools, some kind of separation. So tracking comes in and fits the bill very nicely to
easily follow the law, but still have segregation in schools. So that's the really the second thing is,
from the Board of Education and then the subsequent civil rights legislation that follows in the early
MS. ROCKEYMOORE: How did this affect African American students?
MS. VENZANT: Well, unfortunately, African American students really get the short end of the stick
on both accounts…We're over-represented in special education and under-represented in the gifted
and talented theaters.
So that's really the biggest concern that what's troubling about tracking, the fact is that they really
don’t have any kind of correlation to actual ability. Most of the research on tracking shows that
tracked systems are written out really with academic factors that -- they begin very early and are
relatively permanent. There are a lot of concerning things about tracking, but especially for AfricanAmerican students. Yes.
MS. ROCKEYMOORE: …Dr. Orfield, can you please ground us in the statistics. Why is it that no
matter where you go, there is a significant achievement gap between whites and Blacks, and is it
possible that residential segregation contributes to the problem?
DR. ORFIELD: If there is poverty in the family, the education level of the parents, the peer groups in
the neighborhood. All sorts of things relate to it. The developmental of disabilities of children,
whether they have untreated health problems…The real question is, can the schools make a
difference, not does everybody come equally prepared.
Because people don't come from equal backgrounds or life chances. They come with very unequal
ones in many respects. Now, when we get to schools, that's where the segregation problem comes
in. The great majority of African-American and Latino children are segregated in schools,
segregated not just by race, but also by poverty, and they’re segregated by the quality of the
They’re segregated by the experience of the teachers. They’re segregated by the level of
preparation of the other kids. They are segregated by the quality of the building, the books, the
materials that are in their school. And all of those things can intensify the gaps rather than dissolve
Even within schools that are interracial, if we don't work on the civil rights issues, kids can be
segregated out in classes at very different kinds and levels of competition, levels of quality of
teachers, and so forth.
Right now, we are in a major resegregation of American school. There was a huge progress in
actually bringing African-American students particularly into predominantly middle class schools from
the period of the middle 1960s up through the late 1980s, when we reached the peak of integration in
It happened mostly in the south because that was where most Blacks lived, and it made a big
difference. Because it meant that on average, many students were in schools that were much better,
in terms of equipment, connections, background of teachers and so forth. That lasted for a long
time, and during that period; the achievement gap between Blacks and whites went down by about
It stopped going down in the early 1990s, and it started widening again. Now, that's not just caused
by the resegregation. But that is the period in which the United States Supreme Court, under Chief
Justice Rehnquist, with five members, Clarence Thomas made the fifth, started resegregating our
schools with three major decisions in the 1990s, and this is happening in every part of the United
States, and it's becoming more isolated.
It's not just for Blacks, but also for Latino students, who are even a little more segregated than Black
students, and even less likely to graduate from high school. This is related to an increasingly
unequal set of opportunities. In several hundred intensely segregated, almost completely
impoverished high schools in the United States, less than half of the students are graduating from
high school, and we are covering that up with phony numbers from our school districts and from our
state governments.
Basically, if we're going to get out of the racial achievement gap, we have to think about bigger gaps
in our society, the employment gap, the housing gap, the opportunity to access to decent
neighborhoods gaps, the ability of families to support themselves and stay together and have two
parents working with the child. All of these things-and the health care gap, the absence of health
care in our inner-city schools in many communities.
All of these things contribute to this achievement gap and the color line just reinforces and
perpetuates it. We've been going backwards, not because integration, where it was done, which was
mostly in the South, was a failure. It was a pretty good success. It was partial, but it was much
better than segregation.
We're going backwards because we have a Supreme Court that was named to send us backwards.
Chief Justice Rehnquist was a clerk on the Supreme Court during the Brown case, and he believed
that Plessy should be perpetuated and he's been working to make that happen again. That's the
reality, and that's what's at stake in this particular presidential election.
There is no panacea for the achievement gap. There's lots of things that make a difference. Among
the most important things are good quality preschool, qualified teachers with experience in your
school, other students who are ready to work, a challenging curriculum. None of it's rocket science,
but none of it's being provided in a fair way in our schools now. So we have a huge challenge in
front of us if we're going to close this gap…
MS. ROCKEYMOORE: …Dr. Jewell-Sherman, as a first practitioner working in the education field,
what is the most disturbing aspect of the state of education today from your perspective?
DR. JEWELL-SHERMAN: I think that Dr. Orfield showed a number of the same issues is that our
students do not come to us with the same level of preparation, with the same life experiences, with
the health care intact, with family systems intact to support them, and so we do receive students with
different levels of preparedness, and I think that in the United States today, that is criminal. We know
what needs to be done, and we're not doing it.
When our students reach us, I think that often teachers and others determine a student's educational
ability based on his or her verbal acumen, which is an unfair assessment. We think that because a
student doesn't come with all of the verbal skills intact and ready to learn, that that's indicative of his
or her ability, and so the tracking begins.
There are educational remedies and other solutions that can be put into place immediately when
those diagnoses are made at very, very young ages. But that's something that we as educational
practitioners have to be very aware of because reading and math are gatekeeper courses that
educators use as determiners as to whether a student is going to go on an accelerated "track" or is
going to need to be remediated.
I think another thing that is of great concern to me is the environment in which all too many of our
urban students are having to spend their young lives. Many of our students come and they are
angry, and they are subsequently labeled as exceptional, and or special ed. When we look at what
they have endured, they have every reason to be angry. That's something that we as adults have
control over, and need to make a concerted effort not just in the school building, but in our
communities of faith, in our corporate sectors, so that students don't have those issues to deal with.
Then lastly, I'm concerned about the lack of the missionary zeal, for want of a better word, that
propelled people like me and others to want to be educators. This we knew from the start was not
going to make us wealthy, but we had a missionary zeal. We had teachers who taught us in the
worst of times with least amount of supplies, in the worst environments, and yet they held extremely
high expectations for us.
…We don't see that today. We don't see enough people of color viewing education as a lifelong
mission, and that concerns me over the long haul.
MS. ROCKEYMOORE: Ron Ross, she just grounded us in the notion of education as a value.
What role…
MR. ROSS: …It seems the view as it came to this country, as African-Americans, we had three
things going for us. There was the family, the church and school, and we've run away from those
things. We've run away from the family. We’ve fallen for all sorts of liberal interpretations, we've
allowed the conservative right to take over the family, and they call themselves the Christian right.
They might be right, but they ain't Christian. They set up academies so they can run away from
Black folk. We fell for the liberal take of the '60s, yes, including myself. Some of us were smoking
dope and running around, but at least we grew up from that.
…We wonder why the family falls apart. We put it on the kids, we put it on the school…
But the point is yes, the schools have a part to play. The government has a part to play. But I have
often told parents, and I still say it now, I never expect a teacher to love my children more than I
should love my own children as a parent. We are not jumping on issues when they stand up and tell
the truth.
Because it's no secret. We go into the prisons, we allow things to happen. It is because we as
parents are abdicating our role that we can have the public school system…
Parents won't stand up. I was often used to an audience. The difference between hearing and
listening, the difference between being a father and mother and being a parent. Hearing, you just
hear the words. Listening implies comprehension and understanding. You may not agree, but you
can comprehend and understand it. Put any two physical beings together and there's a possibility of
making a kid. You are the father or the mother.
That's a whole lot different than being a parent. I have been a superintendent and a principal in a
school where we had almost 3,000 students. I took my senior staff to a high school parent meeting.
There were 13 of us. There were seven parents in the audience. I refuse to believe that 2,970 black
parents had night jobs and couldn't attend school. You don't put that all on white peoples.
…People long for the days and spend dissertations trying to make sense of trying to educate AfricanAmerican children. Find a lot of Black teachers in the South before segregation. They knew how to
do it without any real help from the state or Farmville, Virginia.
We have forgotten what it means to be a parent. A parent is a responsibility. A parent never stops
being a parent for their child…
…[O]ne never stops being a parent…
…Parenting plays a large part in it. You find active parents going into a school, and I'll show you a
school that's functioning. Teachers do what they can get away with. Principals do what they can get
away with.
No one stopped you when Dr. King and everybody else was out there getting hoses. We have a
school board election and you can get on a school board in New York City with less than two percent
of the parents in the district coming out to vote. These are people who are responsible for your
children, and you are too tired to go out.
But let Russell Simons have a rap session in the rain, and you'll stand there for five hours, but you
won't do it for your child. Parenting also means that you save some of the money for the $150.00
pair of sneakers, and buy your kid a laptop computer.
Parenting also means that no matter how tired you are in the evening, you turn off the television and
read to your child. Television is not the answer for a father or a mother. That's being a black hole…
Parenting also means understanding your Black History and not asking the public schools to do what
you and your church won’t do. That's what parenting means.
MS. ROCKEYMOORE: …Dr. Kunjufu. Your work is focused on African-American boys and men.
Why are they a target? Why are they disproportionately tracked into special education classes, and
how is the current U. S. educational system failing them?
DR. KUNJUFU: …Several points here, one, as it relates to African-American males. In 1980, there
were 100,000 African-American males involved in the penal institution in 1980.
Does anyone have any idea of the number of brothers who are involved in the penal institution just
24 years later, in 2004? It is now 1.5 million. In 24 years…
Ninety-one percent of the brothers in jail entered -- that's the operative word, “entered” -- they
entered jail illiterate. Now, for educators, that tells me, if we simply teach Black boys how to read, we
have a 91% chance of keeping them out of jail. Now, notice that we used the word entered. See,
now the inmates, I'm in the publishing business, the inmates now read more than the free people
…[M]ost free people do not read…Secondly, is there a relationship between cocaine and Ritalin,
between special education and prison, between illiteracy and incarceration? No country gives more
children drugs in terms of Ritalin.
Three million plus American children daily receive a dosage of Ritalin…The other concern as it
relates to Black boys, in terms of special education. With 17 percent of the children in public schools,
but as you know, Dr. Warfield, we are almost 41% of the children placed in special education. So 17
and 41 are not the same. But it worsens.
If an African-American child is in special ed, almost 80% of the time is going to be the Black male
child. Again, it should have been 50-50. Have we designed a female pedagogy, a female teaching
style for larger numbers of male students?…Eighty-three percent of elementary school teachers in
America are white and female. Dr. Cosby, the future of the Black race lies in the hands of white
female teachers.
We may be the only race asking someone else to educate our children. Only one percent of
America's teachers, Dr. Ross, are African-American males. So it's possible for a Black boy to go K3, K-6, K-8 and yet to experience a Black male teacher. Can you be anything if you have not seen
…One of the reasons why so many boys, not just Black boys, even white males are placed in special
ed more than white girls, who has the least chance to placed in special ed. One reason could be that
most teachers are not aware the boys and girls are different.
Hold it, let's make that personal. Did you know that boys and girls are different?…For example, if we
know that boys have a shorter teaching span, what should teachers do different with their lesson
plans? Shorten them.
If we know that boys have a higher energy level, then should we allow more movement, more
activity? If we know that girls hear three times better than boys, then who should sit in the front of the
class? If we know that girls are more advanced fine motor, I mean, did you know, Dr. Cosby, that in
America, a boy can fail kindergarten?
I mean, how do you fail kindergarten? Well schools grade how well you handle pencils, crayons,
scissors, fine motor schools, not gross motor. Then last but not least, girls mature faster than boys.
There's almost a three year difference K-12, and my wife says we never catch up.
So, if know about this, we know that the different maturation level in Europe, they delay the entrance
of their boys at age 6 or 7, or they consider, Dr. Rockeymoore, another area in terms of segregation,
and that's single-gender classrooms…
…But now the white feminists have gotten frustrated seeing white girls outperform white boys K-12.
But they don't see that same progression in the professional ranks, they now realize single gender is
that only good for girls? It's even better for boys.
n closing, in Seattle, Washington, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, 80% of the suspensions
were male students. Black boys in the 16th percentile on the state achievement exam read our
literature on single gender classrooms, decided why not try it. Suspensions dropped from 80% down
to two. Test scores improved from 16% to 73%.
Now, they're still Black, they're still low income, Dad is still missing, the only variable of change was
single gender classrooms.
MS. ROCKEYMOORE: …Dr. Cosby, your recent statements have caused many people to stand up
and cheer your honesty and plenty of others to snipe about your shortsightedness. How do you
respond to those who accuse you of scapegoating poor people, and what system level issues, if any,
do you believe contribute to the problems facing African-American youth today?
DR. COSBY: To defend the scapegoating, all you have to do is take a walk. Take a walk through
the neighborhoods, and listen to the children and those of us on this panel who have come from way
back, it's a different world. And you hear anger, you hear a great deal of anger from these children,
and nobody's really listening. Nobody knows where the anger comes from. In these schools, we
need more psychiatrists, psychologists to deal with what is known as dirty laundry.
There is a tremendous amount of dirty laundry that these children can't talk about. When a mother
brings in three different men in the course of about 12 years, and all of the men coming from some
low form of life, when a child witnesses helplessly the mother being battered, and then making love
to the man, and then being battered, and then putting him out, and taking him back in, and this child
is helpless and scarred forever.
Sometimes the children are molested. It is a very ugly life some of these children live. They can't
talk about it, and they don't know where to go or what to do. Profanity is a very good way of making
oneself feel good. You can run off twelve different words and just by yourself, make yourself feel
good. Just standing there, cursing away.
To me, this profanity and then of course, our wonderful entertainment leaders. Of course, we can't
blame them all because there is an off button. We cannot really do anything except parent. Children
will fight us. Children will reject what we want for them.
…Our children will do it. But when you give up on them with your idea that this is also a part of your
life and you think your child can be managed with a cell phone. You can call and he opens up and
listens to you talk on the cell phone, and you say, well, he’s at home.
Every person sitting on this panel, I imagine, had to do at least four and a half hours of homework
somewhere, somehow. Some parents asked about your schoolwork more than they did about how
you feel. But that's the old days. I'm just talking about what I see today.
And when parents are put on notice that they're going to be held responsible, they're going to be
fined and they're going to have to go to parenting classes, which will be mandatory. We find that
whatever it is that these children are doing wrong, tightens up and they straighten out.
No doubt about it, if your parents come and sit in the classroom, or come to meetings and know what
classes you have, your game is gone and you will behave. These children need that. With all of the
systemic racism and that pounds away at us every day, there is nothing that will defeat parenting.
You warn a child. Yes, once the government makes up its mind that powder cocaine will, in fact,
draw the same penalty as crack, we will see the white people enter prison.
However, it's not happening. All right. So why can't we pull our children in and say, “You don't do
that. You're going to get four times the time that the white boy gets.” I'm talking about parenting. I'm
talking about recognizing the anger. A police chief said to me, "Look, you may not have done
anything, but if you're hanging out and you're on the corner when we throw the net down, you go to
jail too."
Now, let's make some sense out of certain things. Let's pay attention to our children. When a girl of
14 says she wants to have a baby because she wants something to love her, we've got to find out
what's happening in her mind. So my call is for more, tighter reins. Know what your children are
doing. You had the kid, you wanted to love it. Don't let the boyfriend run your life.
It was amazing to me to see my friend Stanley Crouch's words come true when he said, "You know,
Bill, when we were growing up, we had criminals, but they didn't know they were criminals." He said,
"And the same thing is still true today." These people will lie and tell you everything. It’s a mix-up.
These children have these mix-ups, and they don't really want to go where they're going, but
nobody's stopping them.
I'm talking about 55% drop out. Who's saying to them, you don't need an education? Who's
showing them that there's no correlation between illiteracy and prison? And ladies and gentlemen,
that call, as far as I'm concerned, is on us, and we've got to do it.
We've got to learn-most of you people are afraid to go up to a child and say something today. If you
-- because you have the feeling the kid may have a gun. Not that you'll get cursed out. So it's very,
very important as far as I'm concerned to call ourselves on it and look in our own mirror. Yes, we
have to fight the systemic racism.
But we need all of our players. We need to draw the lines. I see nothing wrong with the same
picture, only this time in color, of what went on with the marches. Children marched, and I remember
the press blaming Black people for putting their little children on the lines and it wasn't fair. But our
children saw what people were doing, and it made them stronger, I feel. It made them stay in there
So as far as I'm concerned, come at me all you want. Write all the articles you want. It does not
make any difference to me, and the reason is because you're not making any sense. I know a victim
when I see one, and so did Christ and so does God know victims.
And so do you all recognize victims, but some victims you can look at and say "get up." Hey, man
the guy is boxing, he was winning eight rounds, and he sat down after going through the worst round
where he stood and tried to box the man and the man tagged him. And his manager said, "Look, it's
not what he's doing to you, it's what you're not doing."
Understand that his opponent had come to take his title away. Understand that he came to defend
his title. There's a fight going on, and he was winning when he was boxing. But he decided to get
cute, and try to slug, and that's when the man tie out him. He was winning at some point, ladies and
gentlemen. We were winning.
Then somehow, we just sort of felt free or something happened. We've always known about white
people. They didn't just come here yesterday. We knew about Tarzan. Man lived up in a tree,
never came down and said hello to one African nowhere. The monkey was his best man at the
Now, I'm just saying to you, I hear too many people in power positions of African-American coloring
who believe they want changes made, and they're working for it. And when you get in these
trenches with the people, and you listen to them, that's all they need, is somebody to come and touch
them. Someone to say to them, stop it. I'm ready to shut down it.
It's interesting to me that with all of the Christians and with all the talk of Jesus and singing hymns,
that a Muslim with dark sunglasses and a bow tie walked through a whole drug den, people stopped
shooting up. Like a gunfighter.
Strange, isn't it? Where are the Christians? Where is that respect for the Christian? Where did you
go? When did the Christians leave and no longer hit the street, to go get your grandchild? To go
save your child, to take your child away from your daughter who's doing whatever she's doing and to
talk to her about it?
The Lord shall find the way, or make the way, or whatever the way is. But I just find people seem to
be putting stuff in the Lord's way. It's not fair, not fair at all. And so with the people on this panel,
they all have their own answers because of the complexity of the situation, and you're going to do it,
and you're going to work at it.
And you have your numbers, and you'll have your education and you'll see others who are doing it.
But by and large, this still all belongs to you, the foot soldiers. Dr. King is Dr. King, and he could
speak, and he could lead. But by the same token, when you look at the picture of the march on
Washington, there is only one face of Dr. King's.
And so this is what we need, now. Stop it. Transform this neighborhood. You don't see any cocaine
crack houses in the you-know-what neighborhoods. Oh, yes, they do love crack cocaine, but you
know where they deal it? In the parking lot of the supermarket. They have vans.
And in our neighborhoods, they pick the house there and you call the cop and you say there's the
house. And the cop says, “I'll take their names down and he goes away, and then you've got
funerals.” How long is it going to take before you make this transformation? Children skipping
double dutch, dead, and we cry at a child's funeral.
Twenty-six year old is shot by mistake, can it be. Nobody cries. Ladies and gentlemen, this has to
stop. These things are getting clearer and clearer and clearer. The other thing is the disrespect of
the elders. But I'll tell you something, you elders are needed, because you're the people with the
sense. No, I don't advise you to start out a sentence with "In my day . . ."
But I do know that I've heard elders say things that make an awful lot of sense. And it may not work
right away, but later on, it will…
MS. ROCKEYMOORE: …Marian Wright Edelman, what is the current state of federal education
policy, and does the No Child Left Behind Act move the ball down the court?
MS. EDELMAN: Children roaming the streets because there's nobody at home or paying enough
attention. Children going to drug houses that are always open instead of the school houses and
church houses that are often closed. Open up those doors so children have some place to go after
…[T]his is Black adults, and brown adults, and the white adults, and the red adults and folks and
children hearing adults making promises we don’t keep and preaching what we don't practice.
Adults tell children to be honest while lying and cheating. Adults telling children not to be violent
while marketing violence and marketing and glorifying guns and bombs and violence and war and
media. Adults telling children to be healthy while selling them junk food and addicting them to smoke
and drink, and careless sex for profit.
We're what's wrong with our children, so I hope you will, each of us in this place say, Lord, help us to
repent and get our act together in whatever role we have because getting involved is right, and our
children won't do what we tell them to do, they always do what we do. So let's watch what we do.
There are a lot of responsible parents and adults. A lot of parents are trying to work hard, can't afford
childcare, a lot of parents are working and don't have health care and we have got to remember as
adults, families are supposed to protect our children…These are our children, and our black males in
particular are being put on a tightwire before birth. A Black male born in 2001 has a one in three
chance of going to prison at some time during his life, and a Black girl born in 2001, what does that
make her? Three years old? A three year old, four year old has a 1 in 18 chance of going to prison
at some time during her life. This is disastrous, the number of young people under some form of
control in the criminal justice system…
We have…580,000 Black males in prison, but fewer than 40,000 will get a college diploma each
year. Now this is the disaster. It’s the reason our daughters don’t have anybody to marry and can’t
form two-parent families. We know about the disproportionate poverty. We have single-parent
families, but these are the men when they come out, they’ve been convicted. They can’t vote and
they can’t get a job.
You’re talking about the disempowerment of Black communities. You’ve got to stand up …We’ve got
to wake up and we’ve got to fulfill the movement.
And the third thing is we’ve got to give our children a sense of purpose again. And we’ve talked
about that ands a lot of us are doing that. We know how to do right. We know how to do what we’ve
got to do to save our children. And there are some positive examples out there, and our children are
so eager to be engaged.
…And I want all of us to be good role models…who grew up in the same neighborhoods that they
grew up and then went on off to college and are coming back to give them something. And a lot of
those who have had college-aged mentor teachers and black males, and these students are just
eating up this reading-based curriculum, revolutions.
Parents are coming to workshops every week, and we need to give young people a chance to share,
develop, and to reconnect with them. They are hungry for spiritual purpose and the things to do that
are constructive, and I am so proud of these young people. And there are things we ought to do We
have got to do our most to feel the way.
V. Public Health
Dispelling the Diet Dilemma: Obesity, Dieting, & Poverty – A Deadly Combination
Hosted By: Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick
Panelists: Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Phil McGraw, M.D., Arthur Agaston, M.D., Robert
Beale, M.D., Kwame Kilpatrick, Pam Moore, Donna Richardson, Scott Shikora, M.D., Peter
Sikowitz, M.D., Kimberlydawn Wisdom
In this forum, panelist exchanged information about the dilemma of dieting, obesity, and its
relationship to poverty and poor health. The media tools used to convey harmful messages about
eating habits were identified, as well as opportunities to convey functional messages in important
places such as: health care facilities, school cafeterias, and public places that could positively
influence good eating habits. The importance of exercising was reinforced and focused on a
balance between exercise and eating habits. Many of the panelist identified obesity as a major
impediment to good health along with other specific health threats that are specific to obesity.
Recommendations for Action:
Individual Solutions
• Expend as many calories as possible.
• Consume the five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Many people have the
knowledge in their head but they don’t action it.
• Be physically active at least 30 minutes each and every day.
• Promote the state the use of a pedometer, a small device you wear on your belt that
measures the number of steps you take per day. To get that 10,000 steps in per day and be
physically active.
• Pharmaceutical companies should do Lunch and Learn sessions
Employer Based Solutions
• The first is for them to have a free health fair for their employees, let them be assessed, let
them know where they are, their BMI, their blood pressure, their glucose, their cholesterol.
• Let employees form walking clubs. One company added 30 minutes onto their employees’
lunch hour.
• Encourage people to bring a healthy brown bag lunch.
• A smoking cessation program. Encourage your employees to stop smoking.
REP. KILPATRICK: …[O]ur forum today will talk about the dilemma – the dilemma of dieting,
obesity, and its relationship to poverty. We already know that the high cost of insurance and
insurance in our country is in a spiral condition – critical condition. We hope and we always say here
on the hill, if you love your relatives, treat them well. If you have your parents, spend some time with
them. Eat well, exercise, and you’ll have longevity of life.
…Obesity, dieting, and poverty, a deadly combination, as you most know…
You’ll be surprised what we’re doing – I think it’s a national phenomenon now. Everyone’s talking
about diet and exercise and how it can prolong your life
…One of our panelists, Dr. Phil McGraw…wanted to do a personal hello to you guys…
DR. PHIL MCGRAW: …Now look, I believe that all of us have a chance to make better choices. I
so often hear people that are struggling with budgets who say, “I have to eat food that has less
nutritional quality because it’s cheaper.”
Research tells us that’s absolutely not true. Do you need to plan better? Yes. Do you need to avoid
prepared foods…? Absolutely, you do because the cost can be 3 to 400 percent higher than those
foods that you take home and prepare yourself.
I know it takes extra time and I know it’s an extra challenge, but the benefits that pay off of better
nutrition are tremendous. Diabetes is a serious, serious problem. Hypertension, cancer, heart
disease, all of these because you’re not getting the proper nutrition that you need. I believe it is
because we are victims of the marketing machine. Our children are being bombarded with these
messages that equate food with love, food with being accepted, food with being popular, and that
just simply doesn’t work.
They also get bombarded with these quick and easy fixes. Look, there is no magic pill. There is no
quick and easy fix. You can start by changing how you define comradery. You can start by
changing the way you spend time with your family and endeavors.
I grew up in the South and the thing we wanted to do when we all got together, as a family, was have
a big spread. We would eat fried chicken, fried potatoes, and all of the things that simply weren’t in
our best interest…
It is said we can begin exercising issues, where we start needing it. Having a walk through the park
instead of sitting down to a four-hour meal. It’s all about what kind of example, what kind of model,
what kind of values and beliefs you’re putting in terms of a mindset you present to your children.
Remember, you’ve got to begin with right thinking. That’s the number one key because when you
get your thinking right, then you’ll make better choices.
Poverty is oppressive. Many people dedicate themselves to food, so it’s awfully easy to get caught
up in a grim outlook. The lack of hope, the lack of optimism can medicate and comfort yourself with
food. Right thinking doesn’t allow that. By right thinking, you stop and say, look, this isn’t healthy.
It’s not rational. It doesn’t give me the feelings that I want and the help that I want.
I want everybody to think about this. Begin a nutritional choice now that gives you a chance to feed
yourself and your children much more of the healthy foods that we all know how to identify. We just
don’t find them very palatable sometimes and we don’t find them very convenient.
Intentional exercise is critical. You have to make a lifestyle change. You cannot and will not diet
your way to an ideal body weight. If you don’t worry about it, you’re going to come off of the diet.
When you come off of the diet, it’s going cost you because you're going to get -- statistics tell us as
much as 110 percent of your weight back within the first 18 to 24 months if you reach your goal to
begin with.
Social support is very, very important. If you know that you are surrounded by like-minded people,
then it’s so much easier to not feel like you’re having to do this alone. It’s about personal choices, it’s
about self-responsibility, but you can support one another. No question about it.
…We need a call to arms. A call to arms must begin by dispelling the myths. You don’t have to love
each other with food when you get together. You don’t have to eat non-nutritional food because it’s
more expensive. You can’t diet your way, and you don’t want to waste money on quick fix remedies
for your obesity.
It’s said, “Make a lifestyle change.” We need a call to arms that says we’re going to get up, we’re
going to start exercising, we’re going to make good choices, nutritionally…This is a choice, and we
can behave our way out of this. It is an honor to me to be able to be even a small part of this call to
arms on this most important challenge…
REP. KILPATRICK: …Our first presenter is…Dr. Arthur Agatson…
DR. AGASTON: …I believe strongly that the great majority of heart attacks and strokes in the
country and the invasive procedures, such as bypass surgery, are absolutely preventable. We can
have a huge impact on the cost of healthcare, both the human cost and economic cost.
It’s with a change in priorities and incentives for physicians. There really are no incentives now to
practice prevention, but intervention. We have methods of early diagnosis. I was not President
Clinton’s personal physician. He’s been on the diet for almost a year, lost 35 pounds. His lipids were
so good, apparently, that they stopped his statin drugs, which can cause a problem in itself. I
understand his symptoms did start a long time ago. I wish he had started the diet five years ago and
his exercise program.
When you have that aggressive Arterial Sclerosis, as was found on his angiogram, it takes many,
many years to develop it. We do have new technologies that can identify the plaque building up in
the vessel wall before it causes symptoms or before it causes an abnormal stress test. He had many
normal stress tests as president. But, had he had advanced blood testing and this new technology
now available, the bypass, I think, could well have been prevented.
…The consensus was around several principles. That we should be consuming more of the good
fats. Those are the Mediterranean oils like olive oil, canola oil, the oils found in nuts. We should be
avoiding saturated fat and particularly, the trans fats. Those are the hydrogenated oils. They’re
found in all the baked goods. If you’ve had donuts on your shelf for a few months, and they still taste
good, it’s because of the trans fats that are good for shelf-life, but they’re bad for our blood vessels
and our waistlines.
We also agreed on the importance of the good carbohydrates, the vegetables, the whole fruits,
whole grains. That we should be having more fiber and lean sources of protein.
Now, it’s interesting that these principles that I’ve described were really the way that man evolved
eating as hunter-gatherers over two million years. What they gathered was vegetables and whole
fruits. What they hunted was game meat, which is the lean meat, not the type of corn-fed cattle that
creates the fatty meat with a lot of saturated fat. These were lean meats that actually had quite a bit
of good fats, omega-3 fats in them.
…The other thing we can learn from the hunter-gatherers: it took a lot of exercise to hunt and to
gather. The exercise – regular exercise, certainly, is important. The types of carbohydrates they ate
gave a slow infusion of energy. So, when you had a meal, you weren’t hungry again for several
What happened in this country? Well, in response to population studies that were done after World
War II, Dr. Anthlakeys found that in a lot of the underdeveloped world, it was low fat and high carb.,
there was no heart attack, stroke, or obesity. It was decided that this is the way we should eat.
What we ended up doing was an unintended experiment. Because what the food industry produced,
and they were just following the guidelines they had, was all the processed white carbohydrates.
The white bread, white rice, all the white baked goods. The difference in those carbohydrates
compared to the ones that we were meant to eat, is that they are very rapidly digested. They shoot
our blood sugar up, shoot our blood sugar down, and we’re hungry again, instead of at the next
mealtime, we’re hungry in an hour or two and we’re eating again.
So, Americans, because of the type of carbohydrates that we’re consuming – we thought, at that
time, that all carbohydrates were the same. We didn’t understand the concept of fiber, which slows
digestion and what we call glycemic index. The good carbohydrates are digested slowly, so you’re
not hungry again. The bad ones are digested quickly and you’re hungry again soon after you eat.
…[W]e emphasize exactly those principles: the good carbs., the good fats, lean sources of protein,
plenty of fiber. This is particularly important in kids. We’re doing a study now of nutrition intervention
in schools. A mixed socioeconomic group of kids, trying to improve what they eat, because when
you’re eating the starches with these big swings in blood sugar, it causes, not only obesity and
diabetes, but it causes what we call Attention Deficit Syndrome.
Particularly in the inner city, where the main source of calories is starch, sometimes we’re overfed,
but we're undernourished. I think it’s a cause, not only obesity and diabetes, but behavior and
academic performance problems in schools, in general, and particularly in the inner city.
REP. KILPATRICK: …[W]e have an expert here, a bariatric doctor, Dr. Beale…
DR. BEALE: …What I’ve found is several things. First of all, in dealing with this problem, I’m going
to assume that this group of people are people who want to go back to their community and carry an
idea or some ideas that can help the people in their community fight this problem. I’m not going to
assume that I have people here who have no idea that being overweight is dangerous. So, we’re not
going to spend a lot of time talking about – I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about how
dangerous being overweight is. I want to spend more time talking about what you can do about the
problem at this time.
The – and the thing that I’m going to separate it also, further into adults. I’m not going to talk too
much about children because, as far as I know, there are not a lot of real good ideas about what you
can do for treating overweight children. There are a lot of programs with different varying degrees of
success. I don’t have that, so I’m not going to talk about that.
But, we have adults, overweight adults. They can be broken down, basically, into two groups: those
people who know that being overweight is dangerous, and those people who don’t. Those people
who do know that being overweight is dangerous, we can put them in a plan, we can open up a plan
or program for these people using certain modalities that we’ll talk about. Those that don’t know that
it’s dangerous have to be taught, and that’s where the educational aspect comes in.
So, if we start with the educational aspect, I think that in the inner city, that we have to start with the
schools. We should be giving information to the school children.
…So, we would want to go back to our communities with information, with leaflets, with fliers, with
things that you’re going to give the elementary children even the first or second day of school that
they’re going to take back to their parents to talk about healthy eating for the year.
You want to get into the classroom. You want to get into the lunchroom. You want to get healthier
foods in the lunchroom. There was a big debate whether or not soft-drink machines and fast food
should be taken out of the schools and that the school kids should not be able to take their money
and go and buy a soda in the middle of the day…Again, these are issues that you would want to
carry back to your community.
In my practice, when I see people that are overweight, I usually break these people down into about
three different groups depending on the size that they are. I deal primarily with overweight ladies,
although overweight men come to me, too.
I think I should add that, at this point, maybe 70% of my practice is Black, and the 30% are the rest of
the people, and Washington is an international city, and one of my offices is located right up here
between the White House and the World Ban…We have people from all over the world, so I’ve been
able to compare how those people respond to different types of diets other programs as to the black
people. I have a lot of black people in my family. I’ve been able to see what they do and what they
eat, so we can relate more to that than we can to the others.
…[M]y plan, we have lists of things that you can eat that will lose you the weight. Simple as that. I
say there are two ways to eat. First, you have to eat to lose. Secondly, you eat to maintain. It
doesn’t do any good to talk about maintaining your weight if you’re 30 or 40 pounds overweight. So,
when you have 30 or 40 pound overweight people in your community that you want to deal with, they
have to have a plan for losing that weight first, and then a plan for maintaining that weight.
We’ve found that healthy eating usually does not help get an overweight Black woman to a healthy
weight. If you’re 40 pounds overweight and you eat everything that you’re supposed to eat, you stay
40 pounds overweight. You don’t go up to 50, but you also don’t get down to anywhere near your
normal weight.
So, you have to have a weight-losing plan. These plans vary depending on the individual, so I can’t
give you a general plan that every overweight person should follow. I do have a book that kind of
breaks it down into different groups of people, but that’s the whole idea, a plan for losing the weight.
Once you’ve lost the weight, then you can maintain it. We’ve found that exercise is very, very good,
but it doesn’t lose you a lot of weight. A lot of my patients come to me and say I’ve been following
my diet, I’ve been doing everything right, I’m eating well, I’m eating healthy, I’m eating grains, I’m
going to exercise, and I’m still 40 pounds overweight. What’s wrong with me?
It usually doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with you. What it means is as Black women, you’ve
inherited a body that is genetically designed to do a lot of heavy work on a little bit of food. Most of
us are here because our great-great-grandparents could work all day in somebody’s field or
somebody’s factory, eat very little, no prenatal care, work up until at least eight months pregnant, and
at least have at least one child that lived.
So, really, end result of all of these people, so naturally, if we take a body that’s designed to work in a
factory 12 hours a day and go to a spa one hour a day, that body’s not going to go away, especially if
you eat correctly. So, I have a list of foods that you can eat, and you eat these foods, you lose the
weight. After you’ve lost the weight, then you talk about healthy eating for the rest of your life to
maintain the weight. That’s it in a nutshell.
MS. RICHARDSON: I am promoting healthy eating, but I’m also promoting physical activity,
because we have to combat obesity. We have a health crisis, and we need to be proactive, and we
need to practice some prevention.
…It’s important for us to practice moving. We can talk about it, but we do need to get up and move
our bodies…
I am sick and tired because a lot of these illnesses are prevented. We have to practice prevention.
When I think of my family, my dad – my dad used to be obese…Then there’s my mother who
became overweight and had a lot of health problems. She became healthier because she wanted to
share that with her church. So, we started a health and fitness ministry called Sweating with the
Spirit. Word got out about the program, we started traveling, and we’ve been traveling for the last
two years going to churches and communities to really help people to honor and take the best care
of their temple.
The program is about faith. It’s about fitness. It’s about fellowship. It has to be fun because if you
don’t enjoy it, you won’t continue to do it…
…I want that program to continue so that we can challenge the churches and challenge the
communities to take control over our health. We have to break through to those strongholds for our
health. We can do that and I believe we can do it together…
MR. SIKOWITZ: …I’ve heard this time and time again from city leaders and the first step, obviously
to correcting the situation is to acknowledge the problem, and I laud the mayor for that and all the
mayors who worked so hard to get off that Men’s Fitness list.
I was asked to talk a little bit about the story and how we assemble the information. What makes a
fat city? We have, basically – we divide a city into 14 categories and it’s a very broad look at a city.
It’s everything from the number of health clubs that the city has. We look at commute times. We
look at how much television people in the city spend. You factor it all in. How many health clubs are
available? What types of recreational facilities are available? We take these 14 points and we throw
it in the blender and we blend it out – food, too, the accessibility of fresh vegetables, how many fast
food outlets are in a town, and we shake it out and that comes out our rating…
DR. TRAGER: …I had run a couple of marathons…I was exercising more and I was eating less and
I wasn’t getting any thinner. I’d show up at these races and I’d notice that lots of other people
weren’t real thin. But, they were training a lot. It occurred to me that there had to be another way
around it.
At that point, I tried the Atkins approach. I read the book, just like so many people, and like tens of
millions of people around the world, found that, hey, this works. But, as a physician, as a surgeon, I
was all about science and health and wanted to understand a little bit more about how this was
I had learned in medical school like everybody else all the stories about why you couldn’t do it this
way. But, I had lived through it and saw that you could. For me that was very powerful. So, I went
to New York, I met with Dr. Atkins, I learned about the science, and I started reading more and more
about it and learning more and more about it.
What I learned about was a nutritional strategy that had truly been forged in a furnace of skepticism.
Remember, mainstream medical community wasn’t very fond of this approach for 30 years…
…But, because in science and in medicine, we know that anecdotes, individual accounts, don’t mean
very much. It has to be about science. The Atkins approach then was tested. Besides withstanding
this furnace of skepticism, there have been 30 different clinical studies that have looked at it over the
past three years alone.
What amazed me, was that each study, more and more information came out to show that perhaps it
wasn’t that I was at fault, but the message that I was following was, in part, at fault. In other words,
perhaps one size fits all doesn’t work when it comes to nutritional advice. Perhaps, when people
aren’t successful, it’s not that they’re not trying hard enough, but what they’re trying to do isn’t the
right thing.
…The Atkins approach is truly an option that for me, allowed my body, and has allowed other
people, to work with them, rather than against them. We’ve learned that carbohydrates aren’t
necessarily all good. Some are, some aren’t. The Atkins approach was an option for me, and it’s
been for tens of millions of people, to help make smarter choices, to choose the right carbohydrates.
An important lesson Dr. Phil alluded to, and I think everyone in the room would probably agree, and
for myself, as the medical director of the Atkins Nutritional Company, a group that’s helped millions
and millions of people lose weight, I can say, diets don’t work. Lifestyle changes work. What people
who are successful doing Atkins know is that it’s not a diet. It’s a lifestyle change. It’s about learning
to make smarter choices, to choose the right carbohydrates, to eat in a way that you can adopt.
…The message that keeps coming across is that to be successful, the recommendations number
one, must be embraceable. They must be recommendations people can embrace. They have to be
able to take them home.
Number two, they have to work. They have to be founded in science and scientifically validated.
Number three, they have to involve lifestyle changes. It can’t be enough to just go on a diet, to just
change the way you eat for a short period of time. The solution has to be something that you can
learn to make smarter choices.
…In addition to being involved and helping people make smarter nutritional choices, my background
is one of being a surgeon. In surgery, it’s all about results. You don’t sit and talk to patients about
hypothetical situations or about things that might or might not happen, or about research about how
they might be able to get results. It’s all about giving people options that will produce results.
That’s what we need. We need, if we’re going to turn around this epidemic that, right now, is costing
us 400,000 lives and over 117 billion dollars, and is on pace to outstrip tobacco as the leading cause
of preventable death in this country. We’ve got to start finding solutions and offering them to people.
We’ve got to stop looking at this from the outside or from the bleachers or the grandstands and
coming up with hypothetical answers.
We’ve got to look at what works for real people in the real world with real appetites and give people
solutions. Then help them get the information to make the smartest choices, and to give them
support so they can truly make a difference.
We used to think about dieting about losing weight as a cosmetic issue. It’s not. It’s a public health
issue. We, as the enlightened, as the stewards of this new movement and new awareness, need to
carry this message out. We can do this. This is right now, the world is focused on fighting obesity.
Working together, I believe government, people, healthcare providers can all work together to find
real solutions.
Healthcare providers have to listen to everyone else. It’s not a one-sided thing. Doctors can’t do
that. We tried it with the low fat movement and it failed. Just sort of coming up with something that
looks good on paper and prescribing it to people and they can’t follow it, doesn’t work.
We’ve got to hear what people say…It’s not about doing without, it’s about doing with different.
That’s empowering, but we have to work together. We have to give people options. We have to
recognize that it doesn’t come in one size fits all.
DR. WISDOM: …My background, prior to my appointment, was as an emergency medicine
physician. After practicing for a couple of years, it became very apparent to me that prevention was
absolutely key. So, I thought I needed to devise programs in the community that would focus very
specifically on prevention efforts.
I saw time and time again the effects of obesity and dieting and poverty and knew that there were
ways that we could reach out to the communities to improve those outcomes. I had the opportunity
to see first-hand heart attack after heart attack…As the emergency medicine physician, I would
diagnose a heart attack and try and snatch them from the jaws of death, realizing that many of those
heart attacks were entirely preventable.
…So, I started designing programs in the community. One of which was AIM HI. That acronym
stands for African-American Initiative for Male Health Improvement. That’s where I was able to reach
out into the communities and not wait for them to come into the emergency department to see me,
but to reach out and go into the community and find individuals and screen them for diabetes,
hypertension, stroke-risk, as well as eye disease.
As I was out there in the community, screening individuals, targeting the African-American male,
however, inviting all comers, independent of race or ethnicity to come to these clinics,
Congresswoman Kilpatrick and I were out in the sweltering heat one day and she said, “I appreciate
what you’re doing and I want to know how to support you.”
…It’s because of that involvement in the community that the governor actually appointed me to this
position as Surgeon General, feeling that if I could obtain support in those ways, then perhaps I can
begin to address many of the serious issues that we face in Michigan.
…[I]n the state of Michigan, we are known as having one of the most overweight and obese states in
the country. Sixty-two percent of our adult population is either overweight or obese and that has
been a trend over the last 10 years. That is nothing new.
But, what’s even more alarming is, we’re seeing our children. Our youth between the ages of six and
19, 15% of them are overweight and another 15% are at risk for being overweight. So, what does
that mean? That means that we may be seeing the first generation of children that may not outlive
their parents.
The first generation of children that may not outlive their parents, because we’re seeing diseases
such as Type 2 Diabetes, which we – when I was training 10 years ago, we used to call that Adult
Onset Diabetes because that didn’t occur until we saw people in their 30s and 40s. Now we’re
seeing that same disease in our adolescents, in our five and six year olds, which means they’re at
risk for developing very, very serious complications of blindness and kidney failure and lower
extremity amputations and heart disease and stroke. Very, very serious. But, we know that it’s
important now that we must invest in prevention.
But…what we need to look at are the underlying factors that contribute to those diseases and really
go back to basics and address those underlying factors, which is our poor eating behaviors, our not
exercising the recommended number of minutes per day, and also smoking…
We know that about two thirds of our chronic conditions are due to our unhealthy lifestyles and also
about 75% of our healthcare costs are due to those unhealthy lifestyles. So, if we address those
ecologic factors, then we can certainly move forward in terms of improving our health.
Now, many people say…Who’s to blame for this? Is it people? Is it industry? Who’s to blame? I
said, there are many contributing factors. Yes, people need to make choices, but there’s also the
environment, there’s also policy.
So, rather than looking at who’s to blame, let’s look at who can come to the table to help address
these issues. It will take the individual level. It will take the community level and it will take changing
our built environment, as well.
When we talk about costs in terms of obesity, we know that it costs about three billion dollars a year
in Michigan, terms of obesity and 117 billion with a ‘b’ dollars a year in terms of obesity. But, we
know in Michigan we did a study, and it showed in that in 2002, it cost 8.9 billion dollars in terms of
physical inactivity in our state.
So, what are some of the recommendations? At the individual level, look at expending as many
calories as you consume because it is an energy balance. Also to look at consuming the five
servings of fruits and vegetables per day that many – and intending to consume those. Many people
have the knowledge in their head but they don’t plan to consume that number of fruits and
vegetables per day.
The major role that parents play in modeling for their children. We know that we see many abnormal
behaviors in children because parents are not necessarily modeling appropriate behavior and are
using food as a reward or lack of food as a punishment. So, talk about the individual family, from an
environmental perspective, we need to understand the importance of being physically active at least
30 minutes each and every day. I’ve been promoting across the state the use of a pedometer, a
small device you wear on your belt that measures the number of steps you take per day. To get that
10,000 steps in per day and be physically active. Also, to have support of family around you also.
At the community level, to understand that prevention – that these efforts are everyone’s business.
It’s the business of the individual, our schools, our healthcare entities, whether it’s insurers or
providers. Faith-based organizations of our communities and of our businesses. So, prevention is
everybody’s business….
MAYOR KILPATRICK: …I think it all does start with the mayor. Whoever the mayor is, when your
city is deemed the fattest city, you can either get mad or you can start to organize and do something
about it. We chose the latter. We chose to start to organize in our community because, for us, it
wasn’t an issue of being obese or being fat only. It was an issue of being a healthy community,
being well, and being known around the world for being a good place to be and having a good quality
of life.
…So, there’s a large collaborative has come together. We’ve had some large things. We started
with our employees in city government because healthier people are more productive employees
and more productive employees can produce that city that we all want.
So, we had a big health screening…[b]ecause then, particularly the African-American community, we
don’t know how we’re doing most of the time until we fall down or faint or have to go to the hospital
and they tell you all the bad news at once.
…[W]e want to make sure that the community…is involved, also, in the health screenings, the health
exams, the health tests, the blood tests and the shots, immunizations, the whole thing…
MS. MOORE: …As the mayor said, this gave us an opportunity to take a look at what our real stats
looked like because the Men’s Fitness Magazine – that survey was not really a scientific survey, but
it gave us an opportunity to look at what the city of Detroit really looks like health-wise. What we
found is that about 35 percent of our citizens are overweight and another 30 or so percent are obese.
So, the mayor said we’ve got to do something about this.
…We asked ourselves some questions after the survey came out. Where are we now? Where do
we want to be? How do we get there? And, why is it important? That’s when we took a look at the
health stats for the city of Detroit. Lord knows that we’re not the only fat city. We are fat all across
this country.
…Our goal is to motivate and inform citizens of Detroit about health and wellness and to promote
sustained healthy lifestyle changes, not diets, not fads - not any fads, not any quick solutions, but
lifestyle changes.
…But, one of the first things we did, as the mayor mentioned, is that we brought some folks to the
table that we knew we wanted to work with. Three of them being the Detroit Medical Center, Saint
John, and Henry Ford Health Systems. We also sat down our city of Detroit healthcare providers
and we had a conversation with them and they gave us some valuable information about what our
challenges would be.
One thing the providers told us is that anytime an employer gives a health screening, employees are
very suspicious because they think that data is going to be used against them. So, we tried to be
clear about HIPPA laws when we gave that first health screening and, as you can see, many other
people did eventually get on board with us, the Weight Watchers.
…It’s not the fact that people don’t have the information, it’s teaching people how to fit these things
into their very busy lifestyles. If you don’t have time to put in a Richard Simmons tape when you get
home because the kids are hungry and you’ve got to make food, maybe we can help you while
you’re at work. So, the focus so far has been work-site wellness, but, of course, some of these
things are trickling out into the community, as well.
The third quarter, we’re going to focus on diet and nutrition because that’s going to take us into the
holidays and you know how we act around the holidays…
Then the last focus is going to be sleep and stress management. When the hospitals came to the
table, they were so pleased that we are focusing on sleep, because sleep is not that we tend to look
at, and lack of sleep effects many of our other functions.
…What’s important on this screen is the last bullet point: Long term funding. We realize that you
can’t make a lifestyle change in 12 months…
Tracking and monitoring. It’s pretty hard to measure your success with an initiative like this, but
we’re going to look at absenteeism over the year, at the end of the Movement for Life period, see
how many attended our health fairs, see how many website hits we got, see how much participation
we got in the community, and see if we were successful at all. But, I’ll tell you, if Movement for Life
touches one person, we have been successful and I’ve heard some success stories.
…We gathered up a group of CEOs, had a nice breakfast for them, and told them all about
Movement for Life. But, what we talked about was lost productivity time and how that equates into
dollars. That is when a person shows up…to work and they’re sick, not feeling well. That affects
your bottom line because their productivity is not going to be a hundred percent.
So, that got their attention. We talked with them more about Movement for Life and told them about
the four little fun challenges that the mayor has issued. The first is for them to have a free health fair
for their employees, let them be assessed, let them know where they are, their BMI, their blood
pressure, their glucose, their cholesterol.
Secondly, let your employees form walking clubs. We had one organization that has partnered with
us. They added 30 minutes onto their employees’ lunch hour. Now everybody’s not going to do that
because that certainly affects your bottom line, but I thought that was a wonderful, wonderful
incentive, adding 30 minutes to their lunch hour so they could walk after lunch.
The third challenge is the brown bag lunch. Encourage people to bring a healthy brown bag lunch.
Not macaroni and cheese and pound cake…but a healthy brown bag lunch, and include three fruits
or vegetables in your brown bag lunch.
The last one, the smoking cessation program. Encourage your employees to stop smoking...
MS. NEWKIRK: …My question is directed to Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom …Did you ever think of a
possibility of an insurance program through the state, in conjunction with other private entities, to
have a policy so that people can partake of fitness programs at fitness centers where you have to
pay and what have you, because people want to benefit from that? Have you ever thought about
MS. WISDOM: Yes. Yes, I have thought about that. And, in the Prescription for a Healthier
Michigan, which is actually available online at, Michigan spelled out, and look
under forward slash MDCH for Michigan Department of Community Health.
Actually, in the call to action, as I mentioned, there are five stakeholder groups that I’ve called to
action: the schools and educators, the business community, the healthcare community, the faithbased community, and our community at large, including our policymakers. For the business
community, I certainly have talked about incentives offered, but also, for insurers. Recently in the
city of Detroit, one of our major insurers, Health Alliance Plan, is offering for their half million
members – they’re offering reduced fees at fitness centers as an incentive to get their members
more physically active and engaged in a fitness club. So, actually, I have thought about it and am
working to promote that….
MR. WATTS: …Something that wasn’t mentioned that much today, though, is once you get people
to want to change their lifestyle, isn’t there also an access issue?
…There’s a perception out there – I know people would debate about it – about whether or not a
poor family feels more like it’s easier to go buy Extra Value Meals for their kids, as opposed to
shopping at Whole Foods or going out and getting fresh fruits, vegetables and having the right kind
of diet.
…My question to you is that I know that there’s been legislation proposed…which would give funding
to community organizations that help out in this Herculean task of education. Where are we in that?
What can those of us in this room do to help out in that regard?
REP. KILPATRICK: Excellent question and access and availability is everything. Sometimes you
don’t need an edifice to do some of this, but you certainly need a resources and other people coming
together to get it done…
…We haven’t gotten into politics today, but that really encompasses everything that we’re about now.
America is in trouble. The way the resources – I mentioned the budget to you just earlier in this
session. As a member of that committee that handles the money, we’re 63 of 435, and I mentioned
it’s a two trillion dollar budget.
After you take out the entitlements, 800 billion is what we give out. We just passed a 420 billion
dollar defense budget, the biggest in the history of our country, which means everything else has to
fit into that 300 billion dollars.
So, first we have to change the leadership of the country, first of all. Then, I think local communities
in their own communities – you’re a leader in yours, they’re all leaders in theirs. We’ve got to come
together and put our resources together. Not just look to the federal government, but some of those
partners, private, public, other kinds of resources. We can get it done. I think we have to start, just
as the people here have mentioned, individually and then collectively to get it done….
MS. BILAL: …I would like to see, as far as like the partners that Mayor Kilpatrick is using for his
healthy initiative in Detroit, to see some of the grocery stores actually commit to coming into our
communities so that our people have access to fresh food, unprepared foods that they can take
home and use, more farmers markets near our minority communities.
These are the things that make the difference. That’s what our organization works with, making sure
that these resources are there, not just in communities that people associate with higher access,
upscale, or more opportunity, but we can have farmers markets. We have Black farmers, so we can
have farmers markets in Black neighborhoods. This is just something that either you can take back
to your congressional peers or just for everybody in this room. Look for those resources in your
community. So, that speaks more to why you might see obese people and then see a high number
of people accessing federal food programs in your community and you don’t see the correlation. It’s
that they’re not getting access to the food they need.
DR. AGASTON: I couldn’t agree more. It’s really the concept of overfed, undernourished and that’s
what the inner city is, and getting good food. We have a not-for-profit organization and we’re starting
a study in Orlando to give school children better foods because I think that’s where we have to start.
As I said before, it’s not only obesity and diabetes, it’s behavior and academic performance and
everything else and we have to get better food into the inner city….
MS. JACKSON: …My neighbor recently lost 30 pounds on the South Beach Diet and when I asked
her about exercise, she said she’d been using an exercise hula hoop. Can you tell me about that?
MS. RICHARDSON: I’m not sure which exercise hula hoop, but there is a heavy hula hoop that has
a weight in it and yes, you can do the traditional hula hooping with it, but it also becomes a weight.
So, you do weight resistance exercises with it and you can use it as a tool when you’re doing aerobic
activity. That is a very popular exercise that a lot of clubs now have introduced this program to their
…I think variety is the key. Aside from my tape, you should do a variety of exercises, because the
bottom line is you may get bored with doing the same thing and your body continues to need a
challenge because you may hit a plateau and you’ve got to change up your activities. So, whether
it’s doing a step class or doing Pilates or yoga, variety is the slice of life.
MS. ARMSTRONG: …The USDA has now developed a new food pyramid and I know the results
personally of having lost 55 pounds on Atkins that it works…So, knowing that it works, how, or did
either one of your organizations participate in developing the new food pyramid and will it focus more
on lean meats and proteins because we know those are working?
DR. TRAGER: I think we’ve tried as hard as we could, as well as others, to contribute and to guide
and to offer our experience. Again, this is 30 years of clinical experience, tens of millions of people.
I, personally, met with many of the interested parties and have testified at two of the hearings.
I think the new recommendations that are coming out are going to be a movement towards
carbohydrate awareness. Some of the language that we’re hearing now is that people should
choose carbohydrates wisely. We also know that industry has played some unfortunate roles in
terms of fighting some of the language changes, and so most people agree that the language
should be more strict in regard to sugar, for instance, and it looks as though the new
recommendations aren’t going to hit that one hard enough.
One of the problems with the guidelines are that they’re made for normal weight people and that they
don’t give guidance for people losing weight or who need to lose weight. The challenges are that, in
terms of recommending what foods people should eat, we really have to go beyond individual foods
and talk about, again, this lifestyle issue and nutritional approaches that are sort of more farreaching, giving people guidance in terms of how to do it, and the guidance has to be things that they
can accept.
I think the new pyramid is going to make a bigger differentiation between the different kinds of
carbohydrates. I think we’re all in favor of that. I think it’s going to come far short of recommending
an individual nutritional strategy like Atkins, but I think we’ve done part one of this learning curve, of
educating people, that there are different size approaches for different people and that it doesn’t
come in one size fits all.
think over-simplifying the pyramid so that it has broad enough appeal will preclude some of the
individual home runs that different people can get out of it, like yourself, like I’ve lost with Atkins, like
tens of others millions of people have. I think that, though, what we can look for is guidelines that are
more permissive, that are more open-armed, and that hopefully don’t preclude or rule out different,
very effective strategies.
I think we’re moving in that direction. We’re only out of the learning curve. I think it will be what the
next set of guidelines in five years shows that’ll really reflect the tens of millions of people that have
been helped by Atkins.
DR. AGASTON: Yes. I testified in Congress about the food pyramid and I think they’re going in the
right direction. As I mentioned before, the good news, instead of all the mixed messages, low fat,
low carb., there really is a consensus. Good fats, good carbs, lean source of protein, plenty of fiber.
And, one of the big components as far as access availability it’s - it’s people who love to cook do
great on the diets. There’s great variety. What we really need is the response of food industry and
They are responding. I believe that just as they responded with all the low fat foods, which turned
out to be the wrong thing. I don’t blame the food companies. They were given a lot of wrong
messages because the science just wasn’t there. I’m rather optimistic because there is, now, one
message coming from experts and I see the food industry and restaurants responding with better
and better choices.
DR. JOHNSON: …[M]y comment that I would like you to respond to is that need for public health to
connect better with the business community and promote and educate folks about that bottom line,
that private sector and what the ultimate and long-term lasting impact may, in fact, be on health.
DR. WISDOM: Yes. The business community is absolutely key in moving that public health agenda
or the prevention agenda forward. They are one of the five stakeholder groups that I did mention,
and we do understand that our physical health does impact significantly – our physical health and our
economy and so forth and so on. So, that is key.
Oftentimes, we’ve been nontraditional partners. So, we are working on raising awareness in the
business community how, with numbers, to show, and, even in the prescription I outline for the
business community specifically, price tags as far as how much this is costing their business,
whether it’s in their bottom line, whether it’s in absenteeism, whether it’s presenteeism, as was
referred to earlier that this does impact their bottom line and they do need to identify ways to work
together and collaborate with the public health system in order to build their business – grow their
business bottom line.
We know some businesses, 50 percent of their profits go to healthcare costs and healthcare
premiums. We know that people that are more overweight, obese people cost, in terms of
healthcare costs about $1500 more per year.
So, as the evidence is mounting, the businesses are beginning to come on board...
DR. CLARK: …A couple of things I want to say. One is that – the other thing I want to say is I was
very impressed with the Detroit project because you are looking at sleep and stress. How many
people do you know who eat when they’re stressed, who eat because they’re depressed, who eat
when things just aren’t going well and they just have to have something that’s high calorie, high fat,
high in sugar to make them feel better? So, I think looking at stress is crucial in this situation.
The other thing I want to say is, I think we have to be very clear that our messages are appropriate.
When we talk about the good fast, let’s not have people think that they can eat two pounds of
peanuts and that’s a good thing because peanuts have good fat.
I think it’s important also for people to understand what we’re talking about when we’re talking about
carbohydrates. If we talk about reducing sugar and we talk about reducing refined carbohydrates,
but they need to understand we’re not talking about reducing complex carbohydrates including fiber.
MR. SIKOWITZ: …You keep hearing the same message over and over again about portion control,
two-pronged approach in terms of fitness and exercise and also what goes in, what goes out.
Obviously, you have to strike that balance of burning off what’s come in.
But, it’s also a very…very big problem, obviously, and it’s a very complex problem from a
socioeconomic point of view, behavioral, and genetic.
Just a couple of points I want to make that we still have a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of
time. I think there are two things. The one thing I want to address is I think it’s very important in
changing behavioral patterns, to think beyond yourself.
Obviously, it’s very important for individuals to make changes, but those changes that individuals
make for children or spouses or partners or parents. You’re never too old or too young to learn good
habits, to learn more about fitness or more about healthy eating. When it’s done – someone having
made the point before, when it’s done from love, I think it’s a very important point.
The second thing about choosing activities and at Men’s Fitness, this comes up quite a bit. We
always sort of make a joke about a lot of times, be careful what you give someone for the holidays
because it might end up on the front lawn in a tag sale in April. What I mean by that is, if it’s not
something that you think you’re going to like or if it’s not something that you’ve done, if somebody
gives you a rowing machine and you say, well, that looks interesting, but I’ve never felt like rowing in
my life, that’s important.
Find the activities that you enjoy doing. If you remember a moment of freedom when you were a kid
when you had a bike for the first time or if you love to run or if you love to swim, think about that.
Remember those things that you loved doing. You will probably love them again.
DR. TRAGER: …I think just as we see how difficult it is to think outside of the box and explore
private public partnerships and different initiatives; we have to remember that we have 30 years of
nutritional strategy that hasn’t worked. The same message for three decades has resulted in
skyrocketing numbers of childhood and adult diabetes, adult and childhood and adolescent obesity
and overweight.
We have to start embracing emerging science and we have to start looking further at thinking outside
the box and recognizing that science has changed, that people need the best that science can offer,
and they need the opportunity to change their lifestyles, using and implementing all of these different
As people at the front lines, as healthcare providers, as government officials and concerned citizens,
we have to set the example and the example should be diets don’t work, lifestyle changes do work.
Science is emerging and we have to be willing to accept proven, validated approaches that can
make a difference.
If we give people tools that work, people can accept those tools and use them to build very strong,
strong and important changes. We’ve got to recognize that 30 more years of failed policy, when it
comes to nutrition, shouldn’t be accepted to automatically change where we’re going. It’s got to be a
matter of embracing new thinking, taking risks when it comes to putting into place programs that
involve partnerships between private and public organizations and it means changing the way we
think about responsibility when it comes to getting healthier.
This is a true public health epidemic and it’s going to take a big solution and big changes to make a
DR. WISDOM: Just as 40 years ago when the U.S. Surgeon General put the warning on the
cigarette packages about the hazards of tobacco, I think we need to create that same sort of social
movement in terms of physical activity and promoting healthy lifestyles. We know that to create that
movement, it’s going to entail, not only knowledge, but also strategies, and also will and political will.
In many instances we hear, “We have enough knowledge. Everyone knows.” I still think there’s
plenty of room to learn more. For instance, understanding how to read labels. Many people don’t
know what they’re consuming. If you don’t know what you’re consuming, you can’t make the
adjustments that you need and people with diabetes typically, we teach them to know what you’re
So, we certainly need to expand our knowledge base. Even in terms of walking, it’s a very simple
activity but yet there can be tremendous health benefits with walking, simple walking of 30 minutes
per day. People don’t understand the value of that. They think that they have to jog, they have to be
part of a spa, they have to pay a personal trainer and not to say that personal trainers don’t have a
tremendous value, but we can get up and walk and get moving in that way.
I think strategies, we know through the literature, through science that there are effective strategies.
We know for diabetes, we can prevent Type 2 Diabetes by exercise and moderate weight loss. So,
there are plenty of strategies that we know.
Thirdly, it’s political will and it’s making a decision, whether it’s at the individual level or whether it’s
within your communities and dealing with fresh fruits and vegetables or vending machines or
physical activity in schools. There needs to be the will. That means those of you in this room need
to make a decision that I’m going to go back to my community and do something. We can sit here
and talk a lot, but we need to act and the call to action is extremely important.
Einstein said, the level of thinking that we were at when many of these problems were created, we
actually need to change the level of thinking that we’re at now if we’re really going to impact and
make a difference.
So, I challenge each and every one of you to leave this session saying, “I’m going to do something
different,” whether it’s at the individual level or at the community level to make a difference in the
state of Michigan as well as across the country.
DR. BEALE: …When you go back to your community, you have to find somebody in your
community who can help you and everybody else in the community lose the weight that they have.
That person should be your physician or somebody under the direction of your physician. Most of us
have personal physicians that we know and that we trust.
If you talk to your physician about the fact that obesity is a problem in your life and a problem in the
lives of your friends and your neighbors and ask them to help start a program where they will help
people in the neighborhood lose weight.
…In order to get the weight off of people with a significant amount of weight at this time, they need to
see a weight loss specialist, a physician who can give them the appropriate guidelines, who can
monitor their hypertension, their diabetes, change their medications, change their heart medicines,
change their statins, and make all the necessary adjustments as they lose weight.
It is not always safe to go out here and try to lose a lot of weight, especially if you have other
concomitant problems that you’re being treated for. Your physician usually has you on medications
that are suitable for what you are at this time. If you lose 30 pounds and don’t tell anybody, your
medicine may tend to be inappropriate for where you are at that time.
DR. AGASTON: …I certainly think that the approach has to be multi-factorial from both public as
well as private sector and I’m so impressed with what Detroit is doing…But, as far as public policy
and bang for the buck, I would recommend, number one, going after elementary schools, starting
there with good nutrition…
The second big area, I think, is incentives both from Medicare and insurance companies. Doctors
are not paid for prevention, for counseling people in prevention too much. They’re paid for
procedures after there’s a problem. So, that’s the two areas I would go after as far as public policy.
Thank you.
MS. RICHARDSON: …I just want to make a point that says that it is important for us to be healthy,
but you’ve got to remember that total wellness is not just one-dimensional. It’s not just about eating
healthy and working out your body. It’s also about strengthening your soul and your spirit. I mean,
we can pray on good health, but we’re going to have to practice what we pray for. You know what
I’m talking about? Amen?
Faith, by itself, if it’s not accompanied by action, is dead. So, I always want us to think about
healthiness from the inside out. Too often we judge people by their shape or their size and we
automatically determine that they’re unhealthy…
Sick and Shutout: Why African Americans Need Healthcare Reform
Hosted by: The Center for Policy Analysis and Research (CPAR)
Panelists: Priscilla Chatman, Dr. Henrie Treadwell, Dr. Camara Jones, Forest Harper, Dr. Randall
Maxey, Rep. John Conyers, Rep. Diane Watson
This panel focused on the structure of the U.S. healthcare system, and how it fails to provide all
individuals with equal access to affordable, quality healthcare, resulting in unequal outcomes for
various populations.
The barriers to good healthcare include:
• Lack of insurance
• Poor health education
• Insufficient medical and social services targeting men’s specific needs
• Men distrust the medical systems and providers.
The importance of the panel was its focus on racial disparities in health care insurance, health
care reform, and minority women’s health. It provided a platform to continue discussion about
how to eliminate health disparities. The plight of men of color, as they negotiate the U.S.
healthcare system, along with systematic inequities that characterize the healthcare system were
identified and discussed at length. Overall, panelists identified individuals and communities that
the system unfairly disadvantages and advantages and conveyed that social economic status
does not account fully for the differences – racism and unequal treatment within the healthcare
system abound. Solutions offered conveyed that the black communities focus on community
development to address the structural causes of the health disparities. Moreover, they stressed
the necessity of a diverse and culturally competent healthcare workforce, quality healthcare for all,
full participation in research and data collection.
Recommendations for Action:
Affordable Health Care Coverage for All
• Support the demonstration of community-based coverage programs and small
business insurance products that target African American men and other largely
uninsured groups
• Make oral health coverage for adults a basic benefit under Medicaid.
A Diverse and Culturally Competent Health Care Workforce
• Promote minority representation in leadership positions in the areas of research,
education, public health policy and practice. It is especially critical that there is
minority representation in federal, state and local government health departments
and agencies.
• Support federal policies and programs that encourage workforce diversity.
• Encourage the development of health career pipelines that specifically target African
American men.
Quality Healthcare for All
• Set national standards and measures of access to quality care for priority
populations, including African American men.
• Ensure that quality-of-care standards for African Americans apply to civilian and
institutionalized men alike.
Full Participation in Research and Data Collection
• Expand research to identify sources of health and healthcare disparities and assess
promising intervention strategies. Specifically develop research opportunities to
address the disparate health status and poor access to care experienced by African
American men.
• Call for the development of seminal reports such as those produced by the Institute
of Medicine on the health of and access to quality care by African American men
overall and subgroups of African American men.
• Ensure that all national health reports include data measures by race/ethnicity,
gender, age, and income.
• Develop specific research and program funding that support efforts by minority
medical colleges to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities. Special emphasis
can be made to encourage translational work and academic-community partnerships.
Culture and Gender Appropriate Health Education and Promotion
• Support health education and promotion efforts that address the disproportionate
burden of morbidity and mortality experienced by African American men due to health
conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and oral cancer and
address underlying causes such as tobacco use and obesity.
• Target young men to develop healthy behaviors early in life.
• Health disparities will be reduced through better patient education and empowerment
• Create a National Physician’s Medical Academy.
• Malpractice costs $200,000 a year, and is driving people out of the profession
• Convene a joint Congressional and National Medical Association hosted conference,
invite key opinion leaders from the different minority healthcare interests.
• Create a nationally publicized campaign that’s endorsed by both government, as well as
private interests. We need to get together with the other minority medical associations,
the Hispanics, the Native Americans, the Asian-Pacific, the blacks, and ICBC and
MODERATOR PRISCILLA CHATMAN: …We’re going to focus on the structure of the U.S.
healthcare system, and how it fails to provide all individuals with equal access to affordable, quality
healthcare, resulting in unequal outcomes for various populations.
We have assembled for you a very outstanding panel of experts in the field, and they’re going to
speak to very forward-thinking ideals about how to restructure the system to best insure a better
quality outcome for all of America’s seniors and other members of the population.
Let me first just introduce our … Mr. Forest Harper…Dr. Camara Jones…Dr. Henrie …Dr. Randall
Maxey… Congressman John Conyers of Michigan.
DR. HENRIE TREADWELL: …The health of the men in communities of color is important, not just
because human beings have a right to be well, but poor health contributes negatively to all of our
families and all of our community situations, and help does not yet appear to be on the way in terms
of resolving the issues.
…Let’s just review quickly. Men have higher death rates, and many of the things that they die of are
preventable, and in theory, that might make some think about behavior, but let’s hold on to that for a
Men of color with lower income are significantly more likely to experience higher death rates and
leading causes of death. African Americans have poorer health than the rest of the U.S. population.
Some would say the Native American men are a little worse than they are by one-tenth of a
percentage point. Life expectancy of African American men is 7.1 years shorter than that for all men
and, in fact, since the 1950’s, the length of time has actually increased between white men and
African American men. So, despite technology and advances, things aren’t coming closer together,
they are drifting farther apart for some reason.
Forty percent die prematurely from cardiovascular disease, and we know, I think, some of the
reasons for that - and access is a major one. Death rates for HIV/AIDS - lots of work that we can do
around this particular topic. The highest incidents of mortality rates of oral cancer, easily detected,
easily taken care of, but no access to oral healthcare. Overall, African American men continue to
suffer needlessly from diseases that can be prevented and treated.
Thirty-one percent are more likely to experience a period of uninsurance. Lack of insurance has a lot
to do with how one behaves in terms of healthcare and how one gets themselves taken care of.
Forty-four percent of African American men are considered overweight, another 24 percent are
obese. There is something we can do about that ourselves.
Diabetes and prostate cancer - disproportionate impact. Suicide rate, which some would say is the
barometer of a sense of loss of hope, is beginning to increase, something that we had not seen,
would not have expected, but there it is.
The barriers - insurance, lack of insurance, poor health education, insufficient medical and social
services targeting men’s specific needs. If one looks at most of the offices that we visit for our
healthcare, they’re very much gender-oriented, oriented toward women, not toward men, and not
materials there for men.
Policy barriers. This is a big one, and I think at this meeting, we really ought to think about what we
do about a Medicaid policy that defacto excludes men. A poor woman and her children can get care.
Poor men have historically been excluded from this and virtually every other social program in the
history of this nation. One has to begin to wonder, is it not time to correct this in this post-civil rights
Men distrust the medical systems and providers. We have the Tuskegee Effect, and we may have
that for some time, and the social stigma and biases associated with race.
When we began to work on men’s issues at the Kellogg Foundation, we were told that it was not a
good idea to start with poor men and men of color because it isn’t a very popular group, and we find
that to be true.
The factors influencing the disparities, in our view, are socio-economic status. If you are poor around
the world, you have a poorer health status, even if you are white. Racism - we don’t like to use the
word racism, but I don’t know what word to use in its place. The healthcare system, itself, which
reflects both the socio-cultural system in which we live, behavior and genetics.
The health status of African American men is a product of their historical and current social and
economic life experiences. Middle class status, however, does not provide African American men
with all of those protected factors and treatments and access that we would think that it does. So
even middle class African American men suffer disproportionately with healthcare, with access to
Social economic status does not account fully, and the risk factors that many include among the
social determinance of health, economic marginality, adverse working conditions.
Racism. The erroneous concept of biological racial superiority has been a powerful force in this
nation, and is a part of the cultural framework of values we espouse in our society and institutions,
and which continue to shape scientific thought. I read that because I want us to keep in mind that
the battle for equality is not yet won.
Unequal treatment. African American patients, much less likely than whites to have been referred to
a transplantation center. Despite disease disparities, several studies have demonstrated that African
Americans were referred less frequently for cardiac catheterization, and the one thing that we know
from other reports in the literature, if a man is a poor man in the discussions of treatment, typically,
he is not given as high a priority for the intervention as one of higher socio-economic status.
The consequences of racism you can read -fewer social, educational, economic opportunities,
greater exposure to stress and unsafe environments, and reduced access to quality healthcare.
I mention all of these items because the Congressional Black Caucus and the Tri-Caucus introduced
legislation this year on the Hill that did not move forward, but within that legislation they mentioned
the health empowerment zones, which would have addressed education, the social setting, jobs, all
of those things that, together, provide good health. And I think we need to hold onto that concept of
a health empowerment zone.
Finance and insurance. If we could do one thing when we leave this conference, it would be to really
address forthrightly the financing of healthcare in this nation and begin to include people. Fifty-eight
percent of African American men are less likely than other men to be privately insured during the
year. Something must be done. Men who work part-time, seasonably, in retail construction. We
know, for example, in New York City, fifty-two percent of African American men can’t find a job, so
what is it that they do. All health coverage is not mandated by Medicaid, so every year, in every
state across this nation, when the states debate budgets, oral health for adults is generally cut out.
Even when it’s left in, men can’t get there. There’s something unequal about even the limited access
that we have.
The workforce. We need to do something when we leave this meeting about the composition of the
workforce. I will point you to the second bullet, which will be discussed more thoroughly in a report
that will be issued in September, the Sullivan Commission on Health Professions. Lack of diversity
may be a greater cause of health disparities than lack of health insurance.
Very, very few, fewer and fewer, people of color are being admitted to our medical schools, and we
continue to hear the same thing – they’re not qualified. When one person in the state of Georgia in
1997 was an African American who was admitted, only one in a state where there is 30 percent
African Americans, something is wrong with the math. The same is true for virtually every other
racial group. Health professions institutions need to be taken to task. They get federal money, they
get state money, that money is tax money, it can be regulated.
Dissatisfaction. Poor communication with providers, cultural competency barriers. Certainly, we
need to teach people about cultural competency, but we also need to have a diverse team. People
see things in different ways, just by virtue of who they are and where they have been. You can’t
teach people to see things if they’ve never been there. Men of color - less prevention and screening.
There is the issue of behavior that we cannot address in terms of our work, but we can talk about it,
and those are the beliefs about masculinity and manhood. People are socialized. Men in this nation
are socialized to project strength, individuality, autonomy, dominance, etc. In some ways some of
these may be a protected mechanism in a society that is sometimes, in fact, not very nice to men
and men of color. Behavior must be addressed within the context of who people are in this nation.
Preventable causes of death make up a large percentage of all deaths. The top three causes of
death – tobacco use, poor diet, physical inactivity, alcohol use - I point that one out simply to say that
many people who stop smoking will stop, or try to stop, because a physician has asked them to stop.
If you never see a physician, no one asks you and, therefore, you’re never even encouraged to take
that first step, and most of us need a push from somewhere to change our health behaviors.
To what degree - and this is the question that we return to - may behavior be influenced by a lack of
hope, opportunity, and resources? The lack of dreams, or the ability to dream, as a result of years of
Genetics and race. This has been a big one historically. While health disparities have been framed
historically as racial and ethnic differences. Race and ethnic classifications have been socially and
politically determined, and I would add, to race and ethnic color. The color of an individual is also
extremely important, but there is virtually no basis for genetic differences. Biomedical and social
scientists have resolved the issue of genetics and what it has done.
So, where do we go from here? We certainly need to have affordable healthcare coverage for all,
and we probably should just take the affordable out and say healthcare coverage for all, because
many are convinced that there is sufficient money within our current healthcare system to take care
of everyone. We simply have to redirect it. A diverse and culturally competent healthcare workforce,
quality healthcare for all, full participation in research and data collection - we are not counted when
people are doing those studies that move policy, we have looked at data cells and find 57 men of
color out of thousands of people. You cannot build proper policy with that - and culture and genderappropriate health and education.
I close by saying the fruits of the Civil Rights movement have not moved into the healthcare arena.
We believe that to be so, and we are working, and hopefully in partnership with many of you, to make
certain that all of us have access to healthcare without regard to race and gender….
DR. CAMARA JONES: …The picture I’m going to paint for you - and it’s a picture for us to
understand how to intervene on - do you want to get it now? It’s a picture to help us understand, if
we want to do something, if we want to protect and assure the health of our people, how do we
I want you to picture a cliff, and people are dying, falling off this cliff, day in and day out, and we can
think about what can we do to help these people who are falling off this cliff. Some of you may have
heard of an image of an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff who rushes to people after they have
fallen, after they are very ill, rushes them to medical care. That’s our acute medical services, and
certainly, we need an ambulance for people who fall off the cliff.
Maybe we can do other things as well. Maybe we can have, for example, a net halfway down the
cliff, so that when people fall, at least they won’t hurt themselves tremendously. That’s our safety net
program. Maybe you say, well, a net’s not so good because people can fall through the holes of the
net, or maybe they can break that net, so maybe we want a trampoline or something else halfway
down the cliff. Well, a trampoline’s not so good either because then people are just bouncing back
and forth but can never get back to the top of the cliff. We’ll hold that thought and think what else
could we do to protect our people’s health.
Well, you might say, let’s not wait until people fall off the cliff and land in the net and either break
through it or not, or land on the trampoline. Let’s build a strong fence at the edge of the cliff face so
that people won’t fall off the cliff. That’s a good strategy too, although if you have a lot of people
there on the cliff edge, it’s going have to be a very, very, very strong fence.
What I would suggest is that we even envision doing something else, which is to move the center of
the population away from the edge of the cliff. That is, through community developments who are
addressing structural causes that are causing certain communities to be pushed to the cliff’s edge,
addressing those things so that you don’t have to depend only on the acute healthcare services, you
don’t have to depend only on the safety net, or even your primary prevention services, but that we do
something about community development or addressing structural causes.
So with that image, I just want to leave that there because I think…trying to figure out what are the
interventions that we are doing, what are the policy recommendations that we want to make, do we
want to focus entirely on healthcare treatment and the curative side.
Well, certainly, we do need some emphasis in healthcare treatment, because we don’t want to just
discount all the people who are already sick and dying. We don’t want to say, oh, well, we’re just
going to do prevention; we’re not going to do treatment, because then you are just discarding all of
those lives. On the other hand, if you focus only on curative care, then you’re acting as if there are
not causes to these illnesses. You’re not trying to think about the underlying causes.
So I think that we need interventions - policy interventions and money infusion at all of these levels,
but I think that the more we can move things back from the curative care and back towards
addressing structural causes and community development, the better off we’ll be. That’s the first
The second thing I want to do is share a story. This story - it’s because my work, as you’ve heard, is
all about naming racism. Because there are a lot of people in this country, you may not - of course,
you know this - a lot of people who are in denial that racism continues to exist and be alive and well
and have adverse impacts, not only on stigmatized people, but on all of our society…
Before I tell you this story, I’m going to give you some definitions. When I say the word racism, my
global definition of racism is, first of all, that it’s a system. It’s not an individual moral failing or a
character flaw on the individual level. It’s not even a psychiatric illness, as some people have
suggested. It’s a system, and it’s a system of doing what? It’s a system of structuring opportunity
and of assigning value. Based on what? Based on the social interpretation of how you look. Based
on the social interpretation of phenotype, which is, after all, what we call race in this country.
What are the impacts of this system of structuring opportunity and assigning value? Well, the first
thing is that this system unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities. When we talk
about racism at all in this country, that’s usually how we talk about it. At the same time that it’s
unfairly disadvantaging some individuals and communities, it’s also unfairly advantaging other
individuals and communities. We much less frequently talk about that - that’s the whole issue of
white privilege.
Still, beyond that, with this system that’s unfairly disadvantaging some individuals and communities
and unfairly advantaging others, this system of racism is also eroding at the fabric of our society
because of the waste of human resources. When we don’t invest in our children’s education, in all of
our children’s education, because we think that those children over there don’t really count, we don’t
care. There’s no genius there in those barrios or in those ghettos or on those reservations. When we
don’t mourn for the premature mortality and the loss that it represents to our society that is in all of
our health disparity statistics; that we, as a nation, are ignorant of how racism is costing us.
Beyond this global definition of racism, you might say that’s all well and good, but how is racism
impacting health. I describe racism on three levels to describe how it impacts on health. Quickly,
they are institutionalized racism, personally mediated racism and internalized racism.
My definition of institutionalized racism is differential access to the goods, services, and opportunities
of society by race. It’s often manifest as inherited disadvantage, it’s manifest in terms of differential
quality, housing, education, jobs, all of that. Some people say, aren’t you talking about socioeconomic status? No, I’m not, because it doesn’t just so happen that people of color are overrepresented in poverty, or white people are over-represented in wealth. That’s not just a
For African people, we had the initial historical insult of the kidnapping of West African people, and
then our importation and coerced use of our unpaid labor for centuries to build this country. After the
emancipation of the enslaved people, we’re 139 years beyond that right now, you would think, after
139 years, all else being equal, that our situations in this country would have normalized, or
equalized. The key phrase there is, all else being equal. All else is not equal, has not been equal,
still does not equal, and there are present-day contemporary, structural factors, policies, practices,
norms, that perpetuate the initial historical injustice. Institutionalized racism includes all of that, and
it’s often manifest as inaction in the face of need.
Personally mediated racism, briefly, is differential assumptions about the abilities, motives and
intents of others by race, and then differential actions based on those assumptions. That’s what
most people think of when they hear the word racism - somebody did something to somebody - it’s
the prejudice, the different idea, and the discrimination, the different action. It can be through acts of
omission not doing as well as acts of commission doing, and it can also be unintentional, as well as
intentional, and that’s a very important part.
The third level of racism, internalized racism, I define as acceptance by members of the stigmatized
races of negative messages about our own abilities and intrinsic worth. It includes helped evaluation,
the whole white-man’s-ice-is-colder syndrome - helplessness, hopelessness, not even looking to
each other to work together, being so enamored of, and deeply believing in, the limitations of our
own humanity that have been put out there by this kind of mytho-white superiority.
So now, for this story, given that these are the levels of racism that I’m going to illustrate in the story.
…So, this story – this story, like many of my teaching stories - my allegories that I do to talk about
issues of race and racism, was first prompted by an image that I had.
This image that I saw was when my husband and I were living in Baltimore, we bought a house with
a big wrap-around porch, and we had flower boxes on the porch. We bought the house in October,
so it wasn’t even until the spring that we could plant flowers in our flower boxes.
When spring came I was ready. So, we run out, we’re going to plant our flowers, and we look in the
boxes and notice that some of the boxes have some dirt in them already, but some of the boxes are
empty. My husband runs down to the garden store and brings back big old bags of potting soil and
fills up the empty boxes. Then we take our marigold seeds and put the same number of seeds in
each of the boxes and water all of the boxes. Because I’m not a gardener, I basically retire. I go
back in the house waiting to see this garden grow.
About three weeks later I’m coming out looking at these flower boxes and I was amazed to see that
there was a huge difference between some of the boxes and the others in terms of just how things
were looking. It looked like in some of the boxes every single seed that we had planted had sprouted
and grown, because, in fact, it turns out that the potting soil that we had put some of the seeds in
was rich, fertile soil, and, indeed, all of the seeds had sprouted. The strong seed had grown very tall
and strong, and even the weak seed was making it up to a middling height.
Whereas, in the other boxes, which had the old soil, which turned out to be poor, rocky soil, it looked
like the weak seed had died because there were only half as many plants. Even the strong seed in
that poor rocky soil was struggling to make it to a middling height.
This image that I saw with my own eyes, and many of you who are gardeners will have seen things
like this with your own eyes, is about the importance of environment, the importance of the soil.
What I’m going to do now is turn this into a story about racism by introducing a gardener. So now we
have a gardener who has two flower boxes; one which she knows to have rich, fertile soil, and one
which she knows to have poor, rocky soil. She has seed for the same kind of flowers. Let’s say it’s
impatients, except some of the seed is going to produce pink blossoms and some of the seed is
going to produce red blossoms, and this gardener prefers red over pink. So what does she do? She
puts the red seed in the rich, fertile soil, and she puts the pink seed in the poor, rocky soil. Three
weeks later she sees in her garden what I saw in mine. All of the red plants have not only sprouted,
but the strong seed is tall and flourishing, the weak seed is still making it up there. In terms of the
pink seed – I hope I said red just then - half of the weak side dies, the strong seed is just middling
height, and then those flowers go to seed right there where they are.
The next year the same thing happens, and those flowers go to seed. Year after year the same
thing happens, until finally, ten years later, the gardener comes and she’s looking at her garden and
she says, you know, I was right to prefer red over pink.
We’re going to interrupt the story right there to say that that first part of my story is illustrating how
institutionalized racism works. You have the initial historical insult of the separation of the seed into
the two types of soil, then you have the contemporary structural barriers, the flower boxes, keeping
the soil separate, and then through inaction in the face of need, the gardener’s just perpetuating the
Now we’re going to pick the story back up and say, where would personally mediated racism be in
this garden. Well, that’s when the gardener’s looking at the flowers in the two boxes and she says,
oh, those pink flowers sure look scraggly and scrawny, so she plucks them off before they can even
go to seed. Or, she might notice that a pink seed has blown into the rich, fertile soil, and so she
plucks it out before it can establish itself, which is a lot of the anti-affirmative action stuff that’s going
on right now.
Then you say, okay, I can understand that, well, where is internalized racism in this garden. Well,
that’s when the pink flowers are struggling to make it in their poor, rocky soil, looking over at red,
which is just all flaunting and flourishing.
Here comes a bee. Here are all the different bees, and the bees are just collecting their nectar, and
in the meantime, they’re pollinating. So the bee comes over here, dips in the pink flower, comes
over to this next pink flower, and pink flowers says, stop, bee, get away from me. Don’t bring me any
of that pink pollen. I prefer the red. Because the pink flower has internalized that red is better than
So, now the question arises, what do we do to set things right in this garden. Well, you could say
let’s start with the internalized racism. So we’re going to walk over to the pink flowers and we’re
going to say, power to the pink, pink is beautiful. That may make the pink flowers feel better, but
that, in and of itself, is not going to change the situation in which they find themselves.
Or, you could say, no, let’s deal with the personally mediated racism. So, we’re going to walk over to
the gardener – better yet, let’s not just walk and talk to her, let’s have a workplace multi-cultural
workshop for the gardener – and say, dear gardener, would you please stop plucking those pink
blossoms. Maybe she will and maybe she won’t. Even if she does, it’s not going to change the
situation in which they find themselves.
What you really need to do if you want to set things right in the garden is to address the
institutionalized racism. You either break down the boxes and mix up the soil - or if you want to keep
separate boxes, which is fine too, although it makes it easier to segregate resources - but then you
have to enrich the poor, rocky soil until it’s as rich as the rich, fertile soil. When you do that, the pink
flowers will flourish, beautiful. They may even look better than the red because, after all, they have
been selected for survival and strength, which is a very interesting notion.
When you address the institutionalized racism, you will also address the internalized racism,
because now pink’s not going to be looking over at red wanting to be red or thinking that red is better,
because they’ll see how beautiful they are. You may also address the personally mediated racism at
the same time. The original gardener may have to go to her grave preferring red over pink, but her
children, growing up in a society where pink and red are equally beautiful, will be less likely to have
that kind of attitude.
I’m going to wrap up my story to say that this story has been to illustrate these three levels of racism
- institutionalized, personally mediated and internalized – and to very strongly suggest that if we want
to set things right in the garden, you have to at least address the institutionalized racism. You can
address the other levels at the same time, but you have to at least address that. When you do, the
other levels may take care of themselves.
…I haven’t asked the question yet, who is the gardener. That’s a very important question to ask
because, after all, I’ve painted this gardener as the one with the power to decide, the power to act, or
agency, and the control of resources.
It’s very bad if this gardener is not committed to equity. We have to ask ourselves, is this gardener
government, is it big money, is it, indeed, ourselves. Can the pink flowers recruit or grow their own
gardener, or do they have to wait until a red gardener becomes fuchsia or striped or polka-dotted.
That’s a very important question for us, because I think that we may not have to wait to convince the
red gardener to do for us, although there are these structural things that we need to do. We do need
to address the structural issues, and maybe we can do that within our own selves, but that’s for our
MR. FOREST HARPER: … In talking about the sick and the shutout, my focus this afternoon would
be about the shutout part and real world solutions that can help render some of the things that will
help the disparities just a little bit less, and also provide access and remove the barriers to where we
don’t need barriers to providing for the illnesses that you’re hearing about today.
…I’m here today to share with you the fact that there are real world solutions, there are plentiful
solutions, and what’s more important, it only takes a phone call to make them happen. I’ll have some
real world results for you just to share what that means.
What about the shutout? We know that private and public partnerships are probably the single most
mis- and overused word in the English language out there when it comes to public health, but more
importantly, it’s working. Private and public partnerships are working in the area of lack of insurance
coverage, lack of clear health communications, lack of knowledge of access to medicines, and the
lack of trust. These are the same drivers that are affecting access to health and quality healthcare.
A lack of insurance coverage is part of the basis of the problem and why we’re here today to talk
about it. A lack of clear health communications is about health literacy, and how that one item,
health literacy, in itself, causes a disparity and a gap in access, and then a lack of trust. The lack of
trust, itself, means that there are over a thousand programs in any one given state on programs that
can help people who need health insurance and who need health coverage, but guess what?
Because there’s no understanding of it, and there’s no trust about it, it gets in the way.
…I’m here because one of the biggest challenges in our communities today to help you with,
particularly minorities, is we see a lack of access to medicines. If we took that one challenge, the
lack of access of medicines, this is the requirement as a part of the health condition that we need.
Another concern we have is the … that while it’s possible to get medicines through various patientassistant programs, it is challenging to navigate the system for help from public and private sources
to include things like just dialing a simple 1-800-number. Some people have hearing impairment - or
to go the website and figure out how to navigate your way through it. All those things are challenges
for those who might be out there in need for a public or private solution.
…You’re hearing a lot of noise out there in media, and it is noise in media, about its confusion.
There are millions of people getting help every single day in private and public partnership programs
to get access to different medicines, and we’ll share a couple with you today.
…What I find in all of this is that, how in the world do we build a trust? You build a trust based on
what you’ve been doing out in the community, but not alone.
More important than anything else, we learned a lesson over the last two years in the Medicare
prescription discount card programs. We learned (a) You’ve got to keep it simple; (b) You have to be
able to have the partners who see the seniors on a day-to-day basis. What do I mean by that?
You’ve got to have partners like the National Medical Association, Dr. Maxey and his group, and the
organization of over 26,000 African American physicians to be able to help their patients in their
offices understand about these services.
You’ve got to work with civic groups. You’ve got to be able to work with the NAACP, the National
Urban League, the League of Women Voters. All of those are partners in which we do what? We
actually train them on how to look up these programs, so when patients and people in the community
go to them, the resource is in the community, not in a box or not in a 1-800-number.
In our lessons we did learn that private and public collaboration makes a lot of sense. I saw that we
talked about men’s health today. Three years ago we had a collaborative effort with the Masons. It
was about men’s health, but it wasn’t about their health, it was about access to medicines, how to get
men to get access to medicines.
More importantly, we’ve been working lately with what we believe are the trust bearings of the
community, and that is the health ministries. All of you who know about health ministries in your
churches, you know this is a viable movement about three things: education, education and
education about health.
…What is it all about if there are no results? Digging through this process, I want to share with you
that the results have to do with two things when it comes to education and outreach in these kinds of
programs. Those two things are: did we reach the people that needed the help the most. Secondly,
who’s going to be there from a day-to-day basis after you make all these flowery announcements
about these kinds of programs. The third thing is that, can we train the intermediaries, or can we
train the caregivers, on how to look up these programs on a day-to-day basis about access. We did
all three, and the results are astounding.
…We also learned that, through organizations like the Visiting Nurses Association and the Black
Nurses Association of American, we learned that they reach over four million seniors a year through
home visits. That’s where the shutout becomes reachable, and we help them with clear
communications and help them get access to these programs.
One of the things I’d like to leave you with is public, private partnering works. Don’t be afraid to share
your collaboration with a private industry. We have the resources, we have the solutions, and we are
bent on metrics and results that can be able to bring disparities, literally, closer and closer to
eliminating that process.
…Our focus is to ensure that three things happen between now and 2006, that is, (a) not one
uninsured American goes without access to medicine; (b) not one Medicare beneficiary goes without
a prescription discount card where they can get their medicines for either a flat $15-dollar fee, like
programs that we have out there like the U-share card or the many prescription discount cards that
are over this nation.
The last thing is that every community out there in America has a way to have access to get
education programs in the community that stays in the community that can help people navigate
through the system, like helpful answers, a program such as or or
with PhRMA. We have the resources. Call to action is take action.
DR. RANDALL MAXEY: …I want to speak very briefly about improving minority health in matters of
personal and national security. It occurs that there are more minority people who have died today
then there were who died on 9-11. There are more people who died today than have died in the
entire war in Iraq. So, if you talk about security, if you talk about homeland defense, it seems like our
priorities are misplaced, because we are dying, many, many people per second, of the things that
affect you and me.
The problems are unequal health, unequal healthcare, unequal healthcare providers, unequal
healthcare policy, unequal healthcare financial participation by anyone of color. Let me say
something atypical, as president of the National Medical Association, we are very careful about who
we endorse and what we say. I do want to say something, and I want to direct it to Mr. Harper.
Many times, we blame pharmaceutical companies for everything bad, and we blame them for
making a lot of money, but we wish we could. They empower everything that we do. If they didn’t
make that money, if they weren’t available for market forces, we couldn’t have conferences like this,
we couldn’t have the studies we do. I think it’s long past the time that we do need to tip our hats as
healthcare professionals to our PhRMA companies for allowing us to do the things that we do. We
need more, but certainly, we couldn’t have our conferences and conventions. We couldn’t do our
studies if we couldn’t. I served on a number of advisory boards for PhRMA companies, and they’re
truly interested in improving health. Yes, they’re interested in making money, but the two really go
hand in hand.
The National Medical Association represents 25,000 African American physicians, and we were set
to watch out for their interests, we’re actually almost like a trade union. We have taken a vow that we
are more interested in the communities of color that we serve, so we serve our communities first and
our doctors second. We’re about the protection and development of health, and we believe that the
protection of health and the development of health should outrank the treatment of disease, because
it’s much easier to avoid something than to treat something.
Historically, racism in medicine and healthcare is operated at an institutional, intellectual, policy and
personal level, and is deeply ingrained in the American medical fabric. Race and class-based
structuring of healthcare delivery systems, combined with other factors, including racism, have
established a slave health deficit that has never been corrected, and that is what you and I are facing
The Institute of Medicine three years ago did confirm the presence of racial and ethnic disparities in
the contribution of discrimination. We’ve been saying that since 1907, but now that they say it, it
must be true. We know that health disparities are, in fact, a combination of things. It’s like the tip of
an iceberg that sits on top of social disparities, economic disparities, empowerment disparities,
combined with things about access, environment, discrimination, etc., but it’s not a single entity at all.
I can tell you that African Americans have more problems in medicine and healthcare than anybody
else, for example, utilizing invasive and therapeutic diagnostic procedures, such as former President
Clinton just had.
Blacks that had the highest rates of cardiovascular disease and arthritis received less of these tests
than anybody else. In utilization of therapeutic services, such as transplants, radiographic
procedures, blacks that have the highest rates of kidney disease receive less than anybody else. If
you go to South Carolina, 70 percent of the people on dialysis are African American, but we receive
less services than anybody else. However, when it comes to organ or limb removal, like castration,
like amputation of a leg, blacks received more than anybody else. Tell me how that works? Well,
you get all the bad things. We know that in every category of disease, blacks die more, except for
Tay Sachs’ Disease.
The leading causes of death right now are of concern. Heart disease used to be the biggest. Now,
it’s tobacco and obesity, and guess which community is the hardest hit. Our national average is now
65 percent, but yours and mine is above 71 percent at this point in terms obesity, and this is
something that does not have to happen.
…Well, put it this way, you know some people who have children under five, okay. You’ve seen
them sucking on those good french fries from McDonald’s. I tell you that more than 50 percent of our
children from ages two to fifteen years old have coronary fatty streaks in their blood vessels because
of the way you mothers feed them. You take Gerber baby food and you put salt and butter in it and
fit it to your taste and give it to that baby who doesn’t care. In the age group of 21 to 39-year olds,
my age group, more than 85 percent of us have coronary fatty streaks. By the time you get to be the
age of most of these other people in here - that’s why we have those problems, we really need to
look at that.
The questions I have, and that we must address, are can and should African Americans and other
underserved minorities find and have real access to equal high-quality healthcare when they need it.
Will, and should, physicians of African descent and other ethnic and minority groups be available to
provide high quality healthcare to their community? How will America’s healthcare infrastructure
support and foster improvement of the health status of African Americans and other underserved
minorities? What are the primary issues that must be addressed to ensure that America’s healthcare
delivery system provides the best healthcare to all of the systems?
…First and foremost, we at the NMA, without reservation, strongly urge that the consortium that we
jointly create - am I suggesting something, yes. I’m suggesting that we create a consortium, and that
exists between the elected officials, community groups, such as the NAACP, Urban League, the
National Medical Association, the other ethnic groups, and that we implement conclusions and
recommendations from the Institute of Medicine’s landmark report on equal treatment.
Anyway, the existence of disparities in healthcare is still largely unrecognized, so it’s important we
publicize the – most people still deny that race has anything to do with healthcare. Public and
professional awareness is essential in starting to reduce this problem. It’s recommended that we get
all stakeholders involved if we’re going to do this. A number of legal, regulatory foreign-policy
interventions are indicated. We have to avoid fragmentation of health plans along social economic
We know that there is racism in accepting and treating patients, there’s racism in accepting
physicians that are of color to treat those patients. Often, we are credentialed out of these HMOs
and they leave the white doctors with our patients, and guess what? There are certain days of the
year and the months when certain other groups have holidays, and your patients may just go
unattended, and I won’t be more specific than that. We do know that the IOM states that health
disparities will be reduced through better patient education and empowerment, and that is most
So what do I want to do? If President Bush can declare war in Iraq, I suggest that we jointly declare
war on the present status of healthcare in black and minority America, and on those who perpetuate
these unacceptable conditions.
We want you to endorse something. One, we want to create a National Physician’s Medical
Academy. Why? Because we only make up 3.2 percent of the physician force. If you add the
Hispanics, Native Americans and other minorities, we only make up 14 percent of the healthcare
force. There’s no more affirmative action. There’s less than 300 black males in American medical
schools this year. We need our own medical school, and we want you to endorse creating that - just
like we created West Point, the Naval Academy, etc. - and we would like this new institute that we
put together, this new coalition, this new consortium, to do that. The terminal mission of this new
institution will be to attract, nurture, and produce minority populations’ physicians, a competent and
highly motivated cadre of physicians.
We also strongly urge this proposed consortium to give clear recognition that increasing the number
of America’s black doctors are being driven out of business. Everybody thinks a black doctor drives
a Mercedes and a Rolls Royce and a Cadillac and all that. It used to be. Right now, your black
doctors are going to work for McDonald’s, the post office, and other things, because they cannot
make a living taking care of uninsured or underinsured people, and you need to know that.
It is true that if you are taken care of by somebody who looks like you, your outcomes are likely to be
better, regardless of what the New England Journal of Medicine and other things have said. We
strongly need to address this issue.
We’re also concerned about malpractice. For some, malpractice costs $200,000 dollars a year.
They have to quit. What happens when they do that? You don’t get service, you can’t get babies
delivered, and those things don’t happen very well. So, we have to place a cap on economic
damages. We have to deal with the insurance companies, and we also have to have a strong
conversation with our Congressional Black Caucus. They have not heard us say that. They have
not paid attention to tort reform and insurances on that - and that’s the one thing we really want to
deal with our Black Congressional Caucus about - we need help, or else we won’t be here to help
I ask you also to consider to recognize America’s physicians who are in dire need of a major
correction in a process that we call sustainable growth. What that means, in short, is that they pay
Medicare payments to doctors based upon the gross national product. So, if a country’s profitability
goes down, the doctor’s price goes down, but 7-11 stays the same…
…There are certain areas of the United States that have a problem with high blood pressure, kidney
failure, etc., and we need to act like a laser to get those areas - it’s not just spread all over. We can
actually go into a community - this is Los Angeles - and pick out the red areas where there are higher
degrees of end stage renal disease. We need to have the Federal Government fund this type of
thing. I am not going to talk longer, but –We need to be able to go into communities and deal with bioterrorism. Right now, if I were a
bioterrorist, I’d go right to the black or Hispanic community and put all of my bugs in there, because
y’all don’t go to the doctor, and by the time you did, the disease had spread all over not only you, but
all the white folks, too.
We need to have adequate supplies, and I can tell you the supplies in your community for small pox
are not the same as they are in other communities, and we need to correct that. We also need to
follow Healthy People 2010 recommendations and deal with the disease areas that they spoke
about. That still has not been realized.
The other thing that I want to say in starting to close is healthcare coverage should be universal.
Everyone living in the United States should be covered by health insurance.
Being uninsured can damage the health of individuals and families, and it is unconscionable that
people with turbans on their head are going to have better insurance than you and I have, and you’re
going to pay for it.
How can we work to collaboratively? We need to have a seat at the table. Did you know that for all
of the certified agencies that tell you, are your hospitals good, is your insurance good, there’s not one
black physician from organized medicine represented in there. When these medical schools are
closed down, there’s not one black person who has anything to say about it, and if you think the
playing field is fair, we need to talk after this.
We need to convene a joint Congressional and National Medical Association hosted conference. We
need to invite key opinion leaders from the different minority healthcare interests. We need to devise
practical methods for existing programs. We need to create a nationally publicized campaign that’s
endorsed by both government, as well as private interests. We need to get together with the other
minority medical associations, the Hispanics, the Native Americans, the Asian-Pacific avenue, the
blacks, and ICBC and ICBCF to solve what this problem is. I would hope that our PhRMA industry
would help support this, and we can do this in the next nine months, and come out with something
that’s really good, because if we don’t make the rules for ourselves, nobody else is going to do that.
…African Americans have 40 percent more high blood pressure than anybody else, 50 percent more
heart disease mortality than anybody else, 70 percent more obesity than anybody else, 80 percent
more deaths from strokes than anybody else, 100 percent more diabetes than anybody else, 320
percent more kidney failure than anybody else.
So, what do we need to do? We need to put together this consortium funded by Pfizer and Viagra,
and we need to go to every black organization from this point on and provide health screening something I’m going to call HERO - Health Education and Risk Reduction Opportunities, where we
not only screen, but we assess your risk and tell you how to change your risk, get those statistics and
use that to help fund a program to take care of our people. You mentioned the church health
network that you’re doing. We’re prepared to do that with you. I spoke with people at the University
of Minnesota yesterday. They’re doing it for the white folks. We need people to help us.
I have this Chinese inscription that I stayed up all night last night trying to translate for you. What it
says is that inferior doctors treat the full-blown disease, mediocre doctors treat the disease before it’s
evident, but superior doctors and healthcare professionals and congressional-elected officials treat
the disease before it even starts….
CONGRESSMAN JOHN CONYERS: …To me, my healthcare issues are the most important and
largest legislative issues that I’ve undertaken. The reason is that I equate this with a couple of other
struggles I’ve been in, namely, the Civil Rights Movement with Dr. King, which took an heroic effort of
a few people starting off and deciding that they were going to change things. As a matter of fact, Dr.
King was begged by some of the others in the Civil Rights Movement not to do it this way, don’t start
in the South because you’ll not only get yourself killed, but all the rest of us, too. Dr. King had this
vision that this could happen, and, of course, he revolutionized the course of progress in race
relations in America.
The other example that I put before you is that of Nelson Mandela, who, after a long struggle for
justice in his country, incarcerated 27 years, then came out to lead his country in the first bi-racial
effort that it ever experienced.
I put those two issues in conjunction with healthcare, because the only way we’re going to move out
of an incredibly complex economic system that delivers healthcare to some and to most not, is to
form a movement that will then lead to the legislative changes that we need.
…One of the things I should tell you that is happening is that more and more people realize that this
system is basically unrepairable. You can forget about the safety net having a couple of holes in it.
The whole system is simple. It took six years to work on a prescription drug bill, and the one we got
set us back further than where we were before we got the legislation. If you think you can privatize
your way into better health, then obviously you’ve forgotten the 45 million people that have no
healthcare at all. The somewhere between 15 and 20 million who have health insurance - but it’s so
spotty - has so many conditions and exceptions to it, that many times, with healthcare, you go into
the hospital and find out that your insurance policy doesn’t cover it.
Coming from Detroit, I am very familiar with the employer-based health system. The employers get
the healthcare and pass it on to the employees. For many years, the people in a number of unions
were kind of happy with their system because they got better coverage. The only problem is that as
the healthcare costs have been rising, every time they come to the negotiating table, they have to
give up some benefits and pay higher premiums. The co-pays go up, the benefits go down.
At the last negotiations with General Motors and UAW, the president of the union indicated that there
could be no more givebacks from him or from whoever succeeds him. General Motors’ response
was, there’ll have to be givebacks because we already are documenting the costs that are going up,
and they’ve been going nowhere but up, so somebody’s going to pay for them, unless you want us to
charge even more for our automobiles than we do.
In the present circumstance, the car industry puts more money in healthcare than they do steel in a
U.S. made automobile, which is why many foreign cars keep selling more and more, because they
have come from countries that have a national health insurance system, and so they don’t have to
pay it.
Not only are the working people and their unions realizing that employer-based health insurance is
going the way of some antiquated something or other, or they’re going to have to come into a
national system in which there is a national plan that takes it off of particular employers. A small
businessman doesn’t stand a chance, because there’s no way – they have to hire people on the
basis of there is no health plan here, or it’s one that’s so meager that it hardly deserves the name.
These changing …The HMOs, the insurance companies, all have built-in systems in which they get
theirs and then they leave it to others to figure out how we’re going to deal with all the people that do
not have a healthcare system. We’re documenting all the horror stories.
Question: What’s the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States? Healthcare, medical
bills. The medical bills drive more people to bankruptcy than even the credit cards. Well, sometimes
they’re using their credit cards on the medical bills, which drives them into bankruptcy.
So, we have a huge challenge that’s complicated, but there are a number of people that are
beginning to realize that unless we move toward a very drastic reform, we’re never going to get it.
We will be back and forth forever. Now, there happens to be a political dimension to this, and that is
that there’s not one republican member on our bill. If that’s an accident, I would like to find out about
it before the new session of Congress starts on January 20.
What I am suggesting is that as long as there are those arguing for vouchers, for privatization, for
preventing you from going to Canada to buy the same prescription drug made by the same American
manufacturers much cheaper, there’s not going to be much you can do, and then forbid the
government to negotiate with the pharmaceuticals by law for lower prices. That’s what the military
does, and they have a pretty good universal coverage system.
…What we’re doing is laying a foundation, an understanding, so that we can get this sooner rather
than later. Is there politics involved? Of course. Is there money involved? Well, it’s a several trilliondollar industry. People that are making money in this are not too thrilled about the idea of us going to
a plan that will cover everybody and be cheaper than the one that we have now, and the reason it
will be cheaper is that we take the profits out and make it a right. Healthcare is a right that everybody
has. It’s not depending on who you are or who you’re working for or whether you can afford an
insurance plan.
…So, join us in this exciting new movement that I compare with the Civil Rights Movement, with the
anti-apartheid movement that changed the direction of South Africa, and what we now need to do in
the 21st Century to deal with the healthcare problem in America. Not only for black people, but for
poor people and working people everywhere.
QUESTION: … I’m interested in knowing whether you all have any examples that have been good
ones - sort of best practices - where that kind of initiative has happened when you were interfacing
with a private sector?
MR. HARPER: … We have two best practices we’ve already done, and one is actually with the
NMA with our health ministries. I mentioned to you that we launched a program with over 15 NMA
doctors going to 15 large churches - we’re talking 15,000 or more - to do a program, and you can
contact us for that model, we’ll share it with you.
Secondly is with the NAACP Train the Trainer program, which is a model that if you go in the
community and train in a chapter, but leave the tools in the community, so if they’re affiliated offices,
they can provide help for people getting assistance for prescription drugs.
CONGRESSWOMAN DIANE WATSON: The reason why I need to say a word is because I’m
standing in front of not only the president of the NMA, but a dear friend for many decades, who had
foresight and vision for the future and talked about putting together our own HMO. I chaired the
Health and Human Services Committee for 17 out of the 20 years I was in the California State
Senate. We worked very closely together, and when Dr. Randall Maxey said that the community
needs to organize its own healthcare through a health maintenance organization, in many ways he
was rebuffed by the other doctors because they said California - the largest state in the union - would
not go in that direction. Well, it did, it’s been a disaster, and who falls through the safety net? We do.
There’s no more important subject matter to engage in.
I just want to let all of you know that we’re working very, very hard to take back the House and the
administration, because John Conyers then would become Chair of Judiciary. Do you know what
that means?
Violence is a health issue, okay? To be able to make policy and to reform the health delivery system
so it services all Americans is our number one priority…
QUESTION: … First, I think that if you don’t ask the right questions and you don’t see the problem
in its full dimensions, you’ll never get to the right answer. So I think people really need to be as
holistic as possible in analyzing and seeing this problem.
One thing I would do, when you talk about healthcare, I would split the health and the care and,
instead, say health maintenance and sick care, because what people usually are trying to achieve is
sick care and forget about health maintenance. As you were saying, health maintenance will stop
you from having to try to seek sick care if we do it right. We really need to formalize that concept,
because as you were saying, most of the problems affecting African people in this country, and in
fact the world, has to do with the battle of the mouth. What you put in your mouth is going to affect
you more than what medicines you do or don’t achieve or fix or have access to.
Finally, the last thing, the doctor was talking about there need to be medical schools just for black
people, African people. There already are medical schools for black people, and Cuba has one of
the best systems in the world for teaching African people. In fact, they’ve had, for at least four or five
years I think now, a program where they teach African people from America. They give them
scholarships to go to Cuba to become doctors. You say there’s only one person in the state of
Georgia who’s in the medical school system there. I think that we need to look at the Cuban model,
because it isn’t just medical school.
…We need to teach each person that they are the ultimate determiner of their health maintenance,
that they are the ones that need to be most responsible and, therefore, they are the ones that need
to be most knowledgeable, especially our young women who will be our future mothers and primary
teachers of our children and their children, and that’s where we need to go with that.
DR. MAXEY: I do endorse the front part of what you were saying. There’s a guy on the radio here
that I’ve adopted his saying. He says, God will forgive you for what you do to your body, but your
body won’t. It is very important what you do put in your mouth. I do believe that the preservation and
maintenance of health is clearly better than the disease treatment. That part I endorse.
We do need our own medical schools because the current medical schools we have, even though
they’re black, there aren’t enough of them, so we do need to have more than we do have
advancement on that. The Cubans are smart, but they’re not the smartest, believe me.
DR. TREADWELL: I wanted to comment on what it is that is happening with our healthcare system
and how it’s designed. We need to be careful of our partnerships and where we begin, because our
system - a poor man cannot get healthcare until he has been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, until he has
renal failure, until he has amputation, etc. We really have to get in front of those things, and I worry
about pharmaceutical benefits. I think our pharmaceutical industries do a lot of good things for us,
but we have got to look at the payment system, that’s what’s broken, and then deal with that.
MS. RUTH PEROT: …I bring this to your attention because if Tennessee succeeds in getting this
rule approved, just like California’s Proposition 209 in ’54, the rest of the nation will soon follow,
because it’s saving money. I want to bring this to our attention because not only will that exacerbate
health disparities, it will also give a huge boost to state’s rights, and doctors will be forced to provide
only the cheapest care, not what their patients need, but only the cheapest care, if any care at all.
Dr. Maxey knows about do no harm, and a whole lot of harm is about ready to be done in
…It is crucial. Again, we cannot afford to let something happen in one state that has such potential
repercussions across the nation.
QUESTION: I’d like to respond. First of all, that’s a very salient point. There’s something called a
least costly alternative that she’s speaking about. There was an issue with renal patients at Blue
Cross/Blue Shield and CMS. Medicare had refused to pay for a certain set of drugs for kidney
patients. We found out that there was a 16 percent improvement in life if patients use this drug, and
if you’re black, there was a 22 percent improvement. We got on T.V. and told them that they were
racist, that they were discriminating against blacks. They said they were going to sue me, but then
they backed up and they put it off until April of next year, but it is coming back.
What I think, with the leadership of brother Conyers and others, I’d like to go get Willie Gary, and I’d
like to sue these companies, and sue Medicare, because these are the things that are damaging our
health, these purposeful things. Only somebody at the level of Willie Gary and Johnny Cochran they understand lawsuits. I don’t know if they understand just petitions, but we’ve got to do
something that damages.
DR. TREADWELL: …We really need to have more research into why do you do the things that you
do when your income is like this, you live here, your work is like that. I think I am very afraid of how
quick we are to say everything that’s wrong with us we can fix if we just modify our behavior. It’s the
DR. JONES: I just wanted to follow-up on that to say that it’s so important for us to identify these
bills that are coming up and these rule changes. This is all part of the mechanisms of
institutionalized racism.
So, if I were to leave something with you all, I’d say that first of all, we need to be unafraid to
recognize racism when we see it, and to name it. The second, most important thing is we need to go
back to our communities, our schools, and ask the question, how is racism operating here? What
are the rules that are going to have differential, bad impacts on us? Then, when we identify these
mechanisms, then we can organize, as you were doing, to try to do something about it. It’s not as if
some of you may have said, oh, why does she talk about racism, it’s too big and all.
Exactly what I’m trying to do is to mobilize people to be able to name it and then identify the
mechanisms because they are knowable and they are addressable. They are in our structures, in
our policies, in our practices and in our norms, and then to mobilize to act.
The other thing that I wanted to say in response to the whole panel is that, I know that we’re talking
about healthcare today, and that’s a very important part, but there are differential things happening in
healthcare, then there’s the differential access, then there’s the differential conditions of our lives,
and they all are contributing to our health disparities. I think that we need to have the whole big
MR. HARPER: …Let me say this. There’s no one-end solution to anything, but this is a first step,
and we want to help. As a matter of fact, our focus is trying to get the word out. It’s a grass root
effort. We’re actually working with the Honorable Congressman’s, one of his churches in his
backyard, Hartford Memorial. We’re working with Pastor Adams in our health ministry program.
We’re here to help you, and we can give you all the information, I have a flier for you….
MODERATOR CHATMAN: …Thank you for coming and thank you to our panelists.
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Mortgage Insurance
Companies of America
NA Rjreyn
New York Stock Exchange,
Nuclear Energy Institute
Park West Medical Center
Perennial Strategy Group
Precision Elevator
PRM Consulting, Inc.
Rent USA
Rent-Way, Inc.
Robert G. Strunk
Sandra NA
Slochowsky & Slochowsky
Studder Solomon
The Honorable Barbara Lee
The Honorable Corrine
The Honorable Donna M.
The Honorable Eddie Bernice
The Honorable Sanford
The Honorable Stephanie
TNG Apparel Group, LTD
United Parcel Service
Virgil Griffin
Vivian Creighton-Bishop
Wanda Jones
Westin Rinehart
William J. Kaczor
Xavier International Furrier
Health Braintrust
Aventis Pharmaceuticals
Becton Dickinson and
Bristol-Myers Squibb
Clarian Health
Eli Lilly and Company
Medco Health Solutions, Inc.
Pfizer, Inc.
Issue Forums and Regional
Ford Foundation
Leadership Network
Louis Stokes Urban Health
Policy Fellows Program
Heineken USA, Inc.
Policy and Research
National Commission On
Energy Policy
Research from Emerging
Agents of Change
Sao Tome
Constance J. Milstein
Marcus Butler
State of the African Male
$10,000 and above
Altria Group, Inc.
Deutsche Post World New
ServiceMaster Company
$7,500 and below
ABLE International
Association Of Citizens For
Social Reform
Bishop Eddie Long Ministries,
Comcast Cable
Fannie Mae Foundation
George P. Barnes
Late Night Entertainment
M.J. Moroun
Service Employees
International Union
ServiceMaster Company
The Coca-Cola Company
The UPS Foundation
Transition Of Prisoners, Inc.
Wayne County Community
Wayne State University
Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
Student Homeownership
Opportunity Program
$200,000 and above
State Farm Insurance
$10,000 and below
Freddie Mac
ING Foundation
Neighborhood Reinvestment
Viven Thomas Scholarship
for Medical Science and
With Ownership Wealth
$40,000 and above
Countrywide Home Loans,
Freddie Mac
HSBC, Inc.
JP Morgan Chase
$15,000 and below
Bank One Corporation
Irwin Mortgage Corporation
Mortgage Bankers Association
of America
National Association of
Mortgage Brokers
National Association of
United Guaranty

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