May 12, 2010
By: Paul Delaney, The Root
Please permit a final few words about Dr. Dorothy I. Height before she’s assigned a slot in the Black History Month index. Here are some frank thoughts about her role as a woman of the movement versus a man of the movement.
April 20, 2010
Dorothy Height, who in an 80-year campaign for social justice became the grande dame of the civil rights era and its great unsung heroine, died this morning at the age of 98.
April 1, 2010
Every year, the National Urban League issues its report on the State of Black America, and it almost inevitably shows that black Americans fare worse than whites in almost every measure of socioeconomic well-being. Black workers and households are poorer, less secure, and more vulnerable to the volatility of market forces than their white counterparts.
Frank Rich, as always, does his trade honors in Sunday’s NYT column on the real source of Tea Party anger. (The column pairs nicely with Richard Kim’s dissection of Tea Party conspiracy theories in The Nation this week.) But understanding this movement’s emotional and mental core is only part of the battle. We also have to respond to it, and that’s where progressive and Democratic Party leadership alike continue to fail. Progressives consistently meet tea partiers with sneering outrage. What we need, with increasing urgency, is leadership that explicitly aligns working-class white folks and people of color.
December 20, 2009
By Phil Mattingly, CQ Staff
After weeks of negotiations, the Congressional Black Caucus is expected to back a broad financial regulatory overhaul when it reaches the House floor this week, thanks to the inclusion of $4 billion to address the foreclosure crisis.
Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank included language in his manager’s amendment that would channel money from the $700 billion financial bailout program to address the mortgage crisis, which has affected the entire country but has had a particularly strong impact on black communities over the past two years.
“That bill is a bill that now includes some of our most important issues, and we’re very pleased about that,” said Maxine Waters, a California Democrat who has led the caucus’ protest and negotiations over the Obama administration’s handling of the economy.
Waters and Melvin Watt, D-N.C., indicated that negotiations with the administration were ongoing, and the 42-member caucus wants more of its concerns addressed in any jobs bill put together by House leadership. Waters and Watt chair subcommittees on Frank’s panel.
“We are looking at a whole array of issues . . . that we will be meeting with the administration and leadership about,” Waters said.
The caucus’ concerns have been apparent since Nov. 19, when Waters led the 10 caucus members on the Financial Services Committee in a boycott of a panel vote on the portion of the regulation package dealing with large financial institutions whose failure would pose broad risks to the financial system.
The boycott stemmed from a battle with the Obama administration over its handling of several issues important to the African-American community, not the least of which is an unemployment rate that has reached 15.6 percent, according to the Labor Department, compared with 9.3 percent for white Americans.
“The bill is a bill that we liked, but it just happened to be a moment . . . where we decided to make sure we got everybody’s attention and have the kinds of negotiations that would help open up opportunities,” Waters said.
Frank, D-Mass., will attempt to attach the foreclosure language to the regulatory overhaul of the financial system, including a new title to the bill in a manager’s amendment that will be considered by the Rules Committee this week.
“We have a great frustration with the failure of the combined efforts of elements of the federal government to make a substantial impact on the foreclosure crisis,” Frank said Tuesday at a hearing on the government’s response to the problem.
Redirecting TARP Money
The language would require the Treasury secretary to take $3 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program and direct it to the secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for use through the Emergency Homeowners’ Relief Act.
That law created a standby authority for the HUD secretary to create an emergency program to make loans, advances and emergency mortgage relief payments to homeowners in order to defray mortgage expenses.
Frank’s amendment also proposes redirecting an additional $1 billion from TARP funds to the Neighborhood Stabilization Program established in July 2008. The money would provide grants to states, local governments and nonprofit organizations for the purchase and redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes, an idea championed by Waters.
“This never has been about this bill,” Watt said of the caucus protest. Addressing the economic problems in the black community “is a multifaceted problem that’s going to require a multifaceted solution, and this is one of them.”
By Keith Perine, CQ Staff
Earlier this year, it looked like Congress was going to make good on President Obama’s campaign promise to eliminate the wide disparity in federal criminal sentences for those selling crack and powder cocaine. But the effort has since bogged down because Senate Republicans won’t go along with completely eliminating the disparity.
Under a 1986 law that Congress hurriedly passed in response to a perceived epidemic of crack cocaine use, a drug-trafficking offense must involve 100 times as much powder cocaine as crack to trigger the same mandatory prison sentence. For example, distribution of five grams of crack warrants a five-year prison term, but distributors of powder cocaine don’t face that punishment unless they’re caught with at least 500 grams. At the time Congress passed the law, crack cocaine was considered more addictive and dangerous. Opponents of the sentencing structure have been trying for several years to change it.
The lower sentencing trigger for crack has had a disproportionate impact on African-Americans. According to a 2007 report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 82 percent of crack cocaine federal offenders in 2006 were black.
But proponents of the change have not been able to round up enough votes to completely eliminate the disparity. Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin , an Illinois Democrat, has been wooing several Republicans on legislation that would do so. So far, though, Republicans engaged on the issue say they prefer reducing, but not eliminating, the disparity.
“Crack cocaine is a more dangerous drug,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a former federal prosecutor and the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
On Oct. 15, Durbin introduced a bill that would eliminate the disparity, but for now it doesn’t appear likely to pick up GOP support unless he modifies his measure to preserve some difference in sentencing for crack and powder, such as a 10:1 or 20:1 ratio. And like so many other bills in the 111th Congress, the legislation is going to need some Republican backing in order to succeed, at least in the Senate.
Jasmine Tyler, deputy director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance Network, said that simply narrowing the disparity “would be akin to only desegregating a fraction of schools.”
The House Judiciary Committee in July approved a bill by Virginia Democrat Robert C. Scott that would eliminate the disparity, but it was on a party-line vote. The bill has 52 cosponsors — and only one of them, Ron Paul of Texas, is a Republican. Scott said that House Republicans “appear to be solidly for the status quo, or at least not supporting the bill.”
Last week, Scott was still working on lining up a simple majority for his measure in the House, for a possible floor vote next month.
Meanwhile, Justice Department officials are working on a study of federal sentencing policy, including cocaine sentences, that could lend momentum to the Democrats. But as of last week, the study wasn’t finished.
August 13, 2009
As the Obama Administration takes tentative steps towards addressing immigration, right-wing commentators and mainstream media alike have been jumping at the opportunity to sensationalize the divide between Blacks and immigrants. Taking a different approach, community organizers in Oakland, California have begun what they’re calling the African Diaspora dialogues—informal conversations between Black Americans and Black African immigrants about immigration, race and economic globalization. They’re hoping to use what they learn from these talks to build a Black Immigration Network that will advocate for immigration policies that are good for both communities.