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2010 August

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August 2010 Alisha Thomas Morgan

August 31, 2010 | By | No Comments

Political Voice * Inspirational Speaker * Empowering Trainer

Alisha Thomas Morgan is respected throughout her home state of Georgia, and throughout the United States, as an impassioned political leader, rousing motivational speaker, fearless ambassador for youth and role model for female leaders and young professionals. Ms. Morgan is also our IMPACT Leader of the Month for August!

She began building her profile as a trailblazer and at the young age of 23, when she defeated the odds (and scores of naysayers) to become the first African-American to serve in the Georgia House of Representatives for Cobb County. Elected to her fifth term in July 2010, winning over 73% of the vote, at age 32 Morgan remains the youngest female member of the entire Georgia General Assembly.

While she is known and respected for many things, many of Morgan’s most noteworthy accomplishments are in the area of her key passion: education. Blazing trails in education, Morgan has become a state and national leader in the movement for education reform–forging a bipartisan coalition to pass a law in 2009 that empowers parents to access more options within the public school system. In February of 2010, Morgan was selected to participate in a national bi-partisan group of legislators to work under Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and with senior staff at the US Department of Education (DOE) on the reauthorization the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, formerly known as “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB). She is also a newly appointed board member of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), a national education advocacy organization.

Morgan has been named, one of “America’s Young Civil Rights Heroes” by AOL Black Voices, one of fifteen women of the “New Power Generation” by Essence Magazine, and one of the Nation’s 30 Leaders who are under 30 by Ebony Magazine. She’s been featured in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and on both CSPAN and BET. In Fall 2010, she will release her highly-anticipated debut book, No Apologies: Powerful Lessons in Life, Love & Politics.

Morgan is a graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga. where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Sociology and Drama. She resides in Austell, GA with husband David, a member of the Cobb County School Board, and daughter Lailah.

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July 2010 Darius Graham

August 31, 2010 | By | No Comments

 Darius Graham is author of the award-winning book, Being the Difference: True Stories of Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things to Change the World.  Darius received a B.A. summa cum laude from Florida A&M University in 2006 and a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley - School of Law in 2009, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Berkeley Journal of African-American Law & Policy and as an editor of the California Law Review
    

 In 2006, USA Today named him one of the top 20 college students in the country and the governor of Florida awarded Darius a Points of Light Award for his community service.  While in Florida, Darius created Books All Around, Inc., a non-profit youth literacy organization that has created small libraries in community centers and distributed over 3,000 new books to children in several states.  Darius has served on the board of directors of the McCullum Youth Court in Oakland, CA and currently serves on the board of trustees of the Institute for Responsible Citizenship in Washington, DC.  Darius is originally from Charlotte, NC and is currently an attorney in private practice in Washington, DC.

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May 2010

August 12, 2010 | By | No Comments

On March 23, 2010 President Barack Obama signed the healthcare reform bill into law. The bill, which represented several decades of Democratic attempts to push Health Care Reform was met with much anticipation. While the success of the law and its reforms will become clear in years to come one thing we must remember are the disproportionate ways in which African American and other communities of color are affected by health disparities. More children, especially those in low-income and minority communities, are experiencing ailments previously only seen in adults—including diabetes, obesity, and hypertension

Racial inequalities in access to healthcare and the quality of healthcare has cost the U.S. more than $50 billion a year over a four-year period, according to a study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. The study found that more than 30 percent of direct medical expenditures for African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics were excess costs linked to health inequalities. Researchers from Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland estimated that eliminating those inequalities would have saved the U.S. economy $1.24 trillion.

According to the Office of Minority Health, minority and low-income populations have a disproportionate burden of death and disability. African Americans have the highest rate of high blood pressure and tend to develop it younger than other ethnic and minority groups. Cancer is the second leading cause of deaths for African Americans. HIV infection is the fifth leading cause of death for people who are 25-44 years old in the United States, and it is estimated that 850,000 to 950,000 U.S. residents are living with HIV infection, one-quarter of who are unaware of their infection. HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death for African American men ages 35-44 and African American women were eighteen times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV in 2003 than white women. According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide rates among African American men are higher than those for other ethnic and minority groups. Overall, low-income and minority communities suffer from both mental and physical health disparities at a significantly higher rate than other communities.

This month’s newsletter examines some of these health disparities. Guest contributors Christopher Chauncey Watson and Clarence Fluker discuss HIV/AIDS in the African American community while Larissa Estes discusses Maternal Mortality among African American women in Texas. Ph.D./M.D. student David Myles discusses life as a medical student and how he took theory to practice. IMPACT Leader of the Month, Joshua Moore, is a medical student who is using his passion for medicine to improve conditions in Haiti.

  

IMPACT LEADER | May 2010

Joshua Moore

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Hailing from Port Saint Lucie, Florida Joshua Moore is a 26 year-old Medical Student at the University of Miami Miller School Of Medicine. Mr. Moore is the epitome of an IMPACT Leader. He is dedicated to empowering communities of color through his work in the medical field. He is passionate about working to eliminate health disparities among Black Americans and other marginalized groups, especially in regards to cardiovascular health. After medical school, he plans to pursue a career in Cardiothoracic Surgery and eventually plans to one day open a total heart health clinic providing care to the disadvantaged and medically underserved.

Mr. Moore is entering his third year of medical school and is already a rising star in the medical field. Throughout his medical school career, he has proven to be an effective student leader and has held various student government positions.

Most recently, Mr. Moore was appointed to the University Of Miami Board Of Trustees, where he will have full voting privileges. Previously, he served as both Freshmen and Sophomore Class Student Government President of at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

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Maternal Mortality in Texas and Minority Women

By Larissa Estes

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A chance encounter with the Texas State Epidemiologist in 2008 encouraged my pursuit to conduct public health research affecting minority women. During a short walk, he asked me what I wanted study for my dissertation. At the time, I was not sure about my dissertation topic but I knew it would involve women and minority health disparities. The State Epidemiologist rattled off several statistics combining my two interests. One statistic stood out, “In Texas, black women are more likely to die from pregnancy related causes compared to white women.”

Maternal mortality is often used as a measure of health and well being of women across the globe. In industrialized countries with lower levels of poverty, more accessible health care systems, and programs in place to support pregnant women, one can argue that the maternal mortality ratios (MMRatios) should be the lowest possible. This is particularly true for the U.S.A., which spent $2.2 trillion on health care expenses in 2007According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the MMRatio for the U.S. was 11.0 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005. In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cited the MMRatio as 15.1 deaths per 100,000 live births. Despite the discrepancy between the WHO and CDC, the U.S. MMRatios for 2005 are higher than the MMRatios for Bosnia and Herzegovina (3.0 deaths per 100,000 live births), Canada (6.0 deaths per 100,000 live births) or the United Kingdom (8.0 deaths per 100,000) for the same time period. During 2005, 60 maternal deaths were reported in Texas resulting in an MMRatio of 15.5 deaths per 100,000 live births, higher than either the CDC or WHO MMRatios of 15.1 deaths per 100,000 live births and 11.0 deaths per 100,000 live births, respectively. There is rising concern regarding maternal mortality in the U.S. particularly after Amnesty International released its 2010 report “Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA.” This report describes minority women often encounter barriers (e.g. discrimination, socioeconomic status, uninsured/underinsured, transportation, etc.) that prevent them from receiving quality maternal care

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A State of Emergency: HIV/AIDS impact in the African American Community.

By: Christopher Chauncey Watson

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Within the past decade rates of persons living with HIV/AIDS in the United States has steadily increased to epidemic proportions. We can attribute this increase partially to amplified efforts around awareness and testing within communities. Additionally, to some extent, we know more because we are looking more effectively. HIV/AIDS continues to affect the African American community at disproportionate rates—more than any other racial and ethnic group in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, African Americans account for 51% of newly reported infections annually, but this population only makes up 12% of the total US population. This disparity may exist due to various barriers including inadequate access to healthcare and stigma associated with this population. African Americans are most commonly affected through heterosexual intercourse with HIV positive persons or those at high risk of HIV, intravenous drug use, or sexual contact with other men. The estimated annual HIV/AIDS diagnosis rate among black males was 124.8 per 100,000 population and 60.2 per 100,000 among black females, both higher than the rates for all other racial and ethnic populations2. An impact of this magnitude constitutes a declaration for a state of emergency within the African American community to combat this disease.

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Power from Boardroom to Bedroom

by Clarence J. Fluker

 

African American young professionals continue to storm the boardrooms of our nation and move up the career ladder. The next generation of policy makers, business leaders, nonprofit executives and academics navigate the road to professional success with skills like discipline, steadfastness, confidence, intelligence and a sheer will to take control and power of career destiny. Unfortunately, the power to take control over ones professional destiny is not always transferred to ones personal destiny as it relates to sexual health.

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From Practice to Policy: A Medical Student’s Perspective

By David E. Myles

When I was considering applying to medical school I learned that the word “doctor” translates to “teacher” in Latin. Although my medical school curriculum had no formal classes in which we learned how to teach, I spent many Friday afternoons and weekends mentoring and teaching local public elementary, middle, and high school students. Midway through our half mile walks from their school to the medical school I would notice that several of the students lagged behind. It became apparent to me that it was not lack of interest but rather that too many of my students had excessive weight gain and asthma which likely made this mild form of exercise intolerable. Working with these students and providing services for the adult and pediatric patients during my clerkships significantly shaped my vision for the type of medical career I will pursue. I plan to intentionally execute a multilevel approach to prevent the diseases from which my patients and students suffer. To do this, I need to continue learning how to provide anticipatory guidance and vaccinations to, advocate for, treat, and address the social situations of my future patients. Prevention is at the core of the practice of pediatrics and is an effective way to provide healthcare at a societal level and to achieve the goal of my life’s work on a personal level. It is my aim to implement the optimal biological, psychological, and social conditions that will allow each of my patients to realize their full potential. By extension, changing the social conditions that lead to the poor health and educational outcomes of my patients and students has become of increasing interest to me.

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April 2010

August 12, 2010 | By | No Comments

IMPACT Your World

April is the month when spring really makes its introduction. Sporting activity takes off with the seasons of most professional sports overlapping at some point this month. This means that the lens through which many young professionals see the world will likely include a reference to sport. Frequently, people believe that athletes, professional or amateur, could and should do more to improve the communities that support athletes and the sports in which they participate.

This month’s Newsletter focuses on a few of the ways that athletes reach out to improve their community, both locally and abroad. Athlete’s like Jonathon Prince, IMPACT Leader of the month, who is responsible for starting a movement to get more people active by running across the country not once or twice but three times. The Newsletter also includes an article, written by sports executive Shavannia Williams, providing sound tips to communicate with sports teams in your area to leverage the philanthropic capacity of both athletes and athletic organizations. Additionally, this newsletter includes family duo, two writers and active participants in sport. Brian Yeldell took the time to remind us about the importance of teamwork while his nephew Kyle Yeldell contributed an article about sticking to your core mission and brand when pursuing business relationships with athletes and teams.

As the nation focuses on physical activity, nutrition and wellness IMPACT encourages you to be thoughtful about what you eat and to make health decisions that lead to an active and healthy lifestyle. 

IMPACT Leader – Jonathon Prince

jpJonathon Prince, the youngest of three boys, was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. The product of a single mother household after the divorce of his parents, Prince excelled academically, earning acceptance into Clark Atlanta University (CAU). While at CAU, Prince became homeless, was robbed at gunpoint and was the victim of a hit-and-run accident. In spite of these challenges, Prince refused to give up on his dreams of entering the television and film industry.

Upon completing college, Prince moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams. However, in 2005, he became overwhelmingly inspired by the effect Hurricane Katrina had on the residents of New Orleans. He decided to make a cross-country run to inspire those residents as their stories had done to him. First, Prince ran from Studio City to Atlanta. Months later, he continued his running from Atlanta to New York City. Prince has also run from California to Washington, DC with the hope that President Barack Obama would run the last mile of his journey with him and while that did not happen Prince continues on. Through these experiences Prince raised $100,000 in-kind donations that he used to support organizations rebuilding the Crescent City.

However, Prince was not done with his empowering movement. Throughout his life, Prince has been in tune with his community, but he has used this motivation to build his philanthropic spirit. Prince has inspired a physical and social movement—one that should be celebrated and supported.

TEAMWORK: Scoring the Support of Professional Teams & Athletes

By Guest Contributor, Shavannia Williams

Many organizations, in particular, non-profit organizations would like to secure the support of a professional sports team or athlete. Partnerships with professional athletes and teams can enable non-profits to gain visibility, solicit sponsorships and drive event traffic. Teams and athletes welcome these opportunities because they provide for ways to improve community relations, and achieve marketing and public relations objectives. However, competition for these partnerships is limited. To gain support do some research to understand the process and differentiate your request from other organizations.

All professional teams have a community relations and public relations strategy and goals. These strategies and goals often include partnerships with community-based organizations. Research these efforts to understand how teams currently work in the community; what issues are important to the organization and programs they have supported. Once you are knowledgeable about the teams’ efforts, you can better market your partnership goals by demonstrating how your event and organization will help them achieve their objectives. The same research should be done to prepare for soliciting sponsorship and support from individual players, many of whom have private foundations and charities.
The next part of your research should be the teams’ schedule, personnel and players. During the playing season, players are committed to practices, games and community programs organized by the team or that particular sports league. These programs include events such as reading to children, visiting hospitals and feeding the homeless. For this reason, most player appearances are conducted during the off-season. Familiarizing yourself with this information will allow you to position your request for an appropriate time, increasing your chances of success. 

Once you have an understanding of the teams, identify the ways that the organization can benefit your organization. Many organizations limit their request to player appearances and tickets to the games. Consider fundraising by working events, exposure during a game or in-kind donations such as paraphernalia, facility space or sports equipment. To submit your request, be sure to visit the teams’ website, complete the correct form(s), and submit the form(s) with all requested information to the listed contact person. 

Don’t stop once your request was granted and your event was a success! (You scored!) Leverage the experience and work to build a relationship with the organization by following up after the event. Send a note to thank the player(s) or the organization for support and explain how the partnership was beneficial and what was accomplished as a result of their support. Remember that teams want to establish and maintain a positive rapport with the communities in which they operate. Ensuring visibility of the team and its players in the community protects the team’s interest in long term viability. When you follow up, you are providing details that demonstrate that they are accomplishing these goals.

To earn the support of a team or athlete takes work, but with preparation, clear objectives and flexibility, you can “score” the support and develop an ongoing partnership that is a win-win for you and them.

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Shavannia Williams is President of SW Group a marketing firm in Washington, DC that uses media, events, technology and sports to help businesses grow. Prior to starting SW Group, she gained experience in marketing, sponsorships and communications with teams in the NBA, NFL, NHL and WNBA. She was also a Co-Chair for the 2009 NCAA Men’s Final Four Public Relations Committee. She can be reached at sw@theswgroup.net

WINNING IN CRUNCH-TIME: THE SPORTS INDUSTRY LEADS IN SERVING THE COMMUNITY
By Guest Contributor, Edgar Burch

As sports fans, far too often we focus on the negative behavior of a few high profile athletes and fail to recognize the efforts of many within the sports world who work tirelessly to serve individuals and communities in need. Their work deserves recognition and praise. When called upon to perform, athletes and sports leagues have continuously shown their ability to rise to the challenge to serve the communities that have consistently showered them with adulation and unwavering support. 

As amazed as we are by athletic feats, it is clear that sports have had a much greater and more profound impact on society than what we sometimes see in Sports Center highlights. From Jesse Owens’ dominant performance in the 1936 Olympics to Jackie Robinson’s integration of Major League Baseball in 1947, athletes and sports leagues have served as examples of leaders creating change. Sports have the unique ability to bring individuals together from diverse backgrounds to support a common cause. It is these attributes that allow local Pop Warner football teams and NFL stars alike, to create lasting change when engaging in community service or philanthropic efforts.

During the global response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti, we again witnessed the power of the sports world in addressing the needs of those in dire situations who require extensive resources and support. Major professional sports leagues, players’ unions, and the NCAA, in particular, quickly responded to the call for assistance by raising and pledging millions of dollars to support rescue and rebuilding efforts in Haiti. In addition to taking a leadership role in assisting a nation in need, this tragedy was also very personal to the various sports leagues as a number of professional and amateur athletes were born and raised in Haiti. With the increased globalization of athletics, sports entities will be in a unique position to bring awareness to a variety of societal issues and coordinate efforts to serve communities throughout the world.

In addition to the community service oriented campaigns that have been launched by various sports organizations, many professional and amateur athletes and coaches have utilized their notoriety and networks to raise awareness and resources for a variety of causes. Examples include: Indiana University Purdue University’s Men’s Basketball Coach Ron Hunter who has coached barefoot to support the efforts of Samaritan’s Feet (an organization which works to bring awareness to the 300 million children throughout the world who are without shoes) and Major League Baseball player Derek Jeter, who established the Turn 2 Foundation(which supports a number of youth leadership, scholarship, and after-school programs promoting positive lifestyles).

We should remember these things while celebrating and criticizing our athletes and teams. There is much more giving that often goes unnoticed. 

 

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Edgar Burch currently serves as the Assistant Director of Government Relations for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). In this capacity, Edgar serves as an information resource on issues pertinent to college athletics and student athletes for Members of Congress and their staffs, the Administration, and education associations.  Edgar received his JD from the University of North Carolina School of Law.  He is licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois.  Edgar also holds a BA from the University of Michigan.  

 

Sticking to Your Core Brand: Philanthropy with a Passion and Purpose
by Kyle Yeldell

With the recession affecting not only our wallets, but also our psyche, many entities and individuals have slashed their budgets exponentially. This is also true for, usually starting with the community outreach programs. There may be a way to incorporate sports into those community programs in a way that will not blow up the budget because there is always a need for community involvement. Outreach is important to not only be a difference in their surrounding communities, but it also helps the companies and individuals achieve the desired return on investment as each new community involvement project can create new customers, reinforce a brand and grow market-share. 

As consideration is given to the need for outreach and growth, it is important that any community outreach is done within the auspices of focused mission to avoid what some experts describe as “mission creep”, the act of straying from a core mission and values. The likelihood of mission creep is heightened during a down economy as entities scramble to increase their revenue and market share by grabbing whatever fad the marketing wizards say is in style at the moment. This is seen a lot with people reaching out to sports teams and players to include in a campaign as a band-aid or quick fix but problems arise when that campaign in not truly connected to the product, the entity or the end user. Sure face recognition and an alignment with a popular sports brand will give anything a shot in the arm but that alone will not likely sustain long-term growth. 

The search for those answers must start internally. Look around a find a community initiative that is already in place or naturally attached to the target audience of the company or product for such a solution. This attachment helps build passion, focus and familiarity while allowing the company to be genuine in its approach. But just looking for a quick fix, like reaching out to a sports team to serve as a marketing or brand ambassador will not solve all problems. This can also lead to a prime example of “mission creep” as a sports entity has no true connection to the product or company. NBA players advertising for a hover-round may look cool but that will not help them sell more products alone. However, this sports entity can host a basketball game for students with straight A grades or perfect attendance, which is a perfect merger of sports tackling an education issue – how to motivate students to achieve better grades – without adding much to the bottom line of the education budget.

Companies need to learn where he challenges are in connecting with the target audience for the products or services offered by the same and find how to use normal day-to-day operations to improve that connection. If those same companies or individuals want to see a change and want to use sports as a vessel for delivery that change, a plan should be developed that remains close to the vision of that company. A failed attempt at community outreach is often based in a company not sticking to the original focus but rather allowing a marketing tool to take away from that vision and that can have a strongly negative effect on future business. 

***

Kyle “Scoop” Yeldell is a Master’s candidate in the Sports Industry Management program at Georgetown University, focusing on Business, Management and Operations. An alumnus of Morehouse College, he is a professional writer for WooEB.com, continuing on his passion for the written word. His professional writing career began when he was 14, serving as the youngest national high school basketball writer in the nation for his website PrepHoops.com. He can be reached at kyle.yeldell@gmail.com.

Teamwork from a different perspective
By Guest Contributor Brian S. Yeldell

I have run into many people who have made the mistake of thinking that they need to do something MAJOR to be a contributing member of society. To a large extent, that is because so many and so much in society is about the big splash or the big accomplishment, but, there is something to be said for the people who do the little things that make the big stuff possible. 
Have you ever gone to a great event and said, “WOW!”? You walk in and everything is so well put together. There is the entrance, the décor, the food, the neatness, the servers are extremely courteous and helpful and the food is delectable. Well, you may take these things for granted, but a whole lot of folks pitched in to make that event an overall success. Frequently the emcee or event sponsor receives the credit. The “little people”, the event organizer, interior designer, cleaning crew, wait staff, chefs and so many others also do a whole lotta work to make such events successful. 
It is important to think about how the work the little people do. 
There are many people who are selfless and not in need of recognition, These are the people who value and take pride in what they do—even when they don’t receive credit or accolades for their contributions. More of us should be like and remember to acknowledge the little people. As a DC native, I think about Chuck Brown and the words to one of his songs, “whatever you do, big or small, do it well, or don’t do it at all!” That’s something we can all celebrate. 
Through this article I hope to recognize and show appreciation for the “little people” who make all of the big things possible. br>
Brian Yeldell is a graduate of Morehouse College and the Darden School of Business at UVA. After a successful career as an investment banker, Brian decided to focus his business acumen on helping smaller companies securing financing through micro loans and venture capital financing.

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March 2010

August 12, 2010 | By | No Comments

The Obama Administration: A Year in Reflection

On January 20, 2009 the world held its breath, or at least breathed slowly, with patience, hope and anticipation. President Barack Obama was inaugurated and sworn into office. On February 17, 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed into law—a multibillion dollar mix of tax cuts and investments designed to fill gaps and encourage innovation. This month’s IMPACT newsletter features articles from contributing authors reflecting on the Administration—its actions to date and thoughts for the future.

This month we have assemble a great group of young professionals to give us perspective on the work done by the Obama Administration in its first full year of operation.

We feature Melanie Roussell as our IMPACT Leader of the Month. Melanie is responsible for managing communications for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Melanie has worked on Capitol Hill as well but to many she is best known for her work in the community. As a member of Delta Sigma Theta, Melanie has been familiar with the requirements of service and does not shy away from it. 

IMPACT Leader – March 2010

Melanie N. Roussell is currently serving as the Press Secretary for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan. Specializing in crisis communication and management, Roussell has spent nearly seven years inside the Beltway crafting messages and developing communication strategies for political principles.

Roussell first came to Washington, DC as a CBCF intern in 2001 for former Rep. William Jefferson and returned as his staff assistant in 2002. She later served as Public Information Director for the New Orleans District Attorney, where she began to specialize in daily crisis management.

 

Raising the Bar(s)

By Guest Contributor Ashley Finigan

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Today, the United States has the dubious distinction of having the largest prison system in the world. According to a study by the Pew Center on the States, we now have over 2.3 million people living behind bars at a great cost to the states, the federal government and the future human capital of the nation. While punitive minimum sentencing—three strikes laws and the discrepancy between crack/cocaine offenses have all contributed to the ballooning prison population—none have helped to boost our global standing in educational attainment or achievement.

Moreover, strict sentencing laws have not done much to improve rates of recidivism, as many inmates habitually relapse into crime. Many who go to jail on drug charges come out hardened by the experience and continue the cycle of crime and self-destruction.

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Connecting Threads: The First Lady’s First Year and Beyond

By Guest Contributor Sherrae M. Hayes

First Lady Michelle Obama, in the words of 23-year old New York University Ph.D. student Carmen Phillips, is a “one-woman stimulus package”, singlehandedly boosting the pride of professional women of color. Amidst declining approval ratings for President Obama, a potential overhaul of healthcare, and a deep recession – one thing remains unchanged: Mrs. Obama has retained her status as a vibrant leader, inspiring professional women of color through her fashion and more importantly, her fortitude.

On the surface, one can easily trace increased sales for wider belts, bolder colors, single-strand pearls, and assorted sleeveless dresses back to the First Lady, but the threads run deeper and connect professional women of color to a greater sense of hope. Tiffany Norman, 32, an established fashion/event producer originally from Washington DC, has been orchestrating Mercedes Benz Fashion Week shows from behind the scenes for several seasons.

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Gov 2.0: Weaving Tech Through the Basket of Government

By Guest Contributor Kate Krontiris

There has been much talk of Obama’s “tech presidency” – and not just because he refused to give up his Blackberry. President Obama himself is a digital native, but the use of social media and information technology at all levels of government is what has really launched the federal infrastructure into the era of Gov 2.0. The administration has its first-ever “Chief Technology Officer” (Aneesh Chopra) and has commenced the Open Government Initiative, a directive requiring federal agencies to immediately commit to specific actions for greater transparency, participation, and collaboration. Technology is obviously a key component of this new policy.

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Let’s Move

By Guest Contributor Hope Goins

According to the White House official website, Michelle Obama is first and foremost Sasha and Malia’s mom. During her time as First Lady, however, Mrs. Obama has shown a genuine concern for America’s children, and most recently has become the leader in America’s fight against childhood obesity, which affects approximately one third of America’s children.

On February 9, 2010, President Obama issued a memorandum naming a task force on childhood obesity. In this memorandum, the President stated that First Lady Obama will lead a national public awareness effort to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity. This public awareness effort by First Lady Obama is Let’s Move. With Let’s Move, Mrs. Obama is not only partnering with senior executive branch officials, but also community leaders, teachers, physicians, and other parents throughout the country to change the lifestyles of America’s children.

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President Obama is in Office, Now What?

By Guest Contributor Diana Vega

I work for a non-profit organization and spend much of my time going into DC Public Schools. When I enter schools I am greeted with murals of Barack Obama, posters of Obama, large cut outs of Obama. Teachers and school officials have buttons, pictures, and other Obama paraphernalia at their desks or on bookshelves. One day I asked a student, “What did you learn in school today?” “We learned about President Obama,” he said. While Obama has served as an inspiration to people of all ages, races, and walks of life, it is perhaps in these hallways where he means more than one could imagine. With his physical presence just miles away from where DC school children learn, his proximity to some of the most under-resourced schools in the region serves as an example of how much work there is to do to improve the quality of public education for low-income and minority children in DC and throughout the country.

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The Impact of a Reauthorized Workforce Investment Act

By Guest Contributor Ryon Lane

“America cannot lead in the 21st Century unless we have the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world.”—President Barack Obama, April 24, 2009 
Congress writes a variety of federal legislation with the intention of regularly revising it (i.e., reauthorizing) in response to ongoing societal changes. That is to say, as time progresses and our national needs change, some of our laws are designed to change with us. Without such change, it’s easy to conceive of how stagnant laws might hinder national, communal or even individual development and growth.

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) was signed into law in 1998 and was scheduled for reauthorization in 2003. However, that reauthorization never took place (while the House and Senate drafted and voted on reauthorization proposals in committee politics prevented the bills from being passed out of either chamber). WIA now operates on a “continued” basis, meaning that the last three sessions of Congress have simply renewed the legislation under generally the same terms which it was initially passed rather than passing an amended reauthorization of the legislation in order to make it more effectively meet our current needs.

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Maintenance Man

By Guest Contributor Christian Boulden

Many consider President Barack Obama to be a Maintenance Man, as it’s been nearly a generation since we’ve seen our country in the peril that is our current reality. While many past presidents get the opportunity to establish their agenda and maintain in cruise control, President Obama has had to come in with his boots and tool-belt on, working to undo in one term what has been developing since the 1980s.

As we near the halfway point of our president’s tenure, Americans, as much as any other time in recent memory, has been paying close attention to the progress (or lack thereof) that America has made since January 2009. What we’ve seen is that America has a long way to go before it can pat itself on the back and say, “Job Well Done”. Our economy still leaves a lot to be desired, we’re still at war, and unemployment is at levels reminiscent of the Great Depression—particularly in communities of color. There is a great deal of work to be done but there are few things that should rank at the top of the priority list.

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A Review of Financial Stability in the Obama Era

By Guest Contributor Fabrice Coles

When President Obama took office, he pledged to lead the United States out of the economic doldrums that had befallen it. When he took the oath of office, over three million jobs had been lost in the previous year, banks had ceased to lend to families and small businesses, and economic uncertainty hung over the nation like a heavy rain cloud. Now that a little more than a year has passed since his inauguration, it is possible to perform an objective assessment of the impact to date of the Administration’s proposals.

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DEPARTMENT OF LABOR GRANT ANNOUNCEMENT

Unemployment is one of the largest issues impacting the nation and everyday more and more people are losing jobs. Communities of color are feeling the effects of the job crisis the most. To tackle this issue, the Department of Labor has announced three new grant opportunities totaling $193.2 million. These grants are available for community-based job training ($125 million), trade adjustment assistance ($1.2 million) and Indian and Native American Employment and Training programs ($67 million).

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Radio and politics, the new spin for young voters

By Guest Contributor Meredith Chase-Mitchell

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“Yes, we can”, a slogan we all know well, a slogan that people across the globe know, regardless of age, race and socio-economic class. Some may say it’s a pledge that rings in the ears of people everywhere, who for the first time in 2008, believed that America is the land where dreams come true. The innovative, ground breaking and historic Presidential campaign of our President Barack Obama, tapped into all demographics and resulted in a victory for all to remember. How did one man, who many thought the odds were against, manage to appeal to so many? How did one man accomplish securing the most powerful voting age group in America? Simple, music.

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Where Obama, and the Country, Goes From Here

By Guest Contributor Jason Parham

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I sat watching Van Jones, the environmental activist, accept a NAACP President’s Award on television some three or four weeks back. Jones, standing bespectacled in his black-and-white tuxedo at the podium, said something that I have been thinking about since. This was the same man who spent months in the headlines when his checkered background came into question as “Green Jobs Czar” to President Obama (mostly for his involvement with STORM and his support of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a death row prisoner). Standing before the rapt crowd he said, among other things: “I still believe in the politics of hope.” Jones, idealistic to the core, was referencing not only the platform a once bright-eyed and black-haired Senator Barack Obama from Illinois had run on, but his own belief that the economy and unemployment and, really, America would turn around for the better. I sat, in cynicism, wondering how Jones could so wholeheartedly believe in hope after the year we had endured: education rapidly turning into a dying industry, a healthcare bill built up only to be torn down by a wily group of red herrings, unemployment surging like an unhinged rollercoaster. Thankfully, in the midnight hour on March 22, 2010, healthcare reform was approved by a majority vote of 219 to 212 in the House of Representatives. What the Senate will do with it next is a good a guess as any. I have learned not to get my hopes up.

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February 2010

August 12, 2010 | By | No Comments

IMPACT Director’s CornerAngela Rye, Director, Strategic Partnerships

Happy Black History Month! It has been a phenomenal year in Black History. On November 4, 2008, the United States of America made history by electing the first Black President, Barack H. Obama. On that day, black children all over the country truly embraced the fact that one day, they too could become President of the USA. The words “hope” and “change” went from distant dreams to realities…but now what?

At the time of his election, Obama warned us that the work was just beginning–that is indeed the truth. As we look at how this recession is severely impacting the African American community (not just a recession but it is indeed a DEPRESSION in many areas with large black populations, as we face the reality that healthcare reform is an uphill battle while members of our community continue to suffer with ailments that are readily solvable with basic coverage, as we think about the disproportionate numbers of black males that populate jail cells and fail to matriculate from our nation’s colleges and universities–the work is indeed far from over. So, now what?

What will you do to make an IMPACT? To make history? To realize that the work remaining is not up to the President, his Administration, or elected officials alone? What will YOU do? We know what has been. We recognize the great contributions of change agents of the past and present, but we have SO much more to do. It is time to move forward. In wealth management, financial advisors tell clients about the importance of succession planning. The riches that exist within our community and the struggles endured overtime demand the need for a succession plan!
As Black History Month comes to an end, I hope and pray that our rich history paves the way for an even brighter future. This month we are celebrating the role that young advocates of color have played in advancing our communities. The mission and membership of the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA) recently came under attack by an under-researched, hyperbole-filled blog post by Boyce Watkins. Many of my colleagues read in disbelief trying to understand who in the world he met. Many NBLSA Alumni went into under-paid public interest positions to protect the members of our community who have suffered from a lack of advocacy for years. We start law firms where we can take cases that may be rejected in majority firms, we advocate for hiring and retaining people of color at large firms, we engage in community service activities—from pro bono law practice to serving at food banks, we start organizations—like IMPACT—to fulfill our obligation to our peers to always create access and opportunity.

Here are just a few examples of some of the great things NBLSA members have and continue to do:

Charmain Admiral: In an effort to ensure the greatest resources are provided with compassionate, quality legal services her solo practice specializes in juvenile defense. She tailors services to the individual child in an effort to ensure that their first experience with the criminal system is their last. Her mantra is: Protecting liberty while providing second chances.
Christopher Chestnut: Founding The Chestnut Firm four years ago, he has focused his practice on large scale class actions that have an adverse impact on the African American community—tobacco first and now, Avandia which is a drug disproportionately given to African Americans suffering from diabetes. In addition to the abundance of community service done by the firm—from turkey give-a-ways during Thanksgiving to gas tank fill-ups during this economic recession—Chris has made sure that serving the community by providing access to justice and resources is top priority. The firm’s three offices in Jacksonville, Miami, and Gainesville are guided by its mission: Justice Because YOU Deserve It.

Raqiyyah Pippins: After participating in a six-month pro bono rotation with the Children’s Law Center during which she helped find permanency for kids in (or on the verge of entering) the neglect system, she joined Kelley Drye Warren LLP as an food and drug and advertising associate with a focus on food marketing to children.

I have been afforded the opportunity to start IMPACT with some of the greatest advocates in the world! I serve as Senior Advisor and Counsel to the House Committee on Homeland Security where Congressman Bennie G. Thompson is Chairman, and he has created a platform for me to focus on assisting disenfranchised, small minority owned businesses with understanding how to access contracting opportunities with the Department of Homeland Security. Prior to working for the Committee, I was blessed with the opportunity to work for the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) as the Coordinator of Advocacy and Legislative Affairs. I was charged with advocating for the issues of 120 historically and predominately black colleges and universities on Capitol Hill.

NBLSA instilled in us the importance of the Charles Hamilton Houston mission: be a social engineer, not a parasite to society. This Black History Month, we celebrate individuals who are true social engineers—making an IMPACT within their communities and all over the world. Our IMPACT Leader this month, Attorney Bizunesh Scott is the Founder and Of Counsel at Advice & Counsel PLLC. Additionally, Attorney Shomari Wade shares important principles in government contracting law. IMPACT Intern, Michiel Perry shares the important headway attorneys of color are making in technology law, while Attorney Youshea Berry provides counsel on what to look for in new office space for solo practicioners.

February 2010 IMPACT Leader of the Month: Bizunesh “Biz” Scott

Bizunesh “Biz” Scott provides strategic legal advice and counsel on general business matters, corporate compliance, cost-reductions, litigation, contracts, electronic discovery management, document retention, talent management, and diversity initiatives. She has specific experience in the retail, financial services, entertainment, and professional consulting industries. Ms. Scott frequently speaks at legal seminars and conferences on issues ranging from compliance to diversity and mentoring.

She is currently serving as Interim General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Golfsmith International Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: GOLF). At Golfsmith, she manages all legal functions of the business including oversight of legal issues related to retail real estate, contract drafting and negotiations, human resources, securities and governance, intellectual property, compliance, and overall corporate strategy.

She has also been a Deputy Associate Counsel (White House Associate Program) for the Executive Office of the President of the United State’s Office of Presidential Personnel. Before starting Advice and Counsel LLP, Ms. Scott practiced at both Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Latham & Watkins. As outside counsel, she has defended clients during government agency investigations, criminal investigations, class actions, civil actions, and with respect to changes in management.

More specifically, her civil representation includes complex state and federal civil actions alleging securities fraud, RICO violations, False Claims Act violations, breach of contract, wrongful termination, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duties. She has represented businesses and individuals that were under government investigation for a variety of allegations including accounting fraud or improprieties, FCPA violations, improper trading, market manipulation, and consumer fraud.

Ms. Scott also spent six months on a rotation at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, defending eviction actions in the Landlord-Tenant Branch of the D.C. Superior Court and administrative proceedings at the D.C. Housing Authority. Ms. Scott clerked for the Honorable Emmet G. Sullivan on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Ms. Scott earned her J.D. from University of Michigan Law School, a member of both Michigan Law Review and Journal of Gender and Law. She also competed in three moot court competitions, Michigan Law School Campbell Moot Court competition, Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition, and Jessup International Moot Court Competition. Ms. Scott is currently pursuing an L.L.M. at Georgetown Law School.

Past IMPACT Leader featured on Essence.com

Michelle C. Thomas, provides insight in the March issue of ESSENCE, a nationally distributed magazine, regarding finances and how single parents can plan for and protect their children’s futures.

Many times, government contractors are in the news for all of the wrong reasons. Familiar examples include private security contractors operating in Iraq and Afghanistan pushing the limits of military law and incredibly complex accounting practices where a hammer can cost upwards of $400. Major news organizations tend to focus on the exotic, rare occurrence in the field. However, the vast majority of government contracts are fairly ordinary, supplying services such as janitorial services and office supplies. There are, of course, those multi-billion dollar procurements reserved for a few massive corporations to design warplanes or complex, space age weapon systems. As government contracts attorneys, we assist companies large and small with doing business with the government. True expertise is needed to navigate the complex rules and regulations that govern the nation’s federal procurement system. Perhaps most rewarding is seeing the small minority owned, woman owned and veteran owned businesses grow from start ups to accomplished, successful corporations.

The United States government is the largest single purchaser of goods and services in the world. Every year, the Government issues an overwhelming number of contracts valued at approximately $250 billion dollars. The Government, understandably, developed a highly complex regulatory and administrative regime that determines how it procures goods and services from contractors. Unlike commercial contracting, which is governed by the Uniform Commercial Code and common law, the federal government procurement system is governed by a vast array of regulations and statutes. These regimes restrict how a federal agency can solicit bids on contracts, how the agency can award the contract and, most importantly, how much the Government can reimburse a contractor for the work performed.

The Federal Acquisition Rules (popularly known as the FAR) contain a myriad of rules, policies and procedures that govern acquisitions by all federal agencies. Developing an expertise in the FAR is essential as a government contracts practitioner. It governs practically every aspect of procurement, from labor law, to accounting systems, to appeals processes. It also codifies statutes, such as the Buy American laws.

The Government’s Affirmative Action policies for small, minority owned businesses are also included in government contracts law. A Small Business Administration program known as the 8(a) Program is responsible for fostering minority and woman owned businesses participation in the government contracts sector. Companies have nine years to compete for special set aside contracts. In nine years time, successful companies graduate from the program with the experience and resources to compete with traditional companies. Additionally, the Government offers incentives to businesses that are located in historically underutilized locations (HUBZones), such as blighted urban areas or economically depressed rural communities.

Not being your typical commercial customer, the Government imposes a high ethical responsibility on contractors. What is considered to be tough negotiating in the private sector may be illegal in the government contracts world thanks to the Truth in Negotiating Statutes. If the Government relies on a false statement when making an award, that contractor may be subject to civil and criminal liability. Also, lax invoices may also subject a contractor to a False Claims liability. Doing business with the United States government is complex and challenging. However, with diligence and hard work, government contracting can provide a great opportunity for small companies looking to grow. Likewise, as an attorney practicing government contracts law, I’m exposed to a varied, fast paced practice that I immensely enjoy.

Shomari Wade, Esq. is an associate at Troutman Saunders. He focuses his practice on government contract matters such as contract formation work, which includes negotiation of teaming agreements, formation of joint ventures and developing small business subcontracting plans. He works extensively in small business programs such as HubZone, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business and 8(a). Shomari has an active litigation practice which includes bid protest and claims before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals. Shomari is a graduate of Tulane University Law School and Howard University.

Attorneys of Color Making Headway in Bridging the Legal Digital Divide, But More is NeededBy IMPACT Intern, Michiel Perry

Technology is quickly becoming the most important and fastest growing part of the economy, even amidst the economic slowdown. One of the biggest legal and policy decisions of our lifetime will be acted upon in a matter of weeks. The Federal Communications Commission is devising the broadband policy plan, which is slated for release on March 17, 2010. This plan will address many issues, but (1) broadband accessibility and (2) internet openness are of significant importance to communities of color. These two policies will affect communities of color substantially, with broadband access having the ability to close the high speed digital divide and internet openness keeping internet entrepreneurship a reality for people of color. Yet with all of this talk about technology and the Internet in the legal and policy world, there are relatively few lawyers of color engaged the discussion.

Currently, African Americans compose a small proportion of the number of internet and technology lawyers. Doing research for this article was both informative and disturbing. In spite of my efforts, I was not able to find statistics on the numbers of attorneys of color doing tech/internet law. Despite dismal numerical representation and lack of avenues for people of color to gain access into this industry, attorneys of color are still making an impact in the tech and internet world.

Many know Google as the premier search engine, but very few know that its legal department is headed by an attorney of color: David Drummond, Senior Vice President of Corporate Development and the Chief Legal Officer of Google. In this role, he leads Google’s global teams for legal, government relations, corporate development (M&A and investment projects) and new business development (strategic partnerships and licensing opportunities). Drummond’s experience in the legal world of technology is unmatched, as he was a former partner at Wilson Sonsini, working with a wide variety of technology companies to help them manage complex transactions such as mergers, acquisitions and initial public offering.

Google also touts another shining star in internet/tech law world, who just so happens to be an attorney of color, Harry Wingo, who currently serves as legislative counsel at the company. Wingo has a shining resume which includes a stint as counsel for the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, legal adviser at the Federal Communications Commission, and serving the USA as a Navy SEAL.

As we all know, technology does not solely mean working for a dot com firm, but it also involves firms such as internet service providers and cellular service providers. In this realm, another attorney of color has managed to become a leader in this industry. As Senior Vice President of Federal Government Affairs at Verizon Wireless, Marie Sylla, a former hill staffer and graduate of Catholic Law School, handles congressional and executive branch lobbying efforts the company. In this role, she handles issues such as net neutrality, intellectual property and accessibility.

Although there are some brilliant attorneys of color in the legal world of the tech industry, there are far from enough. Internet and technology are arguably the most innovative sectors of the economy, yet attorneys of color are few and far between. It will take both a concerted effort by black lawyers to promote the tech/internet legal industry and an industry initiative to increase the numbers of attorney of color in the tech/internet sector, If you are a current or aspiring attorney of color, I urge you to learn more about the tech/internet industry and look at is a possible career path and to use the knowledge and access you gain to make an IMPACT on communities of color by helping to alleviate the Digital Divide of legal representation in these industries.

What to Look for in Office Space for Your Law Practice By Youshea A. Berry, Principal, Law Office of Youshea A. Berry

fice space for your business can be a daunting task. It can overwhelm and unnerve even the most levelheaded professional who is trying to juggle the practice of law and other professional and personal commitments. In many ways, finding office space for the first time is like renting an apartment: you must determine, from the limited amount of information given to you by the management company, if that is a suitable place where your business can rest its corporate head. Of course, since it is an endeavor that is undertaken while you continue to practice law (and run a business), and since office moves are often borne out of necessity (e.g. current least term is about to expire, firm is expanding), there is usually a time element that adds significant stress to this decision.

Alas, there is hope. There are several factors that can be considered when you are looking for office space for your new (or existing) business. I recently went through this process myself, and am happy to offer to you my list of things to consider when looking for office space. I categorized each set of points for easier reading, but this is by no means a one-size-fits-all solution for every law firm. Keep in mind that these are all things that I found helpful; your own firm may have more (or fewer) needs to consider in your quest for the perfect space. Happy hunting!

Youshea A. Berry, Esq., is the principal of the Law Office of Youshea A. Berry in Washington, D.C. Her practice is focused on the areas of real estate and business law. She provides legal counsel to individuals, businesses, corporations, non-profits, and churches in the District of Columbia and in Maryland.

Behind the Music…Attorney Behind the Scenes By Anthony Jones, Managing Partner, The Jones Firm LLP

Behind the screen, behind all the glitz and glamor of the entertainment industry lie the unknown individuals that make the industry what work. Although less acclaimed than the artists, films and television shows that receive the majority of the attention, behind the scenes people such as agents, writers, producers, managers, and attorneys are the backbone of the exciting industry. Much like a starving artist trying to get his or her album some attention, building a successful career behind the scenes can also be a difficult journey. Now in my sixth year as practicing entertainment attorney, I realize that my road wasn’t an easy one, but it is the passion for what I do and producing an end product consisting not only of a creative concept, but a solid business and legal foundation, fuels me to make a positive impact in the industry and leave a lasting impression. I began as a young wanna-be artist slash producer slash DJ, carrying crates of records to parties that I was probably too young to attend. In my spare time, I would check into a freestyle cypher, write a rhyme or two and occasionally hop on the turntables to rock a party, all while developing a first hand appreciation of the determination it took to be a successful talent.

Soon after, figuring out early on that my college basketball career and suburban upbringing would be a “tough sell” as a rap star, I made my first A&R decision and decided not to pursue the lime light, but instead, to look elsewhere to find a synergy where I could express my creativity and use my business acumen. I began to immerse myself into everything I could get my hands on that had to do with the ‘music business’. Eventually, this self education gave me the confidence to take on managing artists and songwriters, and eventually starting an independent label, subsequently procuring a distribution deal with Sony; all while I was still in law school.

As a practicing attorney in this industry, a changing landscape in entertainment, media and technology provides a ripe ground for the creative brand of law and consulting that my firm, The Jones Firm, endeavors to deliver. From its inception, I wanted The Jones Firm to just ‘feel’ different than most attorneys and firms offering legal services. I’ve incorporated many of the skills I learned as a music manager, record label executive and most importantly, as an entrepreneur, to fashion a fresh brand of interactive law practice geared toward making a worldwide impact in entertainment.

With offices in New York City, Honolulu and Buffalo, I’m proud to say my firm’s clients have worked for everyone from Beyoncé, Jay-Z, P.Diddy , Notorious BIG, John Legend, Jennifer Lopez and many others in music, film and sports. We are also focusing on creative ideas using entertainment, or ‘edutainment’ as a way to improving our educational methods in the school system and international deals raising financing opportunities for businesses in developing countries.

Breaking into the entertainment industry as talent or behind the scenes will always be an elusive and challenging journey, but with the fuel of creativity and never losing the mentality of the artist hustling to make his first ‘big break’, talent and business professionals can find a way to success through the obstacles.

Mr. Jones is Managing Partner of the Jones Firm LLP. He has over 10 years in the entertainment business as a manager, record executive, producer and entertainment attorney. Currently Mr. Jones represents Grammy nominated, platinum and multiplatinum recording artists, producers and record labels throughout the US and overseas and on the film side he represents film directors and producers who have worked with award winning productions.

USDA and Department of Justice Announce Historic Settlement in Lawsuit by Black Farmers Claiming Discrimination by USDA

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the successful resolution of the longstanding litigation known as Pigford II. The settlement agreement reached today, which is contingent on appropriation by Congress, will provide a total of $1.25 billion to African American farmers who alleged that they suffered racial discrimination in USDA farm loan programs. The settlement sets up a non-judicial claims process through which individual farmers may demonstrate their entitlement to cash damages awards and debt relief.

Below is a statement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack:

“USDA has made it a top priority to ensure all farmers are treated fairly and equally. We have worked hard to address USDA’s checkered past so we can get to the business of helping farmers succeed. The agreement reached today is an important milestone in putting these discriminatory claims behind us for good and in achieving finality for this group of farmers with longstanding grievances.

“Because this Administration firmly believed that a full and final class-wide settlement was possible, the Administration requested $1.15 billion in the 2010 budget, on top of the $100 million already provided by Congress, to facilitate a settlement. I now urge Congress to provide the funding necessary to ensure that that these farmers and USDA can close this sad chapter and move on.

“As I testified before Congress during my confirmation hearings last year, the USDA under the Obama Administration has made civil rights a top priority, which is why we are working to implement a comprehensive program to take definitive action to move USDA into a new era as a model employer and premier service provider.”

Below is a statement from Attorney General Eric Holder:

“Bringing this litigation to a close has been a priority for this Administration. With the settlement announced today, USDA and the African American farmers who brought this litigation can move on to focus on their future. The plaintiffs can move forward and have their claims heard – with the federal government standing not as an adversary, but as a partner.”

In 1999, the USDA entered into a consent agreement with black farmers in which the agency agreed to pay farmers for past discrimination in lending and other USDA programs. Thousands of claims have been adjudicated, but thousands of other claims were not considered on their merits because the affected farmers submitted their claims after the settlement claims deadline. To address the remaining claims, Congress provided these farmers another avenue for restitution in the 2008 Farm Bill by providing a right to file a claim in federal court. The total amount offered by the federal government in the agreement announced today, $1.25 billion, includes the $100 million appropriated by Congress in Section 14012 of the Farm Bill.

Last May, President Obama announced his plans to include settlement funds for black farmers in the FY 2010 budget to bring closure to their long-standing litigation against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The settlement is contingent on Congress appropriating the $1.15 billion that the President requested. Following the appropriation, class members may pursue their individual claims through a non-judicial claims process in front of a neutral arbitrator. Claimants who establish their credit-related claims will be entitled to receive up to $50,000 and debt relief. A separate track may provide actual damages of up to $250,000 through a more rigorous process. The actual value of awards may be reduced based on the total amount of funds made available and the number of successful claims.

A moratorium on foreclosures of most claimants’ farms will be in place until after claimants have gone through the claims process or the Secretary is notified that a claim has been denied. The claims process agreed to by the parties may provide payments to successful claimants beginning in the middle of 2011. Ensuring equitable treatment of all USDA employees and clients is a top priority for Secretary Vilsack.

He has issued a clear policy and a comprehensive plan to improve USDA’s record on Civil Rights and made it clear to all employees that discrimination of any form will not be tolerated at USDA. Some of the actions taken to transform USDA into a new era as a model employer and premier service provider include:

  • USDA revamped the program civil rights complaints system to improve the complaint process. For the first time since 1997, USDA now has investigators on staff to do the field work needed to investigate complaints.
  • After a competitive bidding process, USDA has hired outside, private firm to do an independent external analysis of the department’s service delivery programs to identify problem areas and fixes. The firm will consider programs at USDA to identify barriers to equal and fair access for all USDA customers.
  • In April, USDA suspended all foreclosures in the Farm Service Agency’s loan program for 90 days to provide an opportunity to review loans that could have been related to discriminatory conduct.
  • USDA’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights has initiated a series of unprecedented civil rights trainings for USDA field leadership teams and required trainings for all political appointees and senior departmental leadership.
  • To try and resolve internal disputes and conflicts early and to enhance the use of alternative dispute resolution at USDA, the department is also establishing a congressionally mandated Ombudsman office to improve dispute resolution efforts.

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January 2010

August 12, 2010 | By | No Comments

IMPACT YOUR WORLD – JANUARY 2010 Will the planet Earth look the same in 30 years? What about 300 years? While scientists provide varying opinions on the effects of our daily consumption of natural resources on our planet; changes in seasons, extreme natural disasters, and increased costs for resources have caused many to think more about the consequences our actions may have. Much has been made of the climate in our world in the last few years including movies by Vice President Gore and other Hollywood follow-ups that warned of impending doom should we not act. This month in our newsletter we have chosen to feature articles showing the importance of going and being Green.

IMPACT LEADER: January 2010

Alvin D. Vaughn, Jr. – Director of Policy and Communications for Ubuntu Green Alvin brings a wealth of public policy and media relations experience to Ubuntu Green. He began his career in Washington, DC on Capitol Hill as a staffer in the U.S. Senate. There he specialized in an array of issues, including transportation policy. He then worked at a major Washington government relations firm where he advised local government clients on a range of public policy issues. Alvin’s career in media relations includes a stint at a major technology public relations firm and in corporate public relations. Most recently, Alvin has served as a lobbyist in the California State Capitol, specializing in transportation, land use, and energy issues. He also serves as a member of the City of Tracy Transportation Advisory Commission. Alvin is a graduate of the University of California at Davis, with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science/Public Service.

DC LOVES HAITI: A Benefit for the People of Haiti

The world watched in horror as a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. With a strong and proud history as the world’s first independent Black republic, Haiti has also long suffered from poverty and natural disaster. Young professionals all over the country are working diligently to raise funds and provide supplies to aid the 3 million people who have been devastated and displaced. Join us to raise support for both the immediate relief efforts and the long-term recovery and rebuilding of Haiti. The program will feature key leaders from the local Haitian-American communitywho are working to improve life in Haiti. For more information on this event visit: Click here

STATE OF THE UNION WATCH PARTY

Join IMPACT and other young professionals to watch President Obama’s State of the Union Address this Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at the Z Lounge inside The Sports Club/LA (22nd & M Street NW next to the Ritz-Carlton). Doors will open at 6pm with food and drink specials lasting throughout the evening. Coverage of the address will begin at 8pm and the speech will follow at 9pm. To RSVP please visit http://sotu.eventbrite.com TODAY!

Going Green and Making GreenBy Michiel Perry, IMPACT Intern

With economic crisis looming, some wonder if America’s economy will ever be fully restored. There are others who are sure that the economy will rebound and with good reason. One reason for this optimism is green technology, one of the most innovative and fastest growing sectors in the global marketplace. As investments are made in this critical industry it is important for young professionals to ensure that benefits also reach communities of color. Whether you look at the numbers for ownership, employment, or investment in green technology, communities of color are missing the boat in joining this revolution, but we can change that. Green Technology is so new and innovative that there is plenty of room for communities of color to become involved. Here are some of the ways we can become engaged in the Green Technology economy:

  • Smart Grid Opportunities: Energy consumption is one of the biggest problems facing the United States and many think the Smart Grid is the way of the future. It is important for people of color to take part in the businesses that will be created due to the development and deployment of the Smart Grid, particularly in the manufacturing and energy sectors.
  • Consulting Firms: As many companies are beginning to see both the cost saving and positive social impacts of going green, they are seeking advice on how to complete these tasks through consulting firms specializing in green technology services. Gaining expertise in ways to help firms, particularly minority owned firms, is another way green technology can help to serve communities of color.
  • Green Technology Staffing: It is important not only to make sure that communities of color establish their own Green Technology firms, but it is also crucial to ensure that people of color are actively seeking employment in these fields. Green Technology will continue to grow and it is essential that persons of color are taking advantages of these employment opportunities.
  • Research: Information is essential to the development of technology. This is especially true for Green Technology that bring together innovations in both science and technology. For communities of color to ensure Green Technology is properly serving us, we must be a part of the research and creation of these technologies.
  • Venture Capital/Investment Firms: So you may not have expertise in green technology, but you may have investment skills. Why not use those skills to invest in Green Technology? There are an abundance of Green Technology firms seeking capital. The only way to truly ensure that minority owned firms are getting a fighting chance to develop Green Technology firms is by investing in and supporting these ventures.
  • Not only is Green Technology economically important to communities of color, it is environmentally and socially important as well. Corporations and city planners have historically targeted communities of color for dumping grounds of toxic wastes and landfills, causing damaging health effects to those residents. To combat these environmentally dangerous conditions facing far too many communities of color, we must make it a priority to support the green economy. By becoming a part of the Green Technology movement, we will have an IMPACT by alleviating the economic and environmental disparities plaguing communities of color.

Marketing GREEN to Minorities By Royce Bable, IMPACT Intern

Frequently, the market is flooded with trends that analysts and consumers alike proclaim to be “the new black.” One concept, however, has many thinking green. Green products, jobs, consulting, and other industries are just at the beginning phases of multi-billion dollar innovation. While the green industry is supported by only a minority of the American population it is continuing to grow. Companies that are committed to pushing the “green” lifestyle have invested millions of dollars in marketing to make consumers aware of the benefits of global efficiency awareness. This is evident in campaigns like veteran ad agency Ogilvy’s Hopenhagen campaign, dedicated to informing consumers about the UN Climate Change Conference at the end of 2009. Though this advertising campaign was not explicitly promoting a product or service it was indirectly enforcing the importance of caring for our planet. The initiative is of the utmost importance but the message is not reaching those directly affected. African Americans, for example, are not a part of this movement because a vast majority of the marketing does not include them as a target. As this concept of “going green” is the new black, what does this mean for African Americans? How can minorities get involved in the green way of life? The typical image of a globally conscious American is not that of a person of color.

While a few celebrities are involved with PETA, prominent African-American figures are generally not featured as advocates for environmental change. A common misconception that marketers frequently enforce is that environmental concern is only important to those who can afford a lifestyle of luxury. Another contributing factor is the lack of coverage of people of color involved in activism, enterprise and service. There may be a lack of participation from African Americans because there has been a lack of direct targeting of our communities with “going green” advertisements. However, as Shawn Smith of the Michigan News states, “People of color can’t wait around for whites to invite us to get involved in the movement.”

There are a myriad of ways to become involved, and it is highly encouraged by the government who have placed tax breaks on items contributing to environmental well being. As young professionals we must do our part to encourage and support companies that include diverse communities in their marketing campaigns. We must also do our part to champion environmental justice. Every little bit helps. Turn off lights when leaving your home. Conserve more water when brushing your teeth, washing clothes or dishes. Walk, carpool, and take public transportation.

US Department of Labor announces $100 million in green jobs training grants through Recovery Act Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis recently announced nearly $100 million in green jobs training grants, as authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). The grants will support job training programs to help workers who have lost their jobs especially veterans, women, African Americans and Latinos, find jobs in expanding green industries and related occupations. Approximately $28 million of the total funds will support projects in communities impacted by auto industry restructuring. Through the Energy Training Partnership Grants being administered by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, 25 projects ranging from approximately $1.4 to $5 million each will receive grants.

These grants are built on strategic partnerships – requiring labor and business to work together. “[This] announcement is part of the administration’s long-term commitment to fostering both immediate economic revitalization and a clean energy future. It’s an investment that will help American workers succeed while doing good,” said Secretary Solis. “Our outstanding award recipients were selected because their proposed projects will connect workers to career pathways in green industries and occupations through critical, diverse partnerships.” Training activities funded through this grant program will be individually tailored based on occupations and skills identified as in-demand in local areas around the country. Training programs will seek to prepare workers for a range of careers including: hybrid/electric auto technicians, weatherization specialists, wind and energy auditors, and solar panel installers.

Grant recipients are expected to work with a diverse range of partners, including labor organizations, employers and Workforce Investment Boards. Bringing together the workforce expertise of these groups will allow grantees to develop programs that are responsive to the needs of both workers and employers, and that provide participants with the support needed to successfully complete training. The grantees will utilize these partnerships to design and distribute training approaches that lead to portable industry credentials and employment, including career opportunities in registered apprenticeship programs. These grants are part of a larger Recovery Act initiative — totaling $500 million — to fund workforce development projects that promote economic growth by preparing workers for careers in the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries. The Department of Labor expects to release funding for two remaining green grant award categories over the next several weeks. For a full listing and project description of each grant recipient, visit http://www.doleta.gov. To view a video or listen to radio actualities (in English and Spanish) with introductions to the green jobs training grants by Secretary Solis, visit http://www.dol.gov/dol/media/webcast/grants.

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December 2009

August 12, 2010 | By | No Comments

December 2009 – IMPACT YOUR WORLD!

A good friend constantly reminds me that our lives are neither black nor white—they are grey. Adding my own spin, I now remind colleagues and peers to stay in the silver for as the saying goes: “In every grey cloud, there is a silver lining.”Our grey cloud at present is a recession that has hit communities of color with a force not seen since the Great Depression. For example, the October unemployment rate for Black males was above 17 percent compared to White adult males and females whose single digit figures, 9.5 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively, highlight the gross inequality.

At 12.4 percent, joblessness among Black women is also above the national average (10.2 percent). Given these factors one might ask, where exactly is the silver lining? While there is much work to be done, there are individuals and organizations committed to improving these conditions, particularly in communities of color. During this time of extreme turbulence there are innovative thinkers who are identifying creative solutions to simulate job development, ensure individuals have access to education and training programs needed to obtain and secure good jobs, and support for entrepreneurship.

One shining example of an individual responsible for helping to improve the economic condition for communities of color is our December IL, the Honorable Christian S. Johansson, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED).In this month’s newsletter you will find information on everything from the critical role of a credit score, resources to prevent foreclosure, and tips for understanding the stock market during a recession.If you have been hard hit by the recession, remember that IMPACT is here to serve you. Upload a profile on www.IMPACTConnection.com to be immediately connected to employment opportunities. Also, follow us on Twitter: @IMPACTConnect. Times may be hard, but if you stay focused on finding your next opportunity, this too shall pass! Stay in the silver!

December 2009: IMPACT Leader of the Month
Secretary Christian S. Johansson leads the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) with an accomplished background in economic development, management consulting, technology and healthcare.Before joining DBED, Christian served as managing director of Continental Equity, where he focused on investing in diverse-owned companies and teams. Prior to that, Mr. Johansson served as president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore (EAGB), the region’s private/public partnership responsible for promoting economic growth.Mr. Johansson earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Brown University and received a Masters of Business Administration degree from Harvard University. He was named one of the Baltimore Business Journal’s “40-Under-40” emerging leaders and was recognized by Leaders Magazine as one of seven Central Maryland leaders. Secretary Johansson serves on numerous boards, commissions and committees including the Federal Facilities Advisory Board, the Life Sciences Advisory Board and the World Trade Center Institute.

Foreclosure: It’s the Last Option, Not Your Only Option

By Michiel Perry, IMPACT Intern

While the stories in the news are focused on big banks failing and the consumer price index, there is a different reality facing all people. It is almost impossible to drive down a residential street without seeing a foreclosure sign. All over the country, Americans are losing their homes at alarming rates, with people of color, feeling the worst of the effects. People of color have historically had higher unemployment rates and are more likely to receive subprime/high risk loans, the housing crisis has affected people of color more so than any other group. Although it is easy to focus on the effects of foreclosure on communities of color, it is even more important to focus on how to prevent foreclosures.Foreclosure is and should be used as a last resort. Some options for avoiding foreclosure on your own are:

  • Sell the house. This option will leave you equipped to preserve your credit score as best as possible. Try to use the equity in your home to allow you to pay off your mortgage in full and try to peform a quick sale.

  • Negotiate a short sale. When you run out of options and you owe much more than your home is worth, a short sale may be best. This means you may be able to get the lender to accept less than is owed, thereby selling the house for whatever you can get. The lender agrees to accept the proceeds and not go after you for the deficit. Short sales often result in further credit and tax problems, so make sure to get help from a mortgage professional to minimize these effects.

  • Offer a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

  • If selling your home is not an option due to the balance that remains on your mortgage loan, handing over your deed to your lender may be an option. Doing this means your lender will free you from your mortgage, preventing you from having to pay any deficit that might be owed on the property, while the lender avoids further legal costs related to a foreclosure. Lenders are not required to accept a deed, so you must make every effort to show that your delinquency is due to "unavoidable hardship."

    As the pressures of possible foreclosure are both financially and emotionally demanding, it is important to know where to seek help. Members of the private sector, government and the non-profit world are all working together on initiatives to help homeowners stay in their homes. Some of these programs include:

  • HUD Making Home Affordable: A program where if you qualify, will refinance your mortgage into more affordable monthly payments, in hopes of preventing foreclosure and saving your credit.

  • Fannie Mae Deed for Lease Program: This a program under which if you qualify, you can remain in your home by signing a lease in connection with the voluntary transfer of the property deed back to the lender.

  • HOPE for Homeowners: This program will refinance your mortgage if you are having difficulty making payments, but can afford a new loan insured by HUD’s Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

No matter what you may hear, foreclosure is not your only option. Although it may seem impossible to avoid foreclosure, there are ways to do it and you do not have to do it alone. There are plenty of resources available to help aid you in the process, so make sure to utilize them. Owning a home is one of the most financially empowering things you can do for yourself. As powerful as it is to own a home, it can be equally damaging if your financial circumstances cause you to foreclose on your property. Make an IMPACT by spreading this information to those who may be in need of it!

A Recession for the United States, A Depression for Communities of Color? By Royce Bable, IMPACT intern

Most have heard the adage “when America catches a cold, Black America gets pneumonia.” The recent economic crisis is no exception and while the entire country is grappling with record job losses and unstable housing and financial markets, communities of color are struggling in unique ways. For example, the Washington Post recently reported that African American men have been the hardest hit by the economic downturn. For example, a recent Princeton University study of nearly 1500 employers in the New York City area found that black males with no criminal record are no more likely to receive a job than a white applicant just released from prison. The black man has continued to be the face of disadvantaged situations in America this case being no exception. Historically, Black men have been plagued with unfavorable labor and employment options. When addressing these issues policy makers must evaluate the plight of the black male to positively affect change in the community.

High incarceration (including nonviolent crimes with disparate sentencing) and dropout rates are contributing factors to the state of affairs for black men. To illustrate, data from The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the unemployment rates for blacks was higher than whites, Latinos, and even the “other” category with most of the majority of the unemployed being black males. These numbers only perpetuate stereotypes towards black males, which can encourage discrimination in the workforce. Although the state of the American economy has affected a significant number of middle class families, minority households suffer from financial instability at a rate substantially higher than their white counterparts.

The state of the economy has caused thousands of minorities to be professionally displaced, which further exacerbates financial instability in already underprivileged households. With the unemployment rate increasing dramatically amongst this demographic, leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have begun to question the Obama Administration’s concern for the alarming unemployment rates in communities of color. Members of the CBC, and other’s have criticized the $787 billion stimulus package recently signed into law, alleging that while it was meant to preserve and create jobs it does not adequately address urban unemployment. These lawmakers are now calling for the President and the department of Labor to be accountability on issues that directly affect minority communities, particularly their constituencies.

The Truth Will Set You Free: Understanding Credit in a Bad Economy By Ray Connell

College days swiftly pass… but the debt you incur can haunt you forever! As a sophomore at Morehouse College, I used my Rich’s (currently known as Macy’s – I’m dating myself) credit card like it was my token to the good life. My Rich’s card opened doors to the fashion world that my measly work-study budget could only dream of opening. This “free money” enabled me to stay current with all of the latest trends, and to essentially stay neck and neck with the Jones’.

After graduation, and having saved a significant amount of money, I felt it was time to invest in the wonderful world of real estate. An opportunity arose—the property was right, the timing was right, and the price was right, but when it came time to get approval for a mortgage something was very wrong. Having been led to believe the hardest part of investing in commercial real estate was coming up with 20% for a down payment, I was surprised when the question of my credit came up. Put another way, I was dumbfounded when my “questionable credit” came up. Even with my limited credit history, I had managed to submarine my credit score well below 600. I was considered an “Risk” to lenders. I had not always paid my Rich’s card and with several other retail credit cards on time. Some of the accounts had gone beyond 90-days outstanding and where sent to collections. Other companies wrote off the debt, never expecting to get paid they alerted other potential lenders to my payment history or lack thereof. Needless to say I did not get approved for the loan, but I received something even more important, a copy of my credit report.

Credit reports are the detailed financial equivalent to Santa Claus’ list (‘tis the Season). The reports not only shows when you’ve been bad or good, but also how long you’ve been bad, who you’ve been bad to, just how bad you’ve been, and even how many companies have recently looked into your deeds. One major difference between the two is that Santa audits your deeds for the past year while your credit report goes back seven years (even further for some accounts).

A lot of life happened in-between learning about my credit score and writing this article. Well after receiving my credit report and understanding what my credit score consisted of, I diligently worked to improve my credit score and am happy to belong to the ‘750 Club’ for more than 5 years. As we approach fiscal year end, let’s make financial health a top priority. While there are no quick fixes to improve your credit there are a steps you can take to get back on track.

  • First, order your credit report. You don’t have to join one of those websites seen on TV. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com where you can order a free report from the three credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian, Equifax). You are entitled to a free report from each of the agencies annually.
  • Next, review your report for negative items or discrepancies. If any items appear inaccurate write the three agencies to dispute the account by demand an investigation. Don’t be afraid to follow up, especially if you do not receive a response in a timely manner.
  • And finally, once the items are removed make sure to get a copy of your report with the items removed. Be sure to keep copies of all documentation.Good luck, stay focused, and don’t stop the progress.

Ray Connell received his BA in Business Administration from Morehouse College and his MBA in Real Estate Development and Urban Land Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Ray is currently a Private Equity real estate acquisitions specialist for a large investment advisor and can be reached atrayconnell@gmail.com.

Understanding the Stock Market in a Recession By Ryan Scott, IMPACT Co-Founder

Over the past 200 years, the stock market’s steady upward march has occasionally been disrupted for long stretches, most recently during the Great Depression and the inflation-plagued 1970s. Currently, the stock market is trading in the same place it was nine years ago. Conventional stock-market wisdom holds that if investors buy a broad range of stocks and hold them, they will do better than they would in other investments. But that rule hasn’t held up and over the past nine years the S&P 500 has been the worst performing among nine investment vehicles tracked by Morningstar.

Big U.S. stocks were outrun even by Treasury bonds, which historically perform worse than stocks. Adjusted for inflation, Treasury bonds are up 4.7% a year over the past nine years, and up 5.8% a year since the March 2000 stock peak. An index of commodities has shown about twice the annual gains of bonds similar to gains experienced by real-estate investment trusts.Stocks also underperformed other investments during the 1930s and the 1970s.

During both of those periods, stocks would rally strongly, only to fade. It took well over a decade in each case for stocks to develop an upward moving trend. So the question that all of us want to know is, when have we reached the proverbial “bottom”?On December 4, 2009 the United States received arguably the best economic news in multiple years. After a two-year climb to heights unseen in nearly three decades, the jobless rate dropped to 10% in November, raising hopes that unemployment has neared its peak and that the economy is gaining momentum.

The unemployment rate had risen in 12 of the previous 13 months before November. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the unemployment rate edged down to 10.0 percent in November. In the prior three months, payroll job losses had averaged 135,000 a month. Despite the optimism about the job report, some investors are worried about the prospect on rising interest rates for the future. However, the fact remains that the Dow Jones Industrial average crossed 10,500 points for the first time in over a year. Stocks rallied across the board in the first two hours after the open December 4th, leaving the Dow and S&P 500 at fresh 14-month highs and the NASDAQ just short of one.It would seem that between the surprising job report, better new home sales, a new political administration, and the historical data on rough bear markets seemingly being able to recover after roughly a decade—that we are finally approaching a year in 2010 that investors can begin gaining confidence in. However, no matter how much you may hear in the upcoming weeks about confidence in new reports, changes in economic policy, or hot emerging sectors or countries to invest in—remember, while all may seem to be encouraging indicators, all indicators help add to speculation—don’t act too hastily.

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November 2009

August 12, 2010 | By | No Comments

This month’s newsletter focuses young professionals and fashion. Regardless of our chosen profession or preference for self-expression, fashion is the lens through which we are often assessed. This month’s newsletter features a range of articles on the topic. December’s IMPACT Leader of the Month, Mikaila Brown, has combined her interest in anthropology and passion for fashion to launch ALIAKIM, a line committed to raising awareness about issues impacting African people throughout the Diaspora. LaVar Smith tells readers how he left medicine for business and an eventual career in consulting. We know that fashion is a form of expression, a form that is not restricted to what we wear but includes how we style our hair. Tara Bynum explores the relationship between hair and self-expression while Shaka Dickerson compels us all to work together to improve the world around us.

November 2009: IMPACT Leader of the Month

Mikaila Brown

Mikaila Brown, Ph.D. is committed to raising awareness about issues around the world, especially those impacting African people throughout the Diaspora. A trained anthropologist, Mikaila’s passion for people and developing sustainable communities has guided her academic and creative pursuits.

Mikaila received a doctorate in Anthropology and Education from Columbia University in 2007. She has over five years of work experience with domestic and foreign non-profit organizations and has held managerial positions with nonprofits that catered to children living and attending school in impoverished communities. Inspired by the ability of these communities to thrive, Mikaila began exploring a more artistic approach to raising awareness to these experiences. After years within formal systems of community reformation, fashion became the basis for her next approach.

Mikaila has traveled to over 28 countries, living and working on four continents. Her passion for travel has allowed her to develop close relationships with people all over the world. The cultural sensibilities resulting from these relationships and experiences, coupled with her formal training in Anthropology and fashion, fuel her passion to use art as a means to inspire, challenge and bring awareness to communities and situations throughout the world, whose experience is deemed too atypical and too uncomfortable to be acknowledged within the mainstream.

Mikaila has worked with fashion icons including Oscar De La Renta, J. Crew, Pamella Roland, and Susan Joy. In 2008, she founded two fashion related companies. The first, Aliakim, is a fashion line committed to raising awareness to issues around the world using the medium of beautiful fabrics and sophisticated design elements. The second company, Bear Threads, uses fashion to empower youth and provide them tools to become social activists.

Bear Threads is a community development project committed to creating a platform for impoverished youth, ages 13 to 18, to explore social activism while learning the basic intricacies of the fashion design industry. Young artists are encouraged to design clothing inspired by things they would like to improve in their communities and proceeds from the sale of Bear Threads support community organizations.

Bear Thread’s themes of self-defense and personal empowerment commonly associated with slogan, “The Right to Bear Arms”, uses fashion as a tool to awaken inner city youth to their power as active agents of change. These themes and a commitment to improving the lives of African’s throughout the Diaspora embody the work and life of Mikaila Brown. For more information email Mikaila at info@ aliakim.com.

A Passion for Fashion By LaVar Smith

Stop right there before you slide on that tan suit that looks like it came from your father’s closet! The days of wearing those long 4-button jackets with the peak lapel complemented by the wide, swishing, baggy pants have met their end. We all know the phrase “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” But the current state of our economy imposes a responsibility for us to adhere to this advice even more closely. Banks are more and more stringent on how they lend money. Investors are extremely selective and want a certain level of marketability before they let go of their dollars. So while your dress won’t do your job for you, it will deny you opportunities if not executed professionally. Ask yourself this question: “Would I invite someone who looked like me to be photographed for literature marketing my company?” If you can’t answer yes to this question, then a wardrobe upgrade is necessary.

I entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a Morehead Scholarship and started the Pre-Med track. I graduated 4 years later with a BS degree in Business, ready to go “sell suits.” I had decided that I could contribute to my community by ensuring that our up-and-coming leaders project themselves in a way that is consistent with the mainstream’s picture of success. As a Tom James sales professional (Tom James is the world’s largest manufacturer and retailer of custom clothing), I assist through one-on-one consultations as well as by speaking to groups of students and young professionals. Even in 2009, some of us are the first generation to work in Corporate America. We’ve seen the way people dress at church, but we’ve never learned what was acceptable in the business world. That’s where I come in.

Here are some basic fashion principles to remember as you continue on your journey as a young professional developing your personal brand:

  • Remember that you are going to work, not a party. Your attire should project that you are serious about your business, not merely the latest trends.
  • Make sure that your clothing fits correctly. This is most important. Invest in two custom-tailored suits: a navy solid and a charcoal gray solid. Navy opens the discussion. Charcoal closes the deal. Ladies may add black as well.
  • Add white and blue shirts that are also tailored to fit. Stay away from bold patterns so as to not be offensive.
  • Men, avoid square-toe shoes. They scream first-time job interviewer. Ladies, sexy is a no-no. Refrain from stockings with prints and fishnets. Skirts should be no shorter than an inch above the knee. If you have to ask if your suit or blouse is too tight, go a size up.

So the next time you submit a proposal to a government agency, think nice and neat, rather than baggy and boxy. Let your clothing provide the professional backdrop and then defer to your abilities. And don’t make the mistake of reaching for the tan, oversized suit.

LaVar Smith graduated from high school in Chattanooga, TN and received a B.S. degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from UNC-Chapel Hill. For more information or to book an appointment email LaVar at lavar.smith@tomjames.com.

Hair Matters?! By Tara Bynum, Ph.D.

I remember the day that I decided to go natural. I was just shy of 16 years old. As I sat idly watching music videos, the singer Maxwell appeared on the screen with his hair seemingly all natural and all over his head. His hair was unlike my straightened and controlled tresses. His hair became the ideological motivation that I needed to forego perms and the external controls (by which I mean the usual sources of teenage angst: school, parents, social mores), which I imagine constrained my teenage life. From then on, my hair became a symbol of ideological rebellion against whatever systems of power I sought to counter. I decided against perms and wore my hair in an Afro. At my predominantly white high school, my hair represented my continuous fight with and against white supremacy. Everyday I entered the school doors with my unruly Afro prepared to “stick it to the Man” and his standards of beauty. In doing so, I challenged the conformity required by my blue and white uniform.

After high school, college, and too many years in graduate school, I left the revolution behind and adopted a creative approach to my hair. I no longer felt the same allegiance to my initial reactionary anger. My former ideological basis for my natural hair no longer served its purpose. Unruly and uncontrolled was replaced by contained double strand twists and the occasional press. Nevertheless, my hair had become more than me. It placed me within an imagined community of [insert appropriate revolutionary stance—for example, pro-Black, antiestablishment, or whatever seemed most convenient at the time]. More often than not there was someone to remind me of the meaning of my natural hair. Sometimes it was the cheerful heckler on the street whose friendly shout of, “My Nubian sister” or “Hey, my natural Queen” suggested that I wanted to return to a great African past. Other times it was intense conversations with groups of women about the meaning of hair and its general significance in the lives of Black women. In those moments my natural hair angered women who ached for manageability and well-contained locks and opted for perms. Most frequently, my hair’s meaning was constructed through my own fears of an outsider’s gaze, particularly those of an unknown future employer. Over the years, I heard Black men and women speak of the limited hairstyles deemed suitable for the professional workplace. I saw men cut their long locks (dreaded and otherwise) just shy of graduation as they prepared to look more appropriate for life after college. At far too many Black Student Organization meetings, the unprofessional look of natural hair was discussed. Though its meaning often grew and evolved with me, society and its gaze rarely kept up. For a long time, it appeared that I had to choose between political revolutionary and conformist.

I chose neither. I just cut it all off. I have finally left the confines of academia as a student and entered its ranks as a professor. And no one has questioned my professionalism or my ability to speak articulately, though I still hear the eager heckler shout, “Hey Queen.” Every now and again a classroom discussion lands on the topic of hair and what it means to the American woman. The terms “manageability” and “revolution” still find their way into the discussion some ten years after I first decided to go natural. Despite the various ways in which my hair had come to define my politics, I have realized that my hair is my art. I don’t believe that art is always political or politically motivated.

I don’t have very much hair these days. I got tired of maintaining my long hair. Or maybe I got tired of using combs. Or maybe I just adopted another revolutionary stance. Whatever the case may be, my hair is my creative outlet and more often than not (despite the influences of the external gaze) it simply represents what I feel like doing for the moment. Here, moment is the operative word; it’s all subject to change.

Tara Bynum recently received her PhD in English from Johns Hopkins University. She is currently an assistant professor of African American literature at Towson University and can be reached at tara.bynum@gmail.com.

In Defense of Well-Fitting Pants By Tomiko Ballantyne

For the past couple of weeks, people have been reacting to Morehouse College’s new student dress code. Most reactions have been focused on the one rule forbidding male students from wearing female clothing. Reactions from some support the rule against cross-dressing while others have attacked Walter Massey (Morehouse College President) in spades for signing off on the new rules, citing the legacy of homophobia and intolerance that plagues certain sectors of the African Diaspora as a principal reason for such outrage.

I do not particularly care about the cross-dressing rule. Black and Latino (and other ambiguously ethnic) people are sometimes known to wear ill-fitting pants. Let me be plain: like many women my age, ethnicity and nationality, I wear tight jeans that hug some parts of my lower body—parts that I hope to emphasize, and they make me look extremely fly. Despite the fact that I probably own more pairs of jeans intended to fit closely to the body than I do any other type of pant, I am still here to defend trying to own a few pairs of pants that fit in different ways to offer a more professional look in certain cultural spaces.

One of the rules Massey signed off on forbade young men from wearing pants deemed inappropriate for the college, specifically those that sag or whose styling allows the underwear to show. Some men, allegedly recreating prison-chic, allow their pants to sag. Even in 2009, with skinny (neon) jeans for men back in style in some more youthful circles, those very same skinny jeans still sag off their behinds. Have you seen these guys in their “Debbie Gibson pink” jeans squeezing their thighs and calves but pulled down halfway so a little bit of boxer peeps out the top? I am happy that cultural spaces exist for these men to be able to express themselves and feel comfortable. However, Massey et al want the best for their students. The celebration of a prison-chic cultural trend may be wonderfully appropriate in certain spaces, but certainly not every space.

I have no qualms about changing the way people dress when it is time to be and feel casual. However, if Morehouse College and other cultural spaces attempting to create a culture of professionalism choose to advocate for pants that fit according to a certain agreed-upon set of standards, then I support that. But, what are those standards? What does “professional” mean? I ask these questions because as a person living in a transnational Caribbean world I know that sometimes people from other countries are confused by what qualifies as “professional” in North America.

Grown men should most certainly know their boxers should not be coming out of their pants when trying to look pulled together or going on a job interview. To the best of my knowledge, Hugo Boss does not make skinny pantsuits just yet. Pleated trousers with distinctive details on the pockets can be just as fun as the neon pink pant, I promise. Also, flat-front trousers that are straight from the waist to the hem that sit right at a man’s natural waist are more flattering than a sagging pant with one pant-leg rolled up å la LL Cool J circa 1997.

Let me briefly say that it is perfectly okay if you mess up sometimes and just throw on what is comfortable or you slip up and let your pants sag or leave the house in leggings (if you have the legs for them) in the wrong space once in a while. Once you have established a rapport with your colleagues and they know you as someone who does actually own pants that are professional, they will let you slide. Why? Because they will need the very same fashion-police pass once in a while too.

All I am trying to say is that there is often a time and place for everything. Do your thing, brother. Do it on the corner, on the porch, in the movies, on Carnival day and in the club. Nevertheless, if the rules say pull your pants up and let your seams out at the professional door, just do it. There are so many other cultural spaces for self-expression where you can let your inappropriately-fitting pants-loving foolishness all hang out. However, try to get a few pants that fit for work and school. All I am saying is, even in an environment where you can wear jeans to work, no one wants to see your undergarments.

So please trust me on this one, for I will be right there with you the entire time, moving from one cultural space to the next, trying to make sure my pants “fit” according to the rules of each place I go.

Tomiko Ballantyne is a tight-jeans wearing Trinidadian defending her PhD in History at Princeton University as soon as humanly possible.

Learning Fashion By David Ratchford

Navier is a men’s luxury furnishings brand with products such as cashmere sweaters, Harris Tweed sport coats, and small leather goods as well as footwear. Navier was started during my sophomore year in high school with Charles Bryant, my business partner. We attended a fashion show at our school and later on that night we decided to birth a fashion brand. We were inspired by the artistic production of the show and the vividness of the designs. At this point, fashion was seared into my mind as wearable art that could be used for self-expression. We begin to toil over ideas and brand names that would be suitable for our current taste; which included jeans, t-shirts, and pullover hooded sweatshirts. We decided to make t-shirts and jeans with leather patches in multiple designs top stitched on to the fabric. Charles and I began to take sewing classes to learn pattern making and garment construction. We also assembled four friends to help market the brand at other high schools in Atlanta. High school was a great testing ground for the brand and we learned a lot about people as well as their wants as a consumer. Consumers requested custom products and adorned with their name and other forms of personalization. Upon graduation, Charles and I decided to stay in Atlanta and pursue our college careers.
In 2003, our freshman year in college, Charles and I decided to produce a fashion show at Morehouse College. We had nine months of planning time and $30,000 we pooled together from various sources. The time frame and finances gave us a running start; however, time can never be taken for granted. At that point, our knowledge of the fashion industry was minimal but we were focused and ready to work hard.

We contracted a local tailor to produce the garments, set up a meeting schedule with the event production team, and contacted artists. The show was coming together. Mercedes Maybach committed to display a car, Cartier provided guest gift bags, WireImage supplied media coverage, and Vidal Sassoon signed on to style hair. The day of the show everything was in place, except the clothing arrived hours late and did not fit the models. We had over five hundred people waiting to see a show and no choice but to roll up our sleeves and push through the chaos. Thankfully, the show went well despite the fact that the tailor was late with the delivery and the samples were sub-par. That day we learned to handle business before the creative.
To ensure the success of our brand, Charles and I have committed to learning the business of fashion this included sample production, product distribution, product placement, and product manufacturing. We have also had to learn about intellectual properties to protect logos and brand names. Because fashion is international, we’re also learning more about international business relations to manage production in Italy, the United Kingdom, and India as well as textiles from various countries.

Since our first fashion show in 2003, we have presented products to Kanye West, Big Boi of Outkast, Bobby Valentino, and others. We are currently focused on shopping our high-top luxury sneaker to Neiman Marcus for Fall 2010 and preparing for other product releases. Fashion requires a great deal of focus and passion as well as a strong commitment to building key personal relationships. Never stop and always remain inspired.

David C. Ratchford is President/CEO and Chief Designer of Navier. Before founding Navier, Mr. Ratchford studied fashion and volunteered at many fashion events, such as local fashion shows in the Atlanta area. He can be reached at: dratchford@navierlifestyle.com.

Shifting Paradigms, One Design At a Time By Shaka Dickerson

Welcome to the new mindset, to a new era of talk and action. For far too long have discussed and debated issue after issue, problem after problem, jumping over the basic building blocks to ameliorating these problems. We almost seem to relish in the problem, to seize the drama as a means to make our lives that much more entertaining. We use slurs and derogatory terms to refer to our friends and family. We’ve fed into so much negativity that the positive actions we dream about, that we toil for, are negated. The time to change this is now.

A movement is growing; a consciousness is awakening. President Obama’s election is a symbolic representation of this movement. We often argue that the “system” we live in or the rules that govern it (capitalism, socialism, etc) dictate how people act—often without regard for someone else. But I believe that if we focus on the individual, each of us first on ourselves and second on those around us, we can collectively overcome whatever forces are imposed by the “system”. While it appears simple, if we can each change ourselves we can change the world around us.

How can you change people? I believe people need confidence. Everyone says Love changes people. While this is true we must first feel worthy of Love to fully accept it. This is where confidence comes in. With confidence in ones self and in the Almighty Creator people can be themselves. Without the pressure of performing for others, wearing masks or trying to be something else we can all be free to live with passion, to take more risks to make ourselves better people both internally and externally.

Fashion is a transferable medium. Just as the words you say convey something about you, so does what you wear. What you think and what you wear are connected to how you see yourself and how others see you in turn. What you wear you welcome and if what you wear is positive then seeing yourself in a positive manner will ultimately follow.

I hope to use my passion to create fashion that captures and catapults the momentum of the movement into the years to come. Through the fashion I create I hope to inspire others to use fashion as an opportunity for self-expression and self-affirmation. It’s about time that each of us begins to believe in ourselves. Join me in the new movement; build with me in the new paradigm.

Shaka Dickerson attended high school in the Washington, DC area and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban Studies and a minor in African American studies from Columbia University. He also participated in the domestic exchange program at Howard University. Shaka is dedicated to the edification and improvement of his fellow man and society. To learn more of his efforts or interested in joining the cause email Shaka at sdd2102@gmail.com

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October 2009

August 12, 2010 | By | No Comments

This month, IMPACT reflects on the lessons learned at the 2009 Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference while preparing for work that remains to be done. Much like ALCs of years past, this year’s conference provided professionals of color, both young and old, with opportunities to connect with other individuals and to learn about initiatives focused on improving the lives of people of color. The Emerging Leaders Series for young professionals of color proved to be no exception. During the Third Annual Town Hall, hosted by Congressman Bennie Thompson and featuring an all-star panel moderated by Roland Martin, panelists encouraged audience members to stay focused—remaining undeterred during a time of economic fragility, political turbulence and overall uncertainty. Young Elected Officials and policy professionals from the Obama Administration encouraged others to pursue electoral politics and offered personal experience and sound advice for those interested in picking up the torch at the second annual Roundtable. The Fourth Annual Preview 2009: A Red Carpet Affair provided ALC participants with an opportunity to network and socialize at the elegant and historic St. Regis Hotel. Each of these events represented IMPACT’s core principles of economic empowerment, civic engagement and political involvement. We hope that as you read this month’s newsletter you too are able to think about what we have accomplished in the past year. We look forward to continuing to make an IMPACT.

October 2009 IMPACT Leader: The Honorable Heather McTeer Hudson

Mayor Hudson

Marian Anderson was heard saying, “Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.” Many would argue that age and experience are among the most important virtues of leadership. But for this daughter of an attorney and retired teacher, the most important quality in a leader is having the confidence of those that follow you. Heather McTeer Hudson, Mayor of Greenville, MS, has that confidence. Heather McTeer Hudson is a true daughter of the Mississippi Delta. Born and raised in Greenville, Mississippi, She was elected Mayor of the City of Greenville in 2003 and re-elected for a second term in 2007. She serves as the 1st African-American and 1st female to serve in this position. As a child of the great state of Mississippi, Heather Hudson received her formative education from Greenville’s T.L. Weston High School and left Mississippi only to attend college. A 1998 graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, Mayor Hudson received her B.A. in Sociology and went on to earn her a Juris Doctorate at New Orleans’ Tulane Law School. As a three-year member of McTeer & Associates Law firm, where she practiced law, she was well versed in the corporate political arena. Today, Mayor Hudson still practices in her own firm, the McTeer-Hudson Firm, PLLC. After deciding to return to her hometown to live and work, Hudson noticed that many community needs were going unattended. Her immediate goal became to make long overdue improvements to the home she loves so dearly and bringing attention to the amazing people and resources of the Mississippi Delta. Under her leadership, the city has thrived. The City of Greenville has received over 15 million dollars in grants and federal assistance, completed major infrastructure projects including street and sewer repairs, begun downtown revitalization and been highlighted in both national and international programs for the tourism and Honored to be one of the youngest mayors within the National Conference of Black Mayors, Mayor Hudson currently serves as the organization’s President. She is also a dedicated member of several organizations including the Magnolia Bar Association, The Young Elected Officials Network, Spelman College Alumnae Association, the Rotary Club, Mississippi Bar Association and the Mississippi Municipal League. In Greenville, she is a member of Agape Storage Christian Center, as well as Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and, she serves as the executive director of the McTeer Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides scholarships and other educational resources to students in Mississippi. Mayor Hudson has received numerous award and honors. She was named 1 of the 50 most Influential African-Americans in Mississippi and has been featured in the Jackson Clarion Ledger, Jet Magazine, Essence Magazine and the Mississippi Business Journal. One of her most humbling moments was when she was featured as one of the “50 Most Beautiful Women in the World” in May of 2005 by Essence Magazine. Hudson says, “Success is knowing God’s will for life and walking in it.”

The Third Annual Emerging Leaders Town Hall Meeting

Vjarret

Since 2004, the Emerging Leaders Series has been the premier forum series at the Annual Legislative Conference (ALC). The series covers a myriad of issues ranging from financial empowerment, educational responsibility, and community involvement. The initial purpose of the series was to encourage youth to become change agents in their communities, but has quickly become extremely popular among established individuals to gain insight into the minds of youth around the nation. The “Emerging Leaders Town Hall” has continued to be one of the most successful events in the Emerging Leaders Series of events during the ALC, growing in popularity and number of participants each year. This year was no different with leaders in fields such as music, politics, and communications. IMPACT teamed up with the Foundation to host the event that attracted one of the most involved audiences in the series.

The engaging group of panelists included:

  • Congressman Bennie Thompson, US House of Representatives
  • Sophia Nelson, national columnist and renowned blogger
  • Dr. Lamont Hill, Professor at NYU and political pundit
  • Aaron Arnold, CEO, Music Is My Business
  • Stefanie Brown, National Field Director, NAACP
  • Moderator: Roland M. Martin, TV-One host and CNN Contributor

The event was hosted by Congressman Bennie Thompson on Friday September, 25, 2009 attracting hundreds of young professionals of color. Congressman Thompson continues his commitment to public service by being involved with events that are pertinent to American youth. Moderated by noted commentator Roland S. Martin the event discussed issues that were relevant to young professionals of color in America. Each panelist provided unique views to topics based on experiences and encouraged youth to get involved and make positive changes in their own communities. The event directly coincided with IMPACT cores principles of economic empowerment, political involvement, and civic engagement. Following the engaging discussions and opinions on various issues, the panelists solicited questions from the audience. This proved extremely successful as inquiries were posed to the panelists on various issues affecting youth of color.

PREVIEW 2009: A Red Carpet Affair

Epps

PREVIEW was the premier event during ALC serving the purpose of connecting young professionals of color. The occasion connected like-minded individuals seeking to create positive change and IMPACT was privileged to provide the forum. For the past few years, PREVIEW has been one of the most highly anticipated events of Congressional Black Caucus’ Annual Legislative Conference and this year proved to be no different. With several hundred guests in attendance at the historic St. Regis Hotel, the reception proved to be a memorable for all. This year PREVIEW accomplished the following:

  • Celebrated the 2009 IMPACT Leaders and Announced IMPACT Leader of the Year Reverend Matthew Watley, Executive Minister, Reid Temple AME Church.
  • Provided networking opportunities with Members of Congress and other elected officials, including Senator Roland Burris, Congressman Andre Carson, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Congressman Greg Meeks, and Congresswoman Donna Edwards.
  • Strategically connected young professionals from multiple industries including government, politics, private sector and entertainment all attending with the purpose of supporting the positive change young professionals are making in their communities and the world.
  • Recognized key initiatives championed by young professionals to include the unveiling of imPACt, a new Political Action Committee aimed at supported young professionals seeking public office.
  • Featured live jazz from the Marcus Mitchell Project, and an art gallery with displaying works from professional artists Amber Wiley and Critical Exposure, a D.C. based non-profit that works with inner city youth to teach them the importance and power of the arts.


Emerging Leaders Roundtable

This year, IMPACT collaborated with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundations’ Emerging Leader Series to host an event entitled, “Emerging Leaders Roundtable”. The purpose of the event was to provide young professionals with knowledge on how to access federal resources, communicate effectively with the White House and other federal officials, monitor and guide use of federal stimulus funds, and promote civic engagement in local communities. The discussion was moderated by Tallahassee City Commissioner, Andrew Gillum (and 2007 IMPACT Leader of the Year) and included Obama Administration Officials, Young Elected Officials and Policy Advisors to include among others:

  • Rick Wade, Deputy Chief of Staff of Staff and Senior Advisor
  • Michael Strautmanis, Special Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff
  • Myesha Ward, Deputy Assistant US Trade Rep
  • Alan Williams, Member, Florida House of Representatives
  • Melanie Roussell, Press Secretary for HUD
  • Isadore Hall, California Assemblyman
  • Gina Calder, Alderwoman, New Haven, Connecticut

Taking place on September 26, 2009 at the Washington Convention Center during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference, the event was well attended with over 100 young professionals filling the room. The event started with an engaging discussion amongst the panelists addressing how they started their careers in public policy. With a highly attentive crowd, the panelists inspired all in attendance by expressing their personal stories of struggles, triumphs and successes while in pursuit of public service. To follow, the panel welcomed questioned from the audience, where current and future young leaders demonstrated their eagerness to both understand and begin effectuating change in their respective communities. Questions ranged from how to encourage public service at the collegiate level all the way to fundraising strategies for young professionals pursuing elected office. By providing meaningful dialogue, the Emerging Leaders Policy Roundtable served its purpose of inspiring and teaching young professionals to pursue careers in public policy and elected office.