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2012 June

21 Jun


June 2012: The Law’s IMPACT*

June 21, 2012 | By |

Question: I just recently leased a new condo in a great building with top notch amenities.  I’m going to offer the second bedroom to a friend of mine to save on rent.  Do you have any advice to avoid a dispute down the road while living with a friend?




Hi Chris:

Congrats on the new spot!  A new home, especially during summertime, is exciting – think of all the rooftop parties and pool parties you and your friend can host.  But before you think about all of that… think about putting an agreement in place.

While living with your friend has the promise of a lot of fun, it also can lead to disaster if you don’t take proper precautions.  Even if your roommate has been your best friend since kindergarten, the most trusting and loving relationships have deteriorated due to disputes over money and property.  Don’t let it happen to you!  In this case, you should draft an agreement to govern the monetary relationship you have with your friend.

The good news is that this is simple, and doesn’t have to be something that a lawyer drafts for you.  The agreement is best when it uses simple, clear, language that explicitly sets out the responsibilities of the parties.  The essential terms of a rental agreement are: (1) the amount of rent being charged and how it is to be paid, (2) the term of the occupancy, and (3) the space being occupied.  As long as the subject of your agreement is not illegal or against public policy, you are free to determine the entire course of your relationship via contract. Just make sure your agreement is clear and unambiguous, and therefore plain English is best.

It is totally up to you, and advised, that you document how you will cover and/or split utilities (a shared landline phone, cable, water, garbage, gas/electric, if applicable) and to include other terms, such as penalties for late payment, restrictions on house guests, how you will share chores, how and when a security deposit will be returned, and any other matter that you think is important.

It is also advisable to determine what happens when one roommate wants to terminate the roommate relationship before the lease is up. If both roommates have signed the lease, then both roommates are responsible to the landlord for the rent, but the reality is that the remaining roommate gets stuck with the debt because the consequence of not paying the rent – eviction – only concerns the remaining roommate. In such a situation, what is the obligation of the departing roommate to the remaining roommate?

If only one party’s name is on the lease, and I see that you note that you leased the new condo (not you and your friend), that party may be relying on their roommate’s share of rent in order to make ends meet; if the roommate moves out before the lease is up, this leaves the tenant of record solely responsible. One equitable way to deal with this would be to allow the departing roommate out of the lease, or the rental agreement, once an acceptable replacement roommate has been found. If the remaining roommate rejects the proposed new roommate without good cause, then the departing roommate should be released of any further obligations. This arrangement is similar to a provision in the Real Property Law on assignments of leases.

Enjoy your new home, but make sure you protect yourself before you move in!

written by Bari A. Williams

*The Law’s IMPACT is our monthly advice column on topics that young professionals may encounter in their daily travels.


18 Jun


Transatlantic Renaissance

June 18, 2012 | By |

As a practitioner of inclusionary philosophical ideology, I was elated to be selected by the United States Department of State and IMPACT to attend the academically, adrenaline-charged 2012 Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders Conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Young leaders representing twenty-six governments from across the United States and Europe trekked long distances to participate in this essential and pioneering experience. The notion of thinking globally and acting locally was slightly altered, as this experience called for attendees to think locally, but glean from global best practices.
During plenary sessions, attendees took copious notes and listened attentively to subject matter experts (SMEs) discuss cross-cultural competences, equality and justice. For many participants, the engagement was not merely a Tower of Babel, but an opportunity to delve into a deeper contextual dialogue of empowerment.
Attendees were encouraged to explore their own inward speed of diversity. This was illustrated during a reception at the Danish Youth Council, as a robust discussion ensued relative to the use of the term “ghetto.” The visceral reactions to the word caused many to take an introspective look into how we define this colloquial term. Whether viewed as a derogatory term or a simple idiom, the healthiness of the conversation served as a motivating catalyst to establish a new normal for how one describes their own community.
As citizens of the world, we can benchmark and glean much from our rich cultures and personal experiences, respectively. It is only through dialogue can we truly effectuate the change we seek relative to assimilation, diversity, inclusion and integration. We must be relentless and unabashed about our quest for full inclusiveness. This is not only good foreign policy, but this strengthens us as a global community.

Written by Micah Ali.  

Micah was elected to the Compton Unified School District (CUSD) Board of Education in 2007 and re-elected by a historical landslide in 2011.

Micah’s agenda has included franchising teacher involvement in administrative decisions affecting classroom instruction; creating safe classroom environments for students, teachers and classified employees; successfully transitioning English Learner students; supporting first-rate after school programs; and targeted school renovation projects, which serves both eth students and teachers, as well as provides an economic stimulus in the community.

Micah is on the frontline demanding reductions in needless administrative spending and excessive legal fees.  He championed the passage of a resolution supporting the Employee Free Choice Act and successfully fought efforts to repeal the school district’s project labor agreement with dozens of trade unions.

A product of Compton schools, he was reared in Compton where he still resides today.  Micah studied at Stanford University, Yale University and Alabama State University.  He received his Bachelor of Science Degree from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

11 Jun


My Experience with The Give1Project in Paris, France

June 11, 2012 | By |

So I have officially been a week in France as a Leadership Fellow through the Give1Project ( I live in the northwest suburbs of Paris, France—Cergy to be exact—4.5 square miles and a population of 200,000. I dwell in a section of Cergy called “la petite croix” (the little cross) once a generational death trap for crime, death, police brutality, and hunger. It is now transforming into an environmentally sustainable haven for affordable housing inhabitants. Cergy is referred to as one of the “ville nouvelle” or new towns. These were small villages reorganized in the 1960’s and 1970’s to control the expansion of Paris in order to keep the poor people out. American parallel? Think Washington, DC and the redevelopment efforts pushing lower middle class and poor outside of the beltway.

Ninety percent of the people I’ve interacted with speak little-to-no English. Sitting Mayors freely take the liberty of holding multiple electoral positions, and the diversity here is unapologetically vast. Chinese, Colombian, Senegalese, Malian, Jamaican, Moroccan, Italian, and Algerian all in the rainbow. Houses are apartments, ghettos are randomly placed, cars look like toys, fast food actually gets cooked, young men have a perfectly good night over flavored shi-sha and 90’s R&B, cultural diversity is shunned not celebrated, Pandora doesn’t work, and NBA games air a full day after ESPN has already posted the highlights.

Anyway, I am in a totally different world…totally. Moreover, if I were to be honest, I am fluent in about one half of one dictionary column of French. Yes…I know…CRAY. Why would I fly thousands of miles to experience such awkwardness? Why would I journey to a place that I knew would put me in a very insecure place? Why would I choose vulnerability over comfort? Well, for one, I’m slightly “off,” and probably should be on a couch somewhere in a supine position answering inquires about the intersection of my unquenchable ambition and dream-filled reality.

The other reason is the realization that I needed to be “globally fluent.” Beside a month stint inGhana, I had not ever prioritized traveling internationally.

Though my personal passion is domestic urban planning and community economic development, my research and work experience continuously show me that there is work being done outside of theUSthat could be pivotal if executed here in the States. It started to be come clearer to me that the problems I desire to solve were bigger than my experience. In other words, my American lens could in no way be clear enough to view all of the questions I wished to answer. My scope had to be wider, deeper and more defined.

In the US according to the latest statistics from the Department of State, only 37 percent of Americans between the ages of 18-39 possess a valid passport compared to 75 percent in theUKand 60 percent inCanada. How do we align our desire as young professionals to become change agents in our varied fields of study if the only source of our solutions to the problems we face is with 4.52 percent of the earth’s population?

There is something profound about finding answers to questions in places you never knew existed. It is the admittance that the solutions to your problems are bigger then your reality and requires taking the necessary risks even if it means perpetual discomfort.

written by Randall Keith Benjamin, II


11 Jun



June 11, 2012 | By |

IMPACT has joined the over 1300 organizations that have signed on to support the “Keep the Promise” March on Washington.

The “Keep the Promise” March and Rally will bring together thousands of AIDS advocates on the Washington Monument grounds prior to the opening of the 2012 International AIDS Conference with the aim of reminding world leaders and policy makers that the AIDS epidemic remains a global threat to public health.

The “Keep the Promise” March seeks to refocus public attention on the lack of access to HIV testing, treatment and prevention; wavering political commitment to funding the global AIDS response and excessive AIDS drug pricing by pharmaceutical companies.

While recent scientific discoveries show that treatment as prevention has the potential to one day end the AIDS epidemic, political will and financial resources must go hand-in-hand with science to make this vision a reality. IMPACT supports this platform and encourages all to be present at the Washington Monument Grounds on July 22, 2012 and 2 pm.

01 Jun


IL: Alex T. Johnson

June 1, 2012 | By |

Meet our June 2012 IMPACT Leader Alex T. Johnson. Mr. Johnson has served as Representative of the Helsinki Commission at the United States Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (USOSCE) in Vienna Austria since September 2010.   In this capacity, he facilitates congressional engagement and monitors activities of the OSCE Permanent Council and its institutions (, representing the nine U.S. Senators and 9 U.S. Representatives of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (  He first joined the Commission as a Policy Advisor in November 2007.  Over the years, his portfolio has included human trafficking, labor migration, Near Eastern affairs, environmental human rights, regional environmental cooperation, as well as minority relations in Europe and Eurasia.  In addition, he has staffed U.S. Representative Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL-23) in his capacity as Special Representative for Mediterranean Affairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), focusing on multilateral engagement with Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and the broader Middle East.  He also previously staffed the work of former U.S. Representative Hilda Solis (D-CA-32) in her role as OSCE PA Special Representative on Migration.

Preceding his appointment to the Commission, he served as Policy Advisor in Representative Alcee Hastings’ Washington, DC office.  In this capacity, Mr. Johnson supported Representative Hastings’ work on the House Rules Committee.  His legislative portfolio included environmental justice, energy, climate change, financial services, housing, defense, budget, tax policy, and transportation.

Prior to serving as Policy Advisor, Mr. Johnson was a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Fellow.  While previously working for Oregon State University, he served as a consultant for a variety of local government initiatives addressing diversity development and community participation in governance in Portland and Corvallis, Oregon.

Mr. Johnson holds a B.S. in Natural Resources: Cultural Dimensions in Recreation and a Master of Public Policy, both from Oregon State University.  His research experience includes publications on higher education diversity policies, environmental NGO development in Bulgaria, and U.S. environmental justice policies.

You can follow Alex on Twitter at @atjsk1.

Getting to Know Alex Johnson

What inspired you to pursue a career politics and international affairs/foreign relations?

I must admit, I reluctantly became engaged in international affairs. I initially became politically engaged over environmental issues and specifically sought to encourage youth of color to become more aware of the outdoors and develop an environmental ethic regarding their lived environments.  In my youth, you could have counted me among one of the more disenchanted with how our government was negligent in its duties to support under-served populations and urban youth.  This led me to become politically active in student government at my university, eventually leading me to pursue public policy as an approach to improve these circumstances.   After working on local government reform issues with the Mayor’s office in Portland, I eventually synthesized my environmental interests with my public policy goals through addressing environmental justice.  I began working on environmental justice issues legislatively during a fellowship in the office of Representative Alcee Hastings of Florida.  To this day I still feel like much needs to be done to address these issues and improve America, before putting substantial effort into improving circumstances elsewhere.  However, it was Rep. Hastings, among other mentors, who convinced me that it is important to see how people around the world are addressing common challenges to learn how to innovate our approaches to issues back home in America. This began my crash course in diplomacy that has led me around the world several times, supporting our traveling Members of Congress and representing the political leadership of my Commission to address human rights concerns in Europe and Eurasia, as well as the Middle East and North Africa.  It has been an adventure I never would have imagined in my youth.

What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic and social commitments?

I must say that finding that balance is still a work in progress.  I think synthesizing those different aspects of my life has been the key.  Engaging my social networks in my professional pursuits has been a constant goal.  I have also sought to craft my professional work to achieve my long-term goals for community empowerment and facilitating engagement.  Now that I am operating at a macro-level and global sphere through my work, I have had to be creative about finding ways to make my work meaningful and accessible to my friends and family.  I have a ritual of documenting my travel adventures through postcards to my grandmother, nephews, and niece to try and bring the world that I am experiencing to them.  I hope that this will give my nephews and niece an understanding of what it means to be a global citizen, while inspiring them to work hard toward their dreams.  Those dreams are more reachable than they might imagine.  When I get around to starting my own family, I intend to do the same.

What is the biggest mistake young professionals make?

I think there is a fine line between being confident and over-confident.  I encounter many young professionals who assume they know more about a specific issue than the person they may be speaking with.  You can never know the full breadth of experience of who you are working with unless you take the time to be gracious, listen, and learn.  You have to get to know the people that you are working with from the inspirations for their work to what led them to where they are at.  That is why real relationships are vital.  Those relationships must transcend superficial networking.  The best advice I can give is to assume that whoever you encounter knows more than you do.  This will help you craft your message in a considerate and respectful way.
What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to excel in the politics, especially elected office?  Specifically, for other young men of color?

I encourage young leaders of color with political aspirations to start local and consider their efforts in a global context.  Each campaign or volunteer project is part of what it means to be part of your own community, which is the foundation of our global community.  Maintaining a consistent level of engagement while taking the time empower yourself is most important.  Don’t be afraid to make some time to equip yourself with marketable skills, languages, and experiences, even if it deviates from your intended trajectory.  Young men of color encounter unique challenges in professional development so it is important to make time to do things that distinguish your work.  You must think of yourself as an asset that must be marketed.  You need to be consistent about letting your networks know about your accomplishments and what you are working toward.

What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?

The most rewarding professional experience I have had has been contributing to the organization of the Black European Summit at the European Parliament in Brussels 2009 and the subsequent Transatlantic Minority Political Leadership Conferences in 2010 and 2011, also at the European Parliament.  These initiatives have built a bridge for minority elected officials, academia, and civil society in North America and Europe to partner on projects to empower future leaders and build capacity for more representative governments that value the voices of all citizens.  Governments should look like the people that they serve and incorporate their concerns in a meaningful way.  One hundred years after the Pan-African Congress organized by W.E.B. DuBois, we have built momentum in Europe around a new movement to empower ethnic minorities to overcome institutional discrimination and racism.  Contributing to these initiatives made me feel like my career had come full circle back to where I started in student government while in school.  These initiatives have helped reinforce a common identity around shared challenges that transcend geopolitical barriers.

What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?

In the future, I imagine I will become active politically.  I am building my capacity right now for that point.  There is much I still want to learn in order to be even more effective when I do take action.  I have worked in government in some form or another for my entire life.  I think I am open to new experiences now.  Before becoming politically active, I may consider a stint in the private sector in government relations or corporate social responsibility initiatives.  I want to draw from my experience of seeing how business is managed throughout the world to improve community engagement and local responsibility within the corporate culture of America.  I may also consider working in civil society.

Lastly, give me three words to sum up Alex.

Disciplined, devoted, dreamer.