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03 Apr

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IMPACT Your World… Spring 2012

April 3, 2012 | By |

IMPACT is transitioning to a quarterly newsletter through which we hope to provide you with thoughtful pieces about topics that are relevant to the lives of young professionals. This quarter’s newsletter focuses on the intersection of politics and policymaking. Ifoemasinachi “Ify” Ike, the April 2011 IMPACT leader of the month, is a Capitol Hill professional staff member who has dedicated her career to advocating as a voice for the voiceless. Most recently, she led efforts to produce a Washington, DC rally in honor of Trayvon Martin as well as the Congressional panel discussion that followed. Her path to the halls of Congress provides a blueprint for other young professionals seeking to leverage policy and politics in order to be the change they wish to see in the world.

Mavis Baah provides an overview of what African American voters can expect from the Republican Presidential candidates. Activist and scholar Kevin Powell discusses the importance of voter protection in the upcoming election cycle. Shanel Adams and Lara Cole also write about voter disenfranchisement and the need for young professionals to be educated about and engaged in the upcoming election. Audrey  Nicoleau provides tips for all individuals seeking to become more informed about civic participation. Finally, Danielle Moodie-Mills addresses the question of race head on by addressing the ways in which race has impacted recent national conversations. No matter what your political affiliation, we hope that after reading this newsletter you decide to become more civically engaged.
 


IMPACT LEADER: A “Peek” Into Ifeomasinachi Ike

 

Ifeomasinachi Ike (better known as “Ify” which means “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.” James 1:17) is an artist, athlete, advocate, and attorney. On a full academic scholarship, Ms. Ike left her hometown of Trenton, NJ to attend West Virginia University, obtaining her B.A. in Communication Studies, Minor in Art History, and her M.A. in Communication Theory & Research. After working at the State University of New York at Old Westbury for a year, Ms. Ike matriculated at The City University of New York School of Law. During her tenure at CUNY School of Law, Ms. Ike became the first African­American Student Government President, and CUNY BLSA’s first Fundraising Chair. During her third year in law school, Ms. Ike was appointed to the National Black Law Students Association board as the Corporate Relations Director. Her efforts resulted in new corporate sponsors, stronger mentor alliances, and over $500,000 towards NBLSA’s programmatic efforts. At NBLSA’s 40th Anniversary Gala, Ms. Ike was awarded the “Board Member of the Year” Award.

Read More: http://www.impact-dc.com/ifyike

 


Where They Stand: The Republican Candidates
By: Mavis Baah

Let’s face it: we’re used to President Barack Obama. We’ve grown accustomed to his leadership style (even if we don’t always agree with it), and we know how he approaches critical issues. To make an informed vote in the 2012 presidential election, we have to be just as familiar with the Republican candidates. Here’s how Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul plan to address important matters for people of color:

Read More

 


Voter ID: the American anti-democracy movement’s weapon of choice
By: Kevin Powell*

Anti-democracy forces in the U.S. are relentless.

Each time our nation takes a step forward, sure enough, a collective of well-financed anti-democracy naysayers comes along to shoot holes in the social and political progress of this country. Never mind that voting is a fundamental right guaranteed by the U.S. constitution. Never mind that people have been killed, through decades and centuries, so that ordinary working Americans, including blacks and other people of color, women, and 18 year-olds could have this basic human and civil right. Never mind that the 15th amendment to the constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were added as extra layers of protection to insure democracy for all.

Read More

 


Election 2012, Voters Disenfranchised
by Shanel Adams

First appearances of voter disenfranchisement occurred during the Reconstruction Era. Blacks were lawfully allowed to vote, but discrimination led to acts that prevented their success in doing so. These actions ranged from black prospective voters having to correctly guess how many jelly beans were in a jar, to unreasonable literacy tests. In 2012, many fear this same process of preventing minority voters has returned.

Currently one of the most prominent forms of voter disenfranchisement is the implementation of voter ID laws. 30 states have enacted voter ID laws that will be effective during the upcoming presidential election. These laws require voters to show some form of identification in order to vote. Though this may seem like a simple request, the law will discourage potential voters because of the restriction. Some states are strictly requiring specific forms photo identification to vote.

Read More 

 


Access to the Ballot Box: Voter Suppression Laws
By: Lara Cole

Overnight a rolling tide of disenfranchising legislation has moved across the country that will further exacerbate existing problems within our electoral system. This is a war on voting used to present barriers and constraints that voters must overcome in order to prove they are worthy of casting a ballot. In 2012 we should be creating access to the ballot box and not building more barriers.

Read More

 


Impact Democracy: Engage and Educate Yourself
By: Audrey D. Nicoleau

The art of politics in a society striving to reach its teleological end as a democracy involves a delicate dance between the citizenry and its leaders. Both must negotiate consensus on the appropriate policies and procedures needed to form a peaceful and orderly society. Ideally, everyone within a democratic society, whether it be on the local or national level—should be equipped with the educational resources and analytical tools to find solutions to identified challenges.

Read More

 


Our Collective Truth: Race Matters*
By: Danielle Moodie-Mills

Over the past month, conversations about race have found their way through tragedy back into our living rooms and Facebook pages. From a very young age in this country you are taught not to see color or mention it for that matter—and that silence has proven deadly.

Color matters.

Read More

 


Flash Mobs Into Flash Lights: The Need for Diversity on Capitol Hill
By: Brandon Andrews

In a place where the boss’ job is predicated upon the ability to represent the multifaceted interests, experiences, and needs of their constituents and vicariously, the nation—diversity suffers.

The National Journal’s quadrennial “Hill People” project affirms that the hallways of Congress have and continue to be exceedingly white; and no I am not referring to the marble floors and archways.

Read More

03 Apr

By

Where They Stand: The Republican Candidates

April 3, 2012 | By |

By: Mavis Baah

Let’s face it: we’re used to President Barack Obama. We’ve grown accustomed to his leadership style (even if we don’t always agree with it), and we know how he approaches critical issues. To make an informed vote in the 2012 presidential election, we have to be just as familiar with the Republican candidates. Here’s how Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul plan to address important matters for people of color:

 

Job growth and the economy

 

Romney wants to keep tax rates from going up on higher incomes. His jobs plan would reduce the corporate income tax and encourage companies to hire more. He believes states, and not the federal government, are more equipped to retrain those who have been out of work for a long time.

 

Santorum proposes slashing corporate income tax rates in half, and eliminating such taxes for manufacturers. He would also remove the estate tax, and triple personal deductions for each child.

 

Gingrich believes that the key to job growth is tax reform. He would make the Bush tax cuts permanent, set corporate taxes at 12.5 percent, and create a national flat tax rate of 15 percent.

 

Paul’s approach focuses more on balancing the budget than a specific job creation program. He would like to get rid of income tax and the IRS altogether.

 

Healthcare

 

Romney established a program similar to the Affordable Care Act in Massachusetts, but he would still repeal President Obama’s health care plan on day one of his presidency.

 

Santorum would also repeal Obama’s legislation, and allow individuals to purchase their own plans with pre-tax money.

 

Gingrich vows to repeal and replace the healthcare overhaul, and ask states to cover the sickest individuals through high-risk pools.

 

Paul favors repealing the law, and would instead offer tax credits and deductions for any medical expenses.

 

Immigration

 

Romney believes in the need for tighter border security, and doesn’t think it’s a good idea to offer in-state tuition credit to those who entered the country illegally.

 

Santorum says that a border fence should be finished, and if rules are enforced, undocumented immigrants will “self-deport.”

 

Gingrich also supports securing the border. He wants to create a path to legality, but not citizenship, for those who have ties to America through families, churches, and communities.

 

Paul opposes a border fence, but believes in raising security around the border. If elected, he would end birthright citizenship to children born in the US to undocumented immigrants.

 

Values

 

Romney was pro-choice at one point, but he now contends that he is against abortion. He also believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

 

Santorum is against abortion in any situation, and thinks Planned Parenthood should be defunded. He maintains that marriage is between a man and a woman.

 

Gingrich is against abortion, and against gay marriage.

 

Although Paul is anti-abortion and does not support same-sex marriage, he would rather leave these policies up to states, not the federal government.

***

Mavis Baah is a freelance writer and public relations professional based in Washington, DC. Her work has appeared in TIME, ESSENCE, Sister 2 Sister, and other media outlets. You can follow her on Twitter at @_MavisB or on Facebook.

03 Apr

By

Voter ID: the American anti-democracy movement’s weapon of choice

April 3, 2012 | By |

By: Kevin Powell*

Anti-democracy forces in the U.S. are relentless.

Each time our nation takes a step forward, sure enough, a collective of well-financed anti-democracy naysayers comes along to shoot holes in the social and political progress of this country. Never mind that voting is a fundamental right guaranteed by the U.S. constitution. Never mind that people have been killed, through decades and centuries, so that ordinary working Americans, including blacks and other people of color, women, and 18 year-olds could have this basic human and civil right. Never mind that the 15th amendment to the constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were added as extra layers of protection to insure democracy for all.

Anti-democracy forces could care less. For they are thumbing their noses at this history, at human and civil rights, and instead, are promoting for all they’re worth the  “voter ID law” movement, which has been in play the past few years but is now amplified in 2012 because of the presidential election. This means there are now eight American states with voter photo ID laws. These laws vary from state to state in terms of what is “identification.” Some require an ID card with an expiration date. Others mandate that an ID be only state-issued and for the state where that person is voting. Still others demand a full name and address on the ID card. While others specifically prohibit even valid college IDs as proof of identity.

Given these new sets of rules, and the very real possibility that more of America’s 50 states will adopt similar measures, despite the movement’s legal setback in Wisconsin this week, it is little wonder that the Brennan Center for Justice recently reported that as many as five million eligible voters could have difficulty casting ballots, come Tuesday November 6, election day in America, including an estimated 800,000 in Texas alone.

And the most vulnerable to voter ID laws? Poor people of all races, and people of color, who have historically had to do battle with laws preventing them from voting, as well as senior citizens and college students. Then, there are groups like newly-married couples, or newly-divorced ones, the transgendered community, Native Americans, American citizens with immigrant family members, and those who may have recently lost their homes due to the foreclosure crisis.

What this translates into are additional costs per voter to secure new IDs, or birth or marriage certificates, or transportation fees to get to hours-long lines, and away from work and other gainful activity. Many will simply shrug their shoulders and not bother to vote. And this, I feel, is the ultimate goal of the voter ID movement.

This is why Rose Sanders says there is one American  “law” that has never been repealed: the law of circumvention. Mrs. Sanders should know. Not only is she a long-time resident of Selma, Alabama (a city partially responsible for that Voting Rights Act of 1965), but she is also the founder of the National Voting Rights Museum and co-creator of the 21st Century Young Leadership Movement camp, which educates youth about, among many things, the history of voting in America. She is a daughter of the American South, having lived in North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama. Before settling in Selma, with her husband Hank, also a civil rights veteran and community leader, Rose Sanders lived in a neighborhood of Birmingham, Alabama named  “Dynamite Hill”, because African Americans’ homes were often bombed as a terror tactic to keep them from voting.

Ironically, I first met Rose Sanders in the mid 1980s when I was among a group of college students who had journeyed to Alabama to re-register voters knocked from voter rolls by Reagan-era policies—not unlike the ID practice today. Sanders is clear that the more things change, the more they stay the same:

“Every means that was used to circumvent the 15th amendment has re-surfaced with new names. Voter ID is the new poll tax. Efforts to stop immigrants or relatives of immigrants from voting are no different than the fugitive slave laws and grandfather clauses that were once used.”

This is why Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP, America’s oldest civil rights organization, has traveled this week to Geneva to speak before a United Nations panel in Switzerland. Generally the UN’s human rights council hears cases from such troubled areas as the Middle East and Africa. But this is not the first time Americans have done this. The irony that this is happening with an African American president sitting in the White House is not lost.

This is also why organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), must be exposed. Since its founding in the early 1980s, Alec has very quietly played a major role in American legislation, including dramatic changes to voter laws. Much of Alec’s base is Republican or conservative, and mostly white, and much of its funding comes from corporations, corporate trade groups and corporation foundations. Alec has, in turn, pushed bills it wants to see in place, state by state. Little wonder that when we hear the clarion cry “We want our country back,” it is really coded language to say, “we want an America where not everyone has access to the ballot or the American dream. Just as was the case in the years before the civil rights movement.”

This is why it is such a huge mistake for any leader to refer to what is happening as “voter suppression.” We need to continually call it what it is: anti-democracy. Because only anti-democracy forces would go to such lengths to make voting that difficult for that many, especially when the Department of Justice has stated, very clearly, that voter fraud is not rampant in our society. And we need to challenge it from every angle, including voter registration and education drives.

For this is much bigger than one presidential election. This is about the future of our democracy.

*This article was previously published on TheGuardian.com blog.

Kevin Powell is an activist, public speaker, and author or editor of 11 books, including his newest titled, “Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and The Ghost of Dr. King: Blogs and Essays.” Kevin is also a weekly blogger for The Guardian. You can email him at kevin@kevinpowell.net or follow him on Twitter at @kevin_powell.

03 Apr

By

Election 2012, Voters Disenfranchised

April 3, 2012 | By |

by Shanel Adams

First appearances of voter disenfranchisement occurred during the Reconstruction Era. Blacks were lawfully allowed to vote, but discrimination led to acts that prevented their success in doing so. These actions ranged from black prospective voters having to correctly guess how many jelly beans were in a jar, to unreasonable literacy tests. In 2012, many fear this same process of preventing minority voters has returned.

Currently one of the most prominent forms of voter disenfranchisement is the implementation of voter ID laws. 30 states have enacted voter ID laws that will be effective during the upcoming presidential election. These laws require voters to show some form of identification in order to vote. Though this may seem like a simple request, the law will discourage potential voters because of the restriction. Some states are strictly requiring specific forms photo identification to vote.

On March 12, Wisconsin’s voter ID law that was practiced in the beginning of this year, was declared unconstitutional by a state judge. However, many states continue to sign similar laws into action. On March 16, Pennsylvania, a battle state, signed a voter ID law into action.

Similar to voter ID laws, redistricting has served as a potential form of disenfranchising voters in 2012. Redistricting is the process of “redrawing” districts to separate voters who would typically be in the same district. This action is usually targeted toward minority-dense areas in hopes of separating the number of voters who would typically vote for progressive representatives.

The redistricting in Detroit is a prime example of this practice. A densely African-American city with a growing Latino population, Detroit’s plan for redistricting brought attention to the city’s NAACP branch and eventually the U.S. Department of Justice. The governor of Michigan attested that the redistricting met all regulations, and the new district will affect future midterm elections.

Whether it is redistricting or voter ID laws, the right to vote is at stake for minority groups in America. However, several organizations, such as the NAACP, are banning together to protect the vote of the minority. As the presidential election approaches, the fight against voter suppression is imperative.

 

03 Apr

By

Access to the Ballot Box: Voter Suppression Laws

April 3, 2012 | By |

 

By: Lara Cole

 

Overnight a rolling tide of disenfranchising legislation has moved across the country that will further exacerbate existing problems within our electoral system. This is a war on voting used to present barriers and constraints that voters must overcome in order to prove they are worthy of casting a ballot. In 2012 we should be creating access to the ballot box and not building more barriers.

The current landscape paints us a grim picture of what is happening to the fundamental right to vote. Prior to the 2011 state legislative sessions, only two states, Georgia and Indiana, had restrictive government-issued photo identification laws. Since 2011, an overwhelming number of states have introduced voter suppression laws in the name of fighting voter fraud. Ten states have been successful in passing these laws. In addition to voters having to present government-issued photo IDs, states like Florida and Texas are passing laws restricting community-based registrations with harsh penalties for noncompliance.

We continue to see voter intimidation with poll watchers challenging eligible voters with little-to-no basis and flyers being sent out with false or deceptive information. Proof of citizenship laws have emerged as well as restrictions on early voting that seem to target specific communities. For example, Florida has banned early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, one of the highest turnout dates for many African-Americans that voted in the 2008 election who voted after church on Sundays.

Lastly, we have seen an increase in felony disenfranchisement, prohibiting those who have already paid their debt to society from fully reintegrating when they are released and being able to participate in the most fundamental of civic duties.

All of these various voter suppression laws have the potential to disenfranchise as many as five million voters according to a Brennan Center for Justice report. The justifications for this assault on voting rights are very thinly veiled. Proponents of such laws most routinely use widespread voter fraud as the reason for these laws being passed, however the problem with this is there is virtually no in person voter fraud to speak of. After five years of investigation the Bush administration found 120 cases of voter fraud in the entire

country. This number was further reduced after it was discovered that some of these cases involved voter misinformation and misunderstanding about eligibility requirements. Those affected by these new draconian laws are on the margins of society—minorities, elderly, low-income, disabled, and youth and student voters—yet these are the very groups that need their voices heard the most.

The charge to combat voter suppression is now a tall one. Many of these laws are already in place and we are defensively trying to keep the franchise as open as possible. It will take a large coalition of Americans truly committed to democracy and its core ideals to fight these laws and protect our right to vote. The stakes could not be higher; it is no exaggeration to say the soul of our democracy is at stake.

 

***

Lara Cole is Public Policy Counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under law. You can follow her on Twitter at @larajcole5.

03 Apr

By

IMPACT Democracy: Engage and Educate Yourself

April 3, 2012 | By |

By: Audrey D. Nicoleau

The art of politics in a society striving to reach its teleological end as a democracy involves a delicate dance between the citizenry and its leaders. Both must negotiate consensus on the appropriate policies and procedures needed to form a peaceful and orderly society. Ideally, everyone within a democratic society, whether it be on the local or national level—should be equipped with the educational resources and analytical tools to find solutions to identified challenges.

 

In my capacity as a legislative staffer working in the U.S. Congress, I not only had to consider the objectives of my bosses and the diverse constituencies they served, I was also obligated to factor in the opposition’s desired outcome. From there, I had to figure out a path to success where all parties could walk away with more gains than losses. I routinely found that the more educated I was about the options available to handle conflicts that were sure to arise, the more successful I was in reaching a compromise with a favorable outcome for everyone.

 

After a couple of years under my belt working with several Members of Congress, I was tasked with writing my graduate thesis. The firsthand research gleaned from depending on constituents and other essential arms of civil society to guide and inform my policy formation and communication outreach efforts strengthened my analysis of political structures. My conclusion: a politically educated and engaged citizenry is the cornerstone of a truly democratic nation.

 

For Americans, this year’s election season provides an amazing opportunity to educate and engage in the political process. The internet and social networking sites continue to dramatically shift the landscape of political interaction between civil society and its elected and appointed representatives. As everyone is bombarded with television ads, op-eds, and stump speeches from local, state, and national candidates, consider the following:

 

As the candidates and pundits step in and out of the boxing ring between now and November, remember: Don’t just consume what you watch, read, AND listen. Put on your thinking caps and do your best to objectively analyze what you observe instead of readily and blindly accepting the “product” offered.

 

  • Make a pledge with yourself to compare and contrast sources. Since high school, I have used www.newslink.org to read newspapers from all over the country and the world. Many times the local take differs from the national perspective and vice versa. The same goes for American newspapers versus international ones.
  • If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, use it as an educational resource. Start following the sites of your preferred political party, candidate, and policy organizations. I have especially found Twitter to be an exceptional tool since I have many options for holding onto commentary of interest (i.e. retweeting or adding a star as a favorite)
  • Another great way to keep up with the non-stop news cycle is to use RSS feeds, such as Google Reader to keep you updated on your favorite political blog.

 

These unprecedented opportunities to create and sustain a relationship where leaders receive direct input from citizens about the issues of most concern, while citizens can more easily track the words and actions of their government’s officials are constantly evolving as events capture attention and calls for action. For societies that are committed to upholding democratic values and practices, this type of relationship should be the standard, not the exception.

****

Audrey D. Nicoleau is a political communications strategist with a M.A. in Government from Johns Hopkins University, and a B.A. in Political Science and History from New College of Florida. Her academic research has covered democratization and the social, political and economic dynamics of ethnic diaspora groups in the U.S.  Ms. Nicoleau worked in the U.S. Congress as a policy and communications adviser to several senior Members of Congress, including Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL), and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). You can follow Audrey on Twitter at @audan5.

03 Apr

By

Our Collective Truth: Race Matters*

April 3, 2012 | By |

By: Danielle Moodie-Mills

Over the past month, conversations about race have found their way through tragedy back into our living rooms and Facebook pages. From a very young age in this country you are taught not to see color or mention it for that matter—and that silence has proven deadly.

Color matters.

Continual conversations on race matter. Why? Because race and specifically racism are a part of our past as a nation and a part of our present. Unless we authentically begin to address and acknowledge it’s covert and overt existence it will be a part of our future as well.

When we deny race we deny the very essence of ourselves and do those who experience racism daily if not hourly a disservice by playing the “color blind” card.

Many would like to believe that race doesn’t matter. That we as a country have moved beyond disliking others because of the color of their skin and instead feel free to despise people for the content of their wallet. This is not the case. Trayvon Martin, the young black boy, hunted, and gunned down, was killed in his  “gated community” not on the “streets.” Regardless of his family’s “class” which allowed them to take their kids snowboarding, fishing, and provided them with a home in a suburban gated area, their young black boy was still gunned down — their economic status did not change George Zimmerman’s or society’s perception of a young black boy in a hoodie.

Currently, the media is trying to tell a new story. Not the one of an innocent boy killed, but instead of a “self-appointed” hitman assaulted. They have begun to question the character of this young man.

When Natalie Halloway went missing—did America ask why she left her group of friends? And if she was drinking?

We don’t vilify victims—unless of course they’re black, and regardless of how painful this statement is it is the truth. If you can recite just one name of a young black child who has gone missing and there was a national outcry that ensued, please tell me.

Change comes when you make it. Those who write the stories are the ones that tell our collective history. Don’t let the media recreate Trayvon Martin’s tragic case to exonerate the actions of an animal as “self defense.” Keep writing, sharing, and tweeting the truth—until we address racism and examine its many manifestations, we will never reach our potential as a country or as a people.

 

*This article was previously published on Huffingtonpost.com.

 

Danielle Moodie-Mills is an Adviser for LGBT Policy and Racial Justice at the Center for American Progress as well the Senior Manager of Environmental Education Campaigns at the National Wildlife Federation.  You can follow her musings on politics and pop culture on her blog www.threeLOL.com and on Twitter at @DeeTwoCents.

03 Apr

By

Flash Mobs Into Flash Lights: The Need for Diversity on Capitol Hill

April 3, 2012 | By |

By: Brandon Andrews

 

In a place where the boss’ job is predicated upon the ability to represent the multifaceted interests, experiences, and needs of their constituents and vicariously, the nation—diversity suffers.

 

The National Journal’s quadrennial “Hill People” project affirms that the hallways of Congress have and continue to be exceedingly white; and no I am not referring to the marble floors and archways.

 

However, the fact that the floors are marble may preclude diversity more than the fact that they are white. Socio-economic status as a function of race often prevents qualified people of color from accepting the risks involved with working on Capitol Hill. Unpaid internships, near-term salary opportunity costs, and ambiguous pathways to more senior positions are risks that even those with a solid financial and family support structure may not take.

 

Still, a driven group of staffers of color—whose ancestors quarried, cut, and placed the marble in the halls of Congress—thrive and excel. Our diversity, as much as in experience as in color, ensures that those who share our experience, culture, and perspective have a voice.

 

I was honored to join a conversation moderated by Roland Martin on the April 1 edition of Washington Watch with two other young people of color working in D.C.

Janaye Ingram, DC Bureau Chief of National Action Network,- Mikael Moore,Chief of Staff to Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), and I represented the IMPACT and Loop21 40 most influential people of color under the age of 40 on Capitol Hill.

 

Although Washington, D.C. is often portrayed as being detached from the rest of America, the theme of shared experience permeated the conversation at the studio on Capitol Hill. We discussed a topic on the mind of many who share our experience, culture, perspective and culture; Trayvon Martin.

 

Roland Martin began by discussing the Trayvon Martin case in terms of it being a special “moment” in history. A moment that has largely seen Americans of all race support justice for Trayvon Martin and his family. A moment that has seen the most educated and powerful people of color look at Trayvon and say “It could have been me.” A moment that has seen young people leverage the incredible power of social media and mobile technology for social good.

 

Janaye discussed the difference between Trayvon’s slaying and other recent cases such as the Jena 6 and the execution of Troy Davis. Mikael discussed wearing a hoodie himself and the previously little known Stand Your Ground law.

 

After setting the stage and discussing the case, a question was asked. The same question that Dr. Martin Luther King asked the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967: Where do we go from here?

 

How do we build upon this moment and transform energy into positive action? The outstanding adoption and usage rates for social media and mobile technology in minority communities, which I discuss in a Social Media Week DC blog post, point to the ability to transform flash mobs into flash lights that dispel the darkness of ignorance and injustice in not so post-racial America.

 

During the conversation, I noted that social media makes it easy to capture the contact information of participants, build relationships, and walk them up the ladder of engagement. Mikael referenced the advertising strategy of having a continuous conversation with our community, and Janaye closed the discussion with a comment on taking ownership of the change we want to see.

 

We not only need the organizing skills, we also need a diversity of perspective and experience at the table of power when decisions are made. Diversity done right is a positive force multiplier for organizations. My colleagues named to the IMPACT and Loop21 40 most influential people of color under the age of 40 on Capitol Hill list bring that diversity of experience to Washington, D.C.

 

They are special because they took the risk, they are building a community and strengthening the pipeline of qualified people of color coming to Washington, D.C., and most importantly they are always connected to the communities from which they came. Remembering, as I do, that “It could have been me.”

 

Brandon Andrews is a legislative staffer for a member of the U.S. Senate; handling national security and tech issues. He also serves as the Chairman of the committee on political action for the NAACP, DC Branch, and as a project manager for Greater DC Cares. You can follow him on Twitter at @teambmichael or on Facebook. Also, you can visit his website: about.me/BrandonMAndrews.

 

 

03 Feb

By

IL: Ify Ike

February 3, 2012 | By |

IM

Ifeomasinachi Ike (better known as “Ify” which means “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.” James 1:17) is an artist, athlete, advocate, and attorney. On a full academic scholarship, Ms. Ike left her hometown of Trenton, NJ to attend West Virginia University, obtaining her B.A. in Communication Studies, Minor in Art History, and her M.A. in Communication Theory & Research. After working at the State University of New York at Old Westbury for a year, Ms. Ike matriculated at The City University of New York School of Law. During her tenure at CUNY School of Law, Ms. Ike became the first African­American Student Government President, and CUNY BLSA’s first Fundraising Chair. During her third year in law school, Ms. Ike was appointed to the National Black Law Students Association board as the Corporate Relations Director. Her efforts resulted in new corporate sponsors, stronger mentor alliances, and over $500,000 towards NBLSA’s programmatic efforts. At NBLSA’s 40th Anniversary Gala, Ms. Ike was awarded the “Board Member of the Year” Award.

 

Ms. Ike received her LL.M. in Litigation and Dispute Resolution, with highest honors, from The George Washington University Law School. She was selected as a researcher for the American Bar Association’s “Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions,” where she also published an article on the state of Alabama’s juvenile adjudications. Ms. Ike currently is a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Fellow. She has served in the personal office of the late Rep. Donald M. Payne (D-NJ) and currently serves with the US House Committee on the Judiciary. While on the Hill, Ms. Ike has advocated on behalf of Haiti in the areas of clean water, cholera attention, election protection, and housing; protecting the rights of Afro­Latinos; and improving economic development plans within urban communities.

With a heart for urban communities, Ms. Ike has served as the Program Director for Project Hope—The Next Direction, where she created TND Academy, a Saturday academic enrichment supplement to middle and high school students. Ms. Ike is the founder of H.Y.P.E. (Helping You Professionally Excel); The Christian Minority Network, Inc.; Pink&Brown—an urban youth program; and Ike Professional, which assists professionals with various communication needs. She also is a weekly contributor of the spiritual blog “The Bold and Fab.” A licensed attorney, Ms. Ike was a real estate associate for Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, LLP—a Wall Street firm, and Law Clerk for civil rights law firm, The Law Firm of Frederick K. Brewington.

You can follow Ify on Twitter at @DoubleEYEEsq.

 

IMPACT LEADER: A “Peek” Into Ifeomasinachi Ike

1. What inspired you to pursue your current career path?

James 1: 26-27: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Growing up, I was always a little sensitive. Even though most people assumed I was a “tough” chick (and maybe rightfully so), my heart would break down at the sight of a homeless person, or a lonely elderly person with tattered clothes, or a single mother with a child on each hip. I would imagine what I would do if I could help them—and make up little scenarios in my head. Then I would try to perfect those scenarios, while trying to understand the plight of those overlooked by society. For the most part, I learned not to judge too harshly how one chooses to survive because so much ‘life’ happens to people prior to us meeting them.

At the end of the day, I realized that humanity longs for three main types of people: people that love them; people that will listen to them; and people that will speak for them. The choices I make—as a researcher; a mediator; an advocate; an attorney; a (policy) wonk largely stem from those desires.

 

2. What compelled you to spearhead recent events in Washington, D.C. in honor of Trayvon Martin?

To be quite honest, I initially did not want to have anything to do with it; the news paralyzed me. I thought of my brothers: are they safe? I thought of the time my brother—with long locks, ebony skin, chiseled physique, and a heart of honey—was thrown in the back of a police car and handcuffed after the cops initially assumed he was the problem…even though he was actually the one who called the cops. Lucky for him, he has three siblings who are attorneys; when I got that call in the middle of the night from him—well let’s just say less than 30 minutes after I called the precinct he was released. But my heart still aches to know that my brothers, while raised in the same household, live a completely different life as black men in America.

A friend called me and he wanted to talk about Trayvon. He told me about his experience as a black man in America, the conversation he had with his father, and how all the education and connections in the world could not shield him from being profiled. Then he asked: “So what are we gonna do?” Probably out of self-pity and out of the “why me” syndrome, I whined “what can we do?” He reminded me that the one advantage we have is that we are in a city of influence and around people of influence. Our job is to make it important enough for them to act on their influence. After a day of reviewing the facts, I connected with friends, colleagues, PR experts, and mentors about the case and strategies. I drafted op-eds, letters, and other messaging tools that might be useful. I tweeted, facebooked, whatever! I did not want people to agree with me; I wanted people to engage in the discussion.

When I heard about the “Million Hoodies March” in New York, I debated on whether I was going to go. I stayed in DC, but had decided that the first day Congress went into recess—which happened to be the upcoming Friday—I would wear my hoodie on Capitol Hill. I put on my gchat status “Hoodies on the Hill.” Slowly, friends started changing their gchat status to say the same. I reached out to Waikinya Clanton, Chair of the Congressional Black Associates, and asked her if doing a “Hoodies on the Hill” event would be something she would be interested in helping coordinate. She, too, was trying to think of a way we could make a statement on the Hill. Collectively, staffers (and IMPACT) worked together in less than 24 hours to pay tribute to Trayvon Martin on the steps of the Capitol.

After that, I was part of a team that organized a forum focused on the federal government’s role in crimes that are racially motivated. It was an honor to have the parents of Trayvon Martin—Ms. Sybrina Fulton and Mr. Tracy Martin—in attendance. I thought I knew what tired was until I met them. Her face expressed what was on our minds and hearts—yet many are afraid to articulate: when will America cease classifying black men as ‘suspicious’ by default? I questioned it with my own brother. And I imagine it won’t be the last time we raise that question.

 

3. What is the key to balancing your professional and social commitments?

I don’t know. When you find that key, mail it. *Smile* I imagine that at the end of the day, it is to realize that both are essential to a well-rounded individual. I’m not quite round yet…maybe oval-ish. I pray I apply what I know very shortly.

 

4. What is the biggest mistake young professionals make?

Letting mistakes of the past define destiny.

 

5. What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to excel in the nation’s capital? Specifically, for other young women of color?

At the beginning and the end of the day, every advice stems from one’s connection to God. So pray—because if there is one thing DC does not lack, it is advice. But everyone is not sound counsel. So don’t do it alone, but also realize that moments of solitude are part of the process.

Aside from that, you can be influential regardless of the title you possess. So apply for every opportunity you see—just get in. Be a sponge. Then do what only you can do. Corrections will come along the way—but it will only sharpen you for the next step.

As for practical steps: update your resume frequently; meet as many people as you can; stay humble, yet assertive; and find ways to give back. Know that someone is always watching, even during recreation.

 

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

After 12 days of building homes in South Africa with other fellows and volunteers for the Niall Mellon Trust (stationed in Ireland), handing over the keys to new homeowners was the most rewarding experience.

 

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

That’s a good question. I sense that I will continue to help people with messaging, strategy, and advocacy in various arenas. The less you see of me and the more you see of my products, the closer I am to perfecting my purpose.

 

8. Lastly, give me three words to sum up Ify?

How about four: “Without. Jesus. I. Suck.”