Bipartisan Senate 2018 Farm Bill turns the tide for historically underserved Farmers and Ranchers

The Rural Coalition and the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association see strong progress for this nation’s African American, Asian Pacific, Latino, and Tribal Farmers and Ranchers and rural communities in the strongly bipartisan Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, which passed the U. S. Senate in late June by a vote of 86-11. The bill preserves nutrition programs, leaves largely intact conservation and other key programs, and preserves clean water protections. Of great significance to our communities, it makes critical investments in tribal farmers and food systems and programs supporting the nation’s historically underserved, veteran and young farmers and ranchers, improves transparency in credit programs and removes barriers to cultivation of industrial hemp.
“The Agricultural Improvement Act passed yesterday is a huge step forward,” said Rural Coalition Board Member Rudy Arredondo, President of the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association. “We are extremely happy that the Senate Agriculture Committee leaders were able to stay focused on the essentials of as good a bipartisan farm bill as we can get in this political climate.”
“This bill turns the tide for African American and all other historically underserved farmers and ranchers,” said Rural Coalition Vice Chairperson Georgia Good, Executive Director of the Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers Fund, which has worked since 1937 to improve the quality of life in rural communities in the South. We are grateful to Senator Tim Scott (SC) and Doug Jones (AL) for opening a critical new door to allow families of multiple generations operating on inherited land to be allowed in to the programs of USDA that all farmers need to thrive with their bill, S. 3117.

We further thank Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (KA) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (MI) for their patient and persistent leadership to work with us all to include these bills in a landmark package that values all rural communities and peoples.”
According to Rural Coalition Chairperson John Zippert of the Alabama Association of Cooperatives, “The Federation of Southern Cooperatives estimates more than 40% of black owned land is in heirs property status ; including the Fair Access Act in this bill enables people in states that have the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property laws to access USDA programs more directly with less red tape.”
On behalf of our entire Coalition, we also thank Senators Robert and Stabenow, and also Senators Chris Van Hollen (MD), Tina Smith (MN), as well as Senator Jones for their diligent efforts to not only protect but improve the Outreach for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (OASDVFR), which has struggled for funding since first authorized in 1990, and since military veteran farmers and ranchers were added in 2014. The Senate bill links OASDVFR with the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program and strengthens and provides permanent authority to both programs. Under the new bill, the programs would equally share permanent direct funding of $50 million and will be improved with strong peer review processes.”
“We have been working hard for decades to bring equity to the farm bill in terms of treatment for Black farmers and other farmers of color to build cooperatives and to uplift low-wealth communities. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 addresses continuing inequities and supports the quality hands-on assistance needed to make sure the 2018 farm bill reaches everyone,” said Rural Coalition Chairperson John Zippert, based in rural Alabama.
“The passage of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 out of the Senate with strong bipartisan support shows opportunity for young people to shape the future of their tribal, urban, and rural communities,” said Marc Grignon, Co-Director of Hempstead Project Heart, a Rural Coalition member group. “There are numerous provisions in the legislation passed which open the door for revitalization of the hemp industry to thrive in the United States again. We look forward to the House and Senate producing a conference bill that upholds tribal sovereignty, provides permanent support to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and lifts the barriers for the American Hemp Industry.”
“Everyone in our nation, who cares about a future for farmers, ranchers and rural communities needs to contact your Congressional delegations- and your Representative in particular – to rally behind the much stronger Senate bill as a solid base for a final 2018 Farm Bill.”
The next step is for the U. S. Senate and House of Representatives to hold a Conference Committee to merge and reconcile differences in the two bills. The Conference Committee is likely to convene in August to produce a final bill for passage in both houses before the end of September when the prior Farm Bill provisions expire.

Omarosa Manigault named Trump’s Director of African-American Outreach

Written By Charise Frazier

Omirosa Manigualt and Donald Trump

Omarosa Manigualt with Donald Trump at the convention

Former Apprentice star Omarosa Manigault breathed new life into her career by announcing her title as Donald Trump’s campaign director of African-American outreach on live television.

Manigault, a longtime supporter of the presumptive GOP nominee, and former Vice Chair of the National Diversity Coalition For Trump, solidified her position during a Monday interview with MSNBC‘s Craig Melvin.
Melvin pressed Manigault on the recent polling in Ohio and her home state of Pennsylvania, where Trump’s support from African-Americans stands at an astounding zero percent. “I just spent an amazing weekend with African-Americans for Trump, about 300 of them,” she said.
“I’m just wondering who they called because those numbers would be flawed according to the people who have come out to support, had an amazing faith-based service yet with African-Americans who support Donald Trump, had an amazing reception yesterday evening with African-Americans who support Trump,” she continued. “So I look at the data, but my reality is that I’m surrounded by people who to want see Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, who are African-American.”
Well, the numbers don’t lie and if Manigault has any chance of sustaining success in her position, she now knows where she can start.
Manigault pivoted to touting Trump’s economic prowess as a principle for his readiness to lead the country. Though the controversy with Trump University’s multiple lawsuits stands as a stain on Trump’s economic record, and considering the questionable tactics he’s taken with his personal finances (filing for bankruptcy, refusing to make his tax returns public when prompted), Manigault still believes her candidate has “an incredible vision for this country.”

US Supreme Court in 4-3 vote upholds affirmative action at University of Texas

By: David Smith in Washington and Alan Yuhas in New York, The Guardian

The principle of affirmative action for African American and Hispanic people seeking access to higher education received a boost on Thursday when the supreme court upheld a controversial program run by the University of Texas.

In a 4-3 ruling, the court decided that the university’s scheme, which considers race as part of its admissions process, is constitutional. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case because she worked on it while serving in the justice department.

Most students are admitted to the University of Texas through a scheme that guarantees slots to Texans who graduate in the top 10% of their high school classes. But for a quarter of its intake, it considers race as one factor among many, a formula supported by the Obama administration.

Justice Anthony Kennedy warned that though the Texas program is constitutional it may still be the subject of future scrutiny by the courts.

“The Court’s affirmance of the University’s admissions policy today does not necessarily mean the University may rely on that same policy without refinement,” he wrote. “It is the University’s ongoing obligation to engage in constant deliberation and continued reflection regarding its admission policies.”

The ruling strengthens affirmative action programs around the country, making them more likely to survive discrimination suits.

Kennedy wrote that universities deserve “considerable deference” in how they run themselves, “but still, it remains an enduring challenge to our nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity”.

Universities and states can be “laboratories for experimentation”, he said, citing UT Austin as a school that could serve as an example to others. But his commendation came with an order to continuously re-evaluate whether “changing demographics have undermined the need for a race-conscious policy”.

Justice Samuel Alito took the remarkable step of reading his dissent from the bench – an act reserved only for when justices, usually decorous even in defeat, passionately disagree with a ruling. After Kennedy read the conclusions of his 20-page ruling, Alito read his 50-page dissent in its entirety.

“UT’s crude classification system is ill suited for the more integrated country that we are rapidly becoming,” Alito said. “If an applicant has one grandparent, great-grandparent, or great-great-grandparent who was a member of a favored group,” he asked, “is that enough to permit UT to infer that this student’s classroom contribution will reflect a distinctive perspective?”

This system of self-identification, Alito argued, “is an invitation for applicants to game the system”.

In a separate dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas repeated his view that the constitution outlaws any use of race in higher education admissions.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton welcomed the ruling, calling it a “win for all Americans”.

“Having a student body with diverse experiences and perspectives breaks down barriers, enriches academia, and prepares our young people to be leaders and citizens in our increasingly diverse country,” she said.

Arguments at last December’s hearing focused on whether the university can be justified in using race as a factor and showed a clear split between conservatives and liberals.

Abigail Fisher, a white woman from Texas, claims she was deprived of a place at the university because of her race. Bert Rein, representing Fisher, argued that the “top 10%” program was sufficient to bring in Hispanic and African American students and said the university could adopt other measures to diversify its student body without explicit reference to race.

Texas said the “top 10” program alone was not enough and it needed the freedom to fill out incoming classes as it saw fit. Gregory Garre said on behalf of the university that minority enrolment dropped at top public universities in California and Michigan after they ended consideration of race.

“If this court rules that the University of Texas can’t consider race, we know exactly what will happen: diversity will plummet, especially among African Americans,” Garre said. “Now is not the time and this is not the case to roll back student-body diversity in America.”

But during oral argument, Alito said the university was engaging in “terrible stereotyping” by suggesting there was something “deficient about the African American students and the Hispanic students who are admitted under the top 10% plan”.

It is unclear what impact the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in February ultimately had on the opinion.

Scalia might have swayed the moderate Kennedy away from such a strong affirmation of race-conscious admissions. In at least three past cases on related issues, Kennedy had sided against affirmative action programs. Scalia at the very least could have deadlocked the decision 4-4. The conservative justice had made his opinion on the case known in December, when he suggested that black students might benefit from the end of affirmative action.

“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school, where they do well,” he said during oral arguments in December.

The court first heard Fisher’s case in 2012 but the case ended inconclusively and was sent to a lower court for review. The federal appeals court in New Orleans twice upheld the Texas admissions program and rejected Fisher’s appeal.

Fisher’s case was conceived by Edward Blum, an opponent of racial preferences. Blum also is behind lawsuits against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina that aim to eliminate any consideration of race in college admissions.

The Supreme Court has previously allowed affirmative action in limited cases though it has said it wanted to phase it out because it was a form of racial discrimination.

Such programs date to the 1960s, when they were first used to try to reduce racial segregation, but strict quotas were ruled unconstitutional by the court in 1978. Since another test case in 2003, race may now only be used as a factor if it can be shown to be essential in creating educational diversity in class.

Eight states ban the use of race in public college admissions: Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

GAO report: Segregation increasing at some U. S. schools

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA News Wire

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the segregation of African American and Hispanic students nationwide is getting worse.
In particular, a notable increase in segregation among K-12 public schools was pointed out in the study. The study also found that charter schools may often take students from public schools and enroll them into less diverse schools. The study also found that Hispanic students were “triple segregated” by economics, race and language barriers. The report was released on the 62nd anniversary of the landmark decision in the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which declared that segregated schools were unconstitutional.
On May 16, a judge in Cleveland, Miss., found that schools in the town were just as segregated as they were a half-century ago. “The delay in desegregation has deprived generations of students of the constitutionally guaranteed right of an integrated education,” U.S. District Judge Debra Brown wrote.
At a press conference on Capitol Hill, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), House Education and Workforce ranking Democrat Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), and House Judiciary ranking member Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) along with Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) spoke on the issue.
Reps. Conyers, Butterfield and Scott will author a bill that would require schools to “designate at least one employee” to work on complying with diversity requirements. “The percentage of schools where 75 percent of students are both low-income and Hispanic or African-American has increased from 9 percent in 2001 to 16 percent in 2014,” Rep. Conyers said.
The report also found that schools that were segregated offered fewer courses in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related fields and college preparatory classes. “Segregation in public K-12 schools isn’t getting better. It’s getting worse, and getting worse quickly,” Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia said.
Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted that, “There are 6,727 highly-segregated schools in our nation, where one percent or less of the school population is white. #BrownVBoard.”
In a statement about the report, National Urban League President Marc Morial said that the findings in GAO report confirm “that the promise of Brown remains a promise that has gone largely unfulfilled.” Morial continued: “In too many communities, students of color are now more segregated with less access to equitable educational opportunities than in decades prior.”
NAACP Legal Defense Fund Director Sherrilyn Ifill said that the report shines a light on worsening education inequities that that cannot be divorced from our nation’s legacy of racial discrimination that has perpetuated racial and socioeconomic isolation. Ifill said: “It is our imperative on the 62nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education to ask, ‘How will we act to address current disparities like resource inequities and discriminatory discipline practices?’”
Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst who speaks on politics and African American leadership. She can be contacted at and on twitter at @LVBurke.

President Barack Obama signed a bill Friday that modernizes the terms used for minorities.

By: Madison Park, CNN

President Barack Obama

(CNN) The federal government will no longer use the terms “Negro” and “Oriental” after President Barack Obama signed a bill into law. The official terms will be African-American and Asian-American. Welcome to 2016.
In a rare show of bipartisan support, the measure H.R.4238, passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and the Senate earlier this year. Obama signed it into law Friday. The measure updates the terms the U.S. federal government uses to describe minorities, including American Indian to Native American and “Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent” to Hispanic.
Here’s what the bill states: Office Of Minority Economic Impact.—Section 211(f)(1) of the Department of Energy Organization Act (42 U.S.C. 7141(f)(1)) is amended by striking “a Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, or Aleut or is a Spanish speaking individual of Spanish descent” and inserting “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Native American, or an Alaska Native”.
“The term ‘Oriental’ has no place in federal law and at long last this insulting and outdated term will be gone for good,” said Rep. Grace Meng of New York, who sponsored the bill.
Meng, a Democrat from Queens, encountered the term while doing legislative research and had sought to eliminate its usage from government terminology.
“Many Americans may not be aware that the word ‘Oriental’ is derogatory. But it is an insulting term that needed to be removed from the books, and I am extremely pleased that my legislation to do that is now the law of the land,” she said in a statement.
Meng had similarly pushed a law that eliminated the use of the word when she served in the New York Legislature in 2009.
The H.R. 4328 bill had 76 cosponsors, including all 51 members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. One of the original cosponsors included Rep. Ed Royce, a California Republican.
“Our country is a rich tapestry of cultural backgrounds, and Americans of all backgrounds deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” he said in a statement.

Ferguson swears in new police chief

 Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY


 Delrish Moss

The St. Louis suburb of Ferguson swore in a new police chief on Monday, turning to a veteran African-American officer from Miami to try to help the department rebound less than two years after racially-charged protests put the community in the international spotlight.
Delrish Moss, 51, who beat out 50 other applicants for the post, takes over after the city in March agreed to terms of a Justice Department consent decree to overhaul the troubled department. The city was plunged into racial turmoil after the shooting death of an unarmed Black teen, Michael Brown, by a white police officer. During his 32 years on the Miami force, Moss served as patrol officer, a member of the homicide unit and most recently as public information officer.
“A lot of answers lie in Ferguson, not necessarily from some magic pill that I’m going to bring to the city,” Moss told KSDK-TV in an interview shortly before he was sworn in on Monday. “I think when you listen to people, when people are having a dialogue back and forth, I think they come to respect each other even if they disagree. I hope that’s going to work for me.”
Ferguson became a potent symbol for frayed relations between police and African-American communities throughout the country following the August 2014 shooting death of Brown, 18, by officer Darren Wilson. Brown was Black and Wilson is white.
Wilson has since left the Ferguson department. A St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict Wilson, and the Justice Department declined to charge the ex-cop for the fatal shooting that came after a struggle between the officer and Brown on a Ferguson street.
Moss replaces former Ferguson Police chief Thomas Jackson, who resigned in March 2015 after a DOJ report offered withering criticism of the department’s     policies and practices. The DOJ investigation revealed endemic problems in the treatment of African-Americans by Ferguson’s police and court system.
The city of 21,000 has a budget of about $14 million and is facing about $2.8 million in debt as it goes about implementing the mandated reforms. Much of the debt accrued from police overtime during the unrest following Brown’s death and lost tax revenue from businesses destroyed or badly damaged in rioting.
The agreement calls for a revision in the police department’s training with an emphasis “toward de-escalation and avoiding force — particularly deadly force — except where necessary.”
Ferguson is also required to recruit a more diverse force. Currently, only a handful of officers on the more than 50-officer force are African-American in a city that is nearly 70% Black.

Johnson family sells Ebony and Jet magazines

By Keith J. Kelly

Ebony Magazine cover
Ebony, a 1.2 million circulation lifestyle magazine aimed at African-Americans, has been sold by Johnson Publishing to a Texas businessman with backing from a private equity firm, Media Ink has learned.
Austin-based Michael Gibson’s ClearView Partners, with backing from Houston private-equity firm Park View Capital Partners, are the new owners of the 62-year-old monthly. The new company, to be known as Ebony Media Operations, is expected to be chaired by Gibson and have former Chief Operating Officer Cheryl Mayberry McKissack as the new CEO.
“I can confirm that Ebony has been sold,” said Johnson Publishing CEO Desiree Rogers. “It allows Johnson Publishing to reduce its debt associated with the media company and focus on growth of its cosmetics business.”
Gibson told Media Ink that current Editor-in-Chief Kierna Mayo will step down and will be replaced in the top spot by Kyra Kyles, who is currently a senior vice president in charge of digital.
Johnson Publishing was founded in Chicago in 1942 by John H. Johnson and his wife Eunice. It is currently headed by his daughter, the company Chairwoman Linda Johnson Rice.
In addition to the divested media operation, the company includes Fashion Fair Cosmetics, which the Johnson family will continue to own.
The company competes head-to -head with Essence, which is owned by Time Inc.
Johnson Publishing has been rapidly down-sizing its operations by over the past five years as it scrambled to keep pace in the rapidly changing media world. It suspended print publication of JET and made it digital-only in 2014.
It also sold its Chicago headquarters building.
DeSilva + Phillips represented the Johnson family in the deal.


African American museum designed with emotions in mind

By Peggy McGlone , Washington Post

Slave shackles

Small shackles from the 1800s are among the artifacts that will be on display at National Museum of African American History and Culture. (Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture)

They are heartbreakingly small, these rough-hewn iron shackles with openings that are just 21/2 inches in diameter. They are menacing, too, their five-pound bulk disturbingly heavy for the tiny wrists they confined. Despite their small size, they deliver a gut punch by summoning the horror and humanity of the slave trade in a way that no history textbook could ever do. The shackles are among the thousands of items that will be on view at the National Museum of African American History and Culture when it opens Sept. 24. These artifacts will tell stories of slavery, Reconstruction, segregation and the civil rights movement. Museum officials anticipate tears, sighs and even some anger as visitors proceed through the galleries.
The visitor experience has been a priority from the beginning, addressed in the design of the building, the organization of exhibitions, and the text and videos that supplement the displays. And now, with less than six months to opening, the effort turns to the front lines, to the staff and volunteers who will interact with visitors.
“Not a lot of (other institutions) are taking on, head on, one of the most difficult things society is facing today, which is the history of our country and how that impacts today,” said Esther Washington, the museum’s director of education. “The idea of letting people sit with a little bit of discomfort is something we have to do because of the stories we have in the museum.”
Louise Lawrence-Israëls knows firsthand about the difficulty of talking about race, identify and social justice. The 73-year-old Bethesda resident is a volunteer at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where for 22 years she has encountered a range of responses, from shock to tears to surprise. The work is exhausting — though she doesn’t notice until she gets home after a day of tours or talks.
“It is not tiring for me when I’m doing it. It’s uplifting,” she said. “It’s so important that you can make an impact on people. People just don’t know. It’s baffling how little they know.”
Lawrence-Israëls was a “hidden child” who was not sent to the camps. She says visitors reveal their emotions by grabbing her arm or taking her hand, and they often ask personal questions (“Do you still believe in God?” is a common one). “They can’t believe anyone has survived that,” she said. “It’s too much for them.”
Officials with the African American museum turned to their colleagues at the Holocaust museum and the National September 11 Memorial Museum for advice. They are among some 200 museums in the United States that focus on difficult subjects, from the Holocaust to terrorism to World War II, according to the American Alliance of Museums. Their experts say a critical first step is acknowledging the difficulty of some of the exhibitions and the conversations they will prompt.
“There’s no such thing as harder, or hardest. There’s just hard,” explained Sarah Pharaon of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, a network of memorials, museums and historic sites. “This is history that is personal, and creating an atmosphere that allows for people to share their personal truths is vital.”
Design is also critical. Many museums have incorporated spaces for reflection and quiet. The Holocaust museum, for example, includes spaces on every floor and a Hall of Remembrance. The 9/11 museum places its more challenging exhibits in alcoves that can be bypassed and has spaced early exits along the gallery.
“There are visitors who don’t want to have the whole experience. They’ve had enough,” said Clifford Chanin, the 9/11 museum’s vice president of education and public programs. “We’re allowing visitors to make choices within our choices.”
Smithsonian Secretary David J. Skorton praised the African American museum for anticipating the need for visitors to decompress. “The sensitivity of the designers, especially director Lonnie Bunch, the thinking that went into it, even includes some contemplative space, so after being face to face with areas of tragedy or challenge, there is a space for someone to reflect,” Skorton said.

Campaign Challenge: Fix the African American student loan crisis


Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton

This year’s presidential race has spotlighted an often-overlooked aspect of the student loan crisis: the disproportionate college debt burden shouldered by African American students. The average $71,086 price tag for higher education at a four-year public institution is already well beyond the reach of most middle-class families. But for African American students, the cost of college hits even harder. The average college debt for African American bachelor degree holders is $37,000, compared with just $28,051 for the average student who is white.
The problem stems from both and is compounded by racial disparities in wealth accumulation. The twin legacies of chattel slavery, when black people were economic assets, and discrimination—in particular the housing discrimination that for generations has denied African Americans access to the same generous mortgages that built so much of white wealth—have left black families with only six cents of wealth for every dollar held by the average white family. All this makes it harder for African Americans to finance their college educations and piles up student debt on black students—which, in turn, further exacerbates the racial wealth gap.
While nearly half of white students are able to fully cover college costs with their own earnings, family contributions, and federal financial aid, only 30 percent of black students are in the same boat. Among the relatively well-off students of both races who do enroll in college, black students are 25 percent more likely to accumulate student debt, and they borrow over 10 percent more than white students.
This added financial burden also makes the black students 33 percent less likely than their white counterparts to complete their degrees. Federal data show that 28.7 percent of black students who leave college after their first year do so for financial reasons. The upshot is that fewer black students begin college; even fewer graduate, and those who do graduate carry much heavier student debt loads than their white counterparts. Indeed, high college costs combined with low levels of wealth in black communities have helped push the four-year college completion rate of African Americans to less than half that of white students.
Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have proposed solutions to the African American student debt crisis, but from different starting points. Their contrasting plans reflect the stylistic and ideological divide between the two candidates. Clinton’s so-called College Compact appeals to education wonks with an arguably technocratic approach. Sanders’s far-reaching College for All Act, by contrast, expands both student opportunities and government’s role. There’s a predictable difference in the price tags, too: Clinton says her plan would cost $350 billion over a decade, mostly thanks to expanded grants to states and colleges. The Sanders plan would cost at least $750 billion over the same period, based on the campaign’s $75 billion-a-year estimate. He proposes funding it through a financial transaction tax overhaul that’s projected to create more revenue than is needed for his college plan.
The Republican candidates, for their part, have proposed plans that would actually exacerbate the student debt crisis by cutting or eliminating the Department of Education. Such cuts would hurt economic mobility for all students, particularly African Americans, and undercut national efforts to promote an educated and productive workforce.
Of the two Democratic proposals, the Sanders plan would do the most to help black students. Sanders’s College for All Act could be a selling point among African American voters, a bloc that until now has firmly favored Clinton. Clinton’s plan takes a modest step toward addressing the disproportionate student debt burden on low-income students, especially African Americans. But her approach follows the conventional model of making higher education more affordable by expanding Pell Grants to low-income Americans, awarding grants to qualifying institutions that meet federal criteria, and regulating predatory loan companies. This perpetuates the means-tested, competitive, accountability-based approach toward higher education exemplified by the now-defunct No Child Left Behind Act.
Sanders, by contrast, directly tackles persistent racial inequalities by making public colleges tuition, fee, and debt free. His plan would make higher education an American right, reopening access to public colleges and universities for all students. It would eliminate tuition and fees at all public colleges and universities, by default ending the federal government’s practice of raking in billions worth of profits from student loans. Sanders’s plan also would cut interest rates on student loans almost in half, saving more than $6,000 over four years for the average borrower seeking a bachelor’s degree.
Both candidates propose higher federal grants for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), but once again the Sanders plan would provide substantially more support. The College for All Act would direct $30 billion to private HBCUs and an estimated $1.5 billion annually to public HBCUs, compared with only $25 billion for all HBCUs proposed by Clinton.
Such institutions are key to helping break the cycle of disrupted education and poverty that high African American student debt perpetuates. In addition to offering African American students “stereotype safe” environments largely free of social stigma and racial animus, HBCUs have done yeoman’s work in educating black Americans constrained by limited economic resources.
HBCUs have accomplished this despite a long history of underfunding. In their mission to improve access to African Americans seeking an education, public HBCUs have kept their tuitions and fees to only 61 percent of the average cost of all public schools. These institutions play an essential role in making the higher education system truly inclusive.
Although black students are no longer barred explicitly from attending historically white colleges and universities, they still represent only a relatively small percentage of the student body at those institutions. For instance, about 28 percent of South Carolina’s population is black, yet black students make up only 10 percent of the student body at the University of South Carolina, the state’s flagship public university.
By contrast, the nearly 3,000 students enrolled at South Carolina State University, the state’s only public HBCU, are overwhelmingly (96 percent) black. Since more than three-quarters of students enrolled in Historically Black Colleges and Universities attend public (not private) HBCUs, a free public higher education plan will help ensure that no black student will be forced to forego higher education due to financial barriers.
Both Sanders and Clinton have helped spotlight the dire fiscal straits of African American college students. But in forwarding race-conscious plan that fulfills the a vision of college education as a right—a right that extends to all Americans regardless of income or wealth and regardless of race—Sanders has made an argument that will resonate directly with debt-burdened black students.

Harvard grad delivers powerfully poetic speech on overcoming injustice

Taryn Finley, Black Voices Associate Editor, The Huffington Post


Donovan Livingston

Donovan Livingston



A recent Harvard graduate just gave a poetic speech that every student and teacher needs to hear.

In his poem entitled “Lift Off,” Donovan Livingston stepped up to the mic at his Harvard Graduate School of Education convocation on Wednesday to speak about the trials and tribulations black people have endured, especially in the education system.

He began with a nearly two-century-old quote from Horace Mann in which he called education “a great equalizer.” At the time, Mann said black people would be lynched for even attempting to read.

“For generations we have known of knowledge’s infinite power,” Livingston continued. “Yet somehow, we’ve never questioned the keeper of the keys —the guardians of information.”

Throughout his rousing poem, he spoke of the inequalities in the education system that has either held many black people back or used them as mere tokens.

Livingston, who described his passion as going beyond any curriculum, also spoke about finding his light.

“I am the strange fruit that grew too ripe for the poplar tree,” he declared. “I am a DREAM Act, dream deferred incarnate. I am a movement — an amalgam of memories America would care to forget my past, alone won’t allow me to sit still. So my body, like the mind, cannot be contained.”

Livingston went on to implore that his fellow graduates — and professors — help free their students rather than to speak “over the rustling of our chains.” He used his seventh grade teacher, who helped him find his voice, as an example. The graduate said he sees “the same twinkle that guided Harriet to freedom” in his students’ eyes. He then urged educators to look beyond their students’ mischief and to instead help them realize their potential:

“Education is no equalizer —
Rather, it is the sleep that precedes the American Dream.
So wake up — wake up! Lift your voices
Until you’ve patched every hole in a child’s broken sky.
Wake up every child so they know of their celestial potential.
I’ve been a black hole in the classroom for far too long;
Absorbing everything, without allowing my light escape.
But those days are done. I belong among the stars.
And so do you. And so do they.
Together, we can inspire galaxies of greatness
For generations to come.
No, sky is not the limit. It is only the beginning.
Lift off.”

Livingston, who will be attending the University of North Carolina in the fall for his Ph.D., tweeted the day after he gave his speech  how important it was for him to overcome the roadblocks on his journey to Harvard and share his message.