By Tamara Lucas Copeland
President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
For two weeks, I served on a jury in the District of Columbia. I don’t know if our Putting Racism on the Table work over the last year made me more sensitive, but what I do know is that I responded to this case very differently than the three other times that I have served on a DC jury. Today I am more concerned than ever about the bias that I witnessed in DC Superior Court.
First, I noticed that the defendant, a 32-year-old black man, was definitely not being judged by a jury of his peers. There were three black people on the jury. There were four men. The rest of the demographics on age, education, and income are, I admit, assumptions. I would guess that not more than 3 or 4 jurors were in their thirties. From his job, I would guess that he did not have a college degree. Although not all jurors revealed their professions, some did, including a medical provider, a lawyer, a communications director for a government agency, a retired teacher, and a scientist. I would also guess that the average income of the juror pool was significantly above that of the defendant based on where people said that they lived in the city. This was a jury of the defendant’s peers only in that we were all DC residents.
Next, the charges. We weren’t allowed to bring information out after the trial; so, I hope I am remembering correctly. He was charged with possession of a firearm in the District of Columbia, possession of a firearm in the District of Columbia without a license, and possession of ammunition. I am not an apologist for crime, but these particular charges certainly appear to be excessive and redundant, intended simply, and profoundly, to ensure more jail time.
Lastly, and most importantly, I witnessed incredible bias in both the courtroom and in the jury room.
I found it very difficult to discern when the prosecuting attorney was seeking to impugn a witness or to express racial bias. For example, consider this exchange with a witness for the defense and ask yourself if poverty, not addiction, would have been assumed had the witness been white:
Prosecutor to a defense witness: Were you outside begging for money?
Defense witness: No, I was asking for change.
Prosecutor: To buy drugs and alcohol?
Defense witness: No, to buy food.
I also witnessed a lack of cultural understanding to have a deleterious impact on the jury’s deliberations. An exchange between a clerk and the defendant was characterized by the white members of the jury as threatening and inflammatory. Another black juror and I characterized this verbal exchange as playing the dozens (google it). And, I witnessed outright bias in the jury room when a juror called a witness who had testified that she did not know the defendant a liar because “everyone in that neighborhood [the neighborhood of the crime and home to the defendant] knows everybody else.”
All of these factors lead me to wonder if a poor, black person can get a fair trial in the District of Columbia.
As we continue our work of putting racism on the table, I am now even more acutely aware of a need for reform and education in the criminal justice system. For centuries the lack of attention to race and racism has landed us in today’s untenable situation, in which African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times that of whites. Shining a light on the ways that racism and bias infiltrate the courtroom and jury room is a start. We must change these institutions of society that disadvantage and advantage based on race.
– ABFE: A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities and the Hill-Snowdon Foundation have partnered to release The Case for Funding Black-Led Social Change, a call to action to increase support to Black-led social change organizations. The case found that less than 2 percent of funding by the nation’s largest foundations is specifically targeted to the black community. (ABFE, 2/9)
It is important for philanthropy to invest in strengthening the infrastructure for Black-led social change to reverse its pattern of underinvestment, so that the Black community can thrive and the broader progressive community can achieve its most ambitious goals.
We define Black-led social change organizations as those with predominantly Black boards, executive leadership, staff leadership and constituents. The primary purpose of these groups is to build political, economic and social power in order to secure freedom and equity for the Black community.
– Yanique Redwood, Consumer Health Foundation‘s President and CEO (and vice chair of WRAG’s board), advises foundations and nonprofits that are considering racial equity work on what has helped CHF and invites other experienced persons to share their knowledge. (CHF Blog, 2/9)
Related: For those looking for other resources to figure out where to start, check out WRAG’s Putting Racism on the Table materials here.
WORKFORCE | As the time draws closer for DC’s mayor Muriel Bowser to sign the recently passed paid family leave bill, the DC Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders urge her to veto the bill. (WBJ, 2/10)
HEALTH | The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will begin its first session today to potentially stop DC’s “Death with Dignity” bill from becoming law. (WAMU, 2/13)
FOOD | Opinion: Cheap Eats, Cheap Labor: The Hidden Human Costs Of Those Lists (NPR, 2/12)
CHILDREN & FAMILIES
– A five part series explores the struggle for affordable and convenient childcare in our region (WTOP, 2/13)
– A Virginia bill requiring fingerprint background checks for all licensed childcare providers has opponents citing government overreach. (Richmond Times, 2/12)
TRANSGENDER RIGHTS | Justice Department signals it may pull support for trans student protections (MetroWeekly, 2/11)
EVENT | Public Welfare Foundation is hosting a panel, “Forging a Path Forward in a Post-Election Nation: A Conversation with Leading Progressive Activists,” on Monday, February 27 from 12-2pm. Register here
DC’s black Broadway…..
YOUTH/CRIMINAL JUSTICE | Yesterday, the DC Council began hearing testimony on their plan to revise the District’s Youth Rehabilitation Act, a policy that allows courts to show leniency when sentencing persons under the age of 22. A Washington Post series found that judges may have used the act to give violent offenders shorter prison sentences. (WaPo, 2/9)
[Councilmember Charles] Allen began the hearing saying that he intended to find “what’s working, what’s not working and to chart a course” for improvement.
Five hours into the hearing — filled with emotional testimony from convicts who said they had benefited from having their records sealed — Allen made clear that he has no intention of repealing the Youth Act.
He said he would like to restore the rehabilitation services promised but not delivered under the law and to curb judges who exploit its provisions to hand out overly lenient sentences.
REGION | The Washington Business Journal has released its honorees for its 10th Annual Minority Business Leader Awards. We’re proud to announce that WRAG’s own president Tamara Lucas Copeland has been selected as an awardee! Read more about the award here. (WBJ, 2/10)
AFFORDABLE HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS | A local radio show held a conversation with Ward 8 residents on the District’s affordable housing and homelessness crisis. Listen here (WAMU, 2/9)
– Undocumented immigrants in the DC metropolitan region worry about their future and make plans under threat of possible deportation (WaPo, 2/8)
– How Immigrants Changed the Geography of Innovation (Citylab, 2/9)
HEALTH | What repeal? D.C.’s health exchange plows forward with plans for 2018 (WBJ, 2/9)
MENTAL HEALTH | Opinion: One fact that is ignored when we discuss gun violence and mental illness (NPQ, 2/9)
Social Sector Job Openings
Donor Services Associate, District of Columbia | The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region– New!
PATH Resource Center Manager | Center for Nonprofit Excellence
Program Officer | Communities for Just Schools Fund
Program Assistant | Communities for Just Schools Fund
Grants Program Director | DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities
Senior Accountant | Arabella Advisors
Nonprofit Financial Planning & Analysis Manager | Arabella Advisors
Managing Director for Equity and Health | Richmond Memorial Health Foundation (RMHF)
Nonprofit Project Accountant | Arabella Advisors
Human Resources Manager | Arabella Advisors
Executive Assistant to the President (P/T) | ABFE – A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities
Associate Director, Policy & Communications | Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers
Administrative Associate | Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers
Manager, Operations & Programming | Walker’s Legacy Foundation
Senior Associate, Engagement – Mid-Atlantic and Retail and Direct Bank markets | Capital One
Executive Director | Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia
So cell phones used to require car batteries?
REGION | The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has released a new report, State of the Region: Human Capital Report, that includes data on the region’s population, growth, and workforce trends. The report is intended to show the possible economic growth of the Washington Metropolitan region if different sectors took steps to invest in the region’s residents. The report also includes insights on the state of the region’s human capital from a number of COG’s community partners, including WRAG. (MWCOG, 2/8)
WRAG’s president Tamara Copeland had this to say about the report:
“WRAG appreciated the opportunity to contribute to COG’s report. Our region is full of talented and enterprising residents. We must all work together to identify barriers, including structural racism and the lack of affordable housing, that prevent people across the region from achieving their full potential. WRAG is glad to join with COG in this important conversation.”
– Former tenants of a northeast DC housing complex are still waiting for the property to be redeveloped – eight years later. (WCP, 2/9)
– 1 in 5 DC-area homeowners is ‘equity rich’ (WTOP, 2/9)
LGBTQ | Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe vows to veto any bills that discriminate against LGBT individuals. (InsideNova, 2/8)
RACIAL EQUITY | A recent study, “The Asset Value of Whiteness” (featured in the Daily earlier this week), has another surprising statistic – Black, Latino Two-Parent Families Have Half The Wealth Of White Single Parents (WAMU, 2/9)
ARTS & HUMANITIES | Opinion: Activism Ascendant: More Funding for Arts Organizations Supporting “Positive Social Change” (Inside Philanthropy, 2/7)
Related Event: Make sure to register for WRAG’s next Brightest Minds session on March 29th featuring Roberta Uno, head of ArtChangeUS: Arts in a Changing America. She will talk about the cultural sector in the context of our nation’s shifting demographics, and why we should put the arts and artists at the forefront of community change. Register here. This program is open to the public.
HEALTH | Soon Maryland doctors serving Medicaid patients will need prior authorization to write some prescriptions for opioids. The new policy is intended to address the opioid crisis. (Baltimore Sun, 2/8)
EDUCATION | A majority of Virginians say public schools are underfunded, survey shows (WaPo, 2/8)
Real DC, according to instagram.
By David Figliuzzi
Cigna Foundation and Civic Affairs
Why did you choose to participate in the Institute for CSR and what year did you graduate?
I chose the program based on the strength of the program’s course of study. I graduated in 2016.
What was your favorite part of the program?
My favorite part of the program was the opportunity to interact with my peers from a variety of industries. The program participants came from across the country around the world and all offered unique perspectives and inspiring ideas.
How have you used the knowledge and/or connections you gained at the Institute to improve your work?
I regularly refer to the information I learned at the Institute as I work with my team to design programs and grow our CSR presence.
What would you tell prospective participants about the program?
Take advantage of this opportunity to grow and learn! This is a great way to be exposed to new ideas and gain a solid foundation in the essentials of CSR.
Any tips for 2017 registrants on how to get the most out of their participation?
Come ready to participate! The strength of the program is in the participation of those present, so be ready to listen and learn and share.
The Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility offers CSR practitioners the opportunity to earn a Professional Certificate in Corporate Social Responsibility from Johns Hopkins in just six months. This non-credit professional certificate program is an initiative of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers and is offered in partnership with Advanced Academic Programs at Johns Hopkins University and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Center. Registration for 2017 is now open! Download an application and learn more about the 2017 faculty and curriculum here.
– Advocates in Maryland believe the state’s parole system is unconstitutional for juveniles sentenced to life because they don’t have a realistic opportunity for release. A federal judge just ruled that their lawsuit against the state can continue after Maryland filed a motion to dismiss it. (Baltimore Sun, 2/6)
The organization [ACLU] sued Gov. Larry Hogan and other state officials on behalf of the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative, a prisoners’ rights group, and three men who are serving life sentences.
[Judge] Hollander heard arguments last month on the state’s motion to dismiss.
In her ruling, Hollander wrote that the plaintiffs “have sufficiently alleged that Maryland’s parole system operates as a system of executive clemency, in which opportunities for release are ‘remote,’ rather than a true parole scheme in which opportunities for release are ‘meaningful.'”
RACIAL EQUITY | A new report from Demos and the Institute for Assets & Social Policy explores why changing individual behaviors will not close the racial wealth gap, but addressing institutional and structural racism will. (NextCity, 2/6) Check out the full report here.
– A new analysis of Metro usage data finds some interesting trends, including which jurisdiction has the shortest commute (it’s not the District). (WTOP, 2/7)
HOUSING | A new Matters @ HAND blog reports on the residential construction in our region and the continuing lack of affordable housing. (Helping Hands Blog, 2/6)
COMMUNITY | Meet the new executive in charge of Deloitte‘s Greater Washington practice (WBJ, 2/1)
– The Women’s Foundation of California has announced the launch of the Philanthropy and Public Policy Institute, a three-day intensive training for philanthropic leaders who want to strengthen their understanding of the most effective ways to fund policy advocacy. Applications are now being accepted to attend the Institute from May 9-11, 2017 in Sacramento, CA. Read more
– Column: Foundations aren’t helping anyone if they’re not serious about social justice (Hechinger Report, 2/6)
And now Nina Simone on what she ‘got’……