Our Team

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SPENCER OVERTON  

Joint Center President

 

Spencer Overton is the President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which was founded in 1970 as the Black think tank. Today, the Joint Center focuses on the impact of innovations like artificial intelligence and automation on the future of work and economic development in places like Detroit, Memphis, and the rural Black Belt of the South. The Joint Center also works to increase diversity among congressional staff.

 

Spencer chaired Government Reform Policy on the 2008 Obama presidential campaign, and on the Obama transition he served as a lawyer in the General Counsel's office and as a member of the Technology, Innovation, and Government Reform (TIGER) policy team. During the Administration, Spencer served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Policy, the “think tank” of the Department of Justice. After leaving the Department, Spencer held several roles on the 2012 Obama National Finance Committee, including teaching fundraising and chairing a fundraising program that raised $25 million.

 

Spencer is also a tenured Professor of Law at George Washington University, where he teaches race and the law, property law, and election law. He is a co-author of 5G, Smart Cities, and Communities of Color (2017), and the author of the book Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression and several academic and popular articles. Through his work on national election law commissions, Spencer helped shape the contours of the modern voter ID debate and he led an effort that resulted in Iowa restoring voting rights to 98,000 Iowans who had completed their sentences.  

 

Spencer is an honors graduate of both Hampton University and Harvard Law School, he clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Damon J. Keith, and he represented large companies for four years practicing law at the firm Debevoise & Plimpton.

  

 

DR. ISMAIL WHITE

Director of Survey Research
 
Dr. White is an Associate Professor of political science at George Washington University. He received his B.A. in political science from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan. He previously held positions at the University of Texas at Austin, The Ohio State University, and Princeton University’s Center for the Study of Democratic Politics. Dr. White studies American politics with a focus on African-American politics, public opinion, and political participation. His research in these areas has appeared in the American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, Public Opinion Quarterly, Journal of Black Studies,Race and Social Problems, Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law, and a number of edited book volumes. He is co-editor of the book African-American Political Psychology: Identity, Opinion, and Action in the Post-Civil Rights Era. He also works on the development of survey and experimental methods for better understanding political and social issues. He has published work in these areas in the American Journal of Political Science and Political Analysis, and previously worked on surveys through the Detroit Area Study and as a fellow for the American National Election Study.
 
 
MARCUS LITTLES
Senior Fellow
 
Marcus Littles is an experienced social entrepreneur with expertise in racial justice, community engagement and social innovation. He is the Founder and Senior Partner at Frontline Solutions, a national consulting firm that offers clients in the nonprofit and public sectors a full range of services to enhance impact. Frontline’s expertise includes, strategy, project management and assessment, and in each FS engagement, it seeks to apply a critical understanding of race, place, class and gender.Specifically, Frontline supports organizations in areas such as organizational and program development, coalition-building, developing backbone organizations, evaluation and communications support. Under Marcus’ leadership, Frontline has provided support services to numerous social change organizations, including philanthropic foundations, affinity groups and support organizations, as well as nonprofits advocacy groups and social enterprises. Frontline has three offices, in Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Durham, NC, and 17 full-time staff. Littles has worked for 20 years in the social sector, as a consultant for TCC Group, a Program Associate at the Ford Foundation, a policy analyst at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, an educator at a middle school in South Africa, a youth service provider, and as a part of the organizing community in Brooklyn and Washington DC. Marcus has authored and contributed to numerous publications.  Littles holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Delaware’s School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy.  He concentrated his studies in nonprofit management, community-based and youth development.  Littles received a BA in Public Relations and Marketing from Auburn University.

 

 
NEVILLE DEPASS 
Director, Finance & Accounting
 
Neville  DePass is responsible for the Joint Center's accounting, grants and contracts. He has served as the Joint Center’s Controller and Grants/Contracts Manager, which included developing, implementing, and managing the Center’s domestic and international financial systems. During this time, he established and oversaw financial operations for the Center’s South Africa office. He has done extensive grants and contracts management work in West and South Africa with multiple international funding sources.  Prior to joining the Joint Center in 1993, Mr. DePass served as an accounting consultant for DatanamicsInc where he led the analysis and auditing of government contracts. Mr. DePass holds a B.S. in accounting from the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica, where he also completed Masters courses in accounting. 
  
 
DON BELL

Director, Black Talent Initiative

 

Don Bell, a Connecticut native, has spent the last three years working on Capitol Hill. In that time, he worked as a fellow, judiciary legislative correspondent, and Counsel to three Senators, culminating with his time on the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Don was elected President of the Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus (SBLSC) in April 2016. During his term, he conducted a groundbreaking Census of black Senate staffers that inspired the current diversity movement, and has been a leader in advocating for greater Senate staff diversity and organizing an inside/outside movement that has drawn national attention to the pervasive lack of diversity among Congressional staffers. As President, Don oversaw the development of additional employment resources for black Senate staffers, worked with the SBLSC Professional Development Committee to place members, and actively collaborated with House and Senate influencers to break down the barriers people of diverse backgrounds have to working on the Hill. Don is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and University of Connecticut School of Law. 

 

 
ADZI VOKHIWA
Events Manager
 
Adzi was raised in Atlanta, GA and has always had an interest in policy and politics. Prior to joining the Joint Center, Adzi spent 7 years at Women’s Action for New Directions in a variety of roles. Most recently she served as Senior Program Associate and was responsible for planning and implementing programmatic activities including national conferences, regional trainings, receptions, in-district congressional lobby meetings, membership recruitment, outreach to state legislators, and assisting with federal PAC endorsements and fundraising. Adzi earned a B.S. in Public Policy from Georgia State University and is pursuing an M.P.S. in Political Management at The George Washington University.
 
 
WILL SEARCY
Program Manager, Inclusion & Opportunity
 
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Will Searcy is currently serving as a Joint Center Public Policy Fellow. He graduated with from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a concentration in American Government and distinction in the major. Will has plans to attend law school in the near future with the potential of pursuing a joint JD/PhD. After law school, he hopes to pursue a career in creating policy decisions that are informed in history, sociology, and political science. While at Yale University, Will was involved in a number of extracurricular activities: President of the Yale Black Men's Union, Senior Interviewer at the Yale University Office of Undergraduate Admissions, Co-director for the Youth Leadership Initiative of the Yale Leadership Institute, Member of the Yale Undergraduate Advisory Committee for the Department of Political Science, Co-Founder of the Yale Undergraduate Black Pre-Law Association, Assistant Lead Coordinator of the Black Church at Yale, a Dwight Hall Urban Fellow, and a Yale Student Ambassador.

 

 

KEITH ROGERS

Program/Grants Management Associate

 

Keith Rogers was born in Gary, Indiana and grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. He attended Grand Canyon University, a private christian school in Phoenix, where he majored in Justice Studies. His interests lie in politics, sports, and fashion. He is currently preparing to attend law school within the next few years. Eventually, Keith hopes to become involved in a kind of public service that will help make America even stronger socially. 

 

 
VASHTI HINTON
Executive Assistant to the President & the Chief Operating Officer
 
Vashti Hinton is from Greensboro, NC and graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with a degree in Political Science in 2017. She has worked with colleges and universities in the triad area with voter education and voter registration efforts, specifically in black communities. Vashti served as the First Vice President for the North Carolina NAACP Youth and College division for two years. She also worked diligently for her peers as a college liaison with the Greensboro College Commission, which is a cohort of student from local higher education institutions that work with the City Council. She is heavily involved in the Forward Together Moral Movement with Rev. William J. Barber and has worked on campaigns specifically geared towards higher education and social equity. In 2016, Vashti was the recipient of the North Carolina NAACP Moral Monday Leadership Award. She has worked as a fellow/intern with many organizations over the years such as the NC Black Women's roundtable, Common Cause, Ignite NC, and Democracy NC. During the summer of 2016, Vashti Hinton served as an inaugural intern/fellow for the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus on Capitol Hill. She has worked in two congressional offices, one democratic and one republican, working with the staff on issues specifically pertaining to HBCUs and educational equity. She was also able to sit on a congressional panel and discuss the role our HBCUs play today. She hopes to continue to do work that helps propel communities of color forward.