Joint Center President
Spencer Overton is the President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a think tank founded in 1970 that supports elected officials and policy experts who serve communities of color.
When he started in 2014, Spencer focused on restoring the fiscal stability of the Joint Center, and the organization is now debt-free, growing, and producing leading reports and programs on inclusion, economics, and innovation. The Joint Center’s report Diversity Among Top Senate Staff garnered widespread media attention and prompted the adoption of major U.S. Senate hiring reforms. Recent Joint Center speakers have included the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, U.S. House Majority Leader, the FCC Chair, and the Secretaries of Labor, Agriculture, Education, and HUD. In 2017, the Joint Center is producing reports, surveys, policy briefs, and policy videos on 5G and Smart Cities, mobile and businesses of color, and other issues related to innovation and the future of people of color. Click on the following for videos on the 2017 plan and 2016 accomplishments.
Spencer is also a tenured Professor of Law at George Washington University, where he teaches and writes on voting rights. He is the author of the book Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression and several academic and popular articles. He helped shape the contours of the modern Voter ID debate with his 2005 dissent from the Jimmy Carter-James Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform's photo ID recommendation, and his 2006 Michigan Law Review article "Voter Identification." He also served on the Commission on Presidential Nomination Scheduling and Timing, where he led an effort that resulted in Iowa restoring voting rights to 98,000 Iowans who had completed their sentences.
While working at the 2008 Obama-Biden Transition, Spencer chaired the Election Assistance Commission agency review team. In the first term of the Obama Administration, he served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice, where he partnered with White House officials to lead the Administration's democracy work and co-chaired the Attorney General's reentry and alternatives to incarceration task forces (many of the groups' proposals have since been implemented). After leaving the Department, Spencer held several leadership roles on the 2012 Obama National Finance Committee, including teaching fundraising at Obama University and chairing a fundraising program that raised $25 million.
Spencer is an honors graduate of both Hampton University and Harvard Law School, and he clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Damon J. Keith.
Joint Center Chief Operating Officer
Clemmons comes to the Joint Center with a wealth of leadership and managerial experience, having spent over twenty years as an officer in the United States Navy. In that capacity, he served as the Commander of Destroyer Squadron 31, where he trained, developed, and motivated 2,000 personnel on eight ships deployed to Southeast Asia. He also served as the Commanding Officer of the USS Roosevelt (a warship of 31 officers and 282 enlisted personnel), transformed his ship from a satisfactory (75%) to outstanding (95%+) rating by focusing crew on superior standards, and won the Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale Award for inspirational leadership. Clemmons also worked for three years in the Department of the Navy’s Office of Legislative Affairs securing support for critical ship/submarine building program goals.
For the past three years, Clemmons served as the Vice President and Chief of Staff at UNCF, where he played a critical role in the transformation of the 70-year-old civil rights organization. Clemmons reorganized the management process to allow leadership to better monitor organization-wide performance, and led a team that secured UNCF’s single largest gift in the last 10 years.
Clemmons is a graduate of both Florida A&M University (BS in Business Administration) and Auburn University (MPA).
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 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.
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 Datanamics, Inc 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.
Program Manager, Innovation and Opportunity
Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Alejandra attended New York University (NYU), where she obtained her B.A. in Politics and Latino Studies, with a minor in Mathematics. She received her M.A. in Educational Technology from Columbia University, Teachers College, and a second M.A. in Teaching, Bilingual Education from the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares. Alejandra has spent over seven years working in the technology sector at Apple and the Guggenheim Museum’s IT department in Manhattan and worked as an ESL teacher abroad. Alejandra has spent the past year as a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Secondary Education Graduate Fellow, working for the Office of Ben Ray Luján (NM-03) and for the Center for American Progress's K-12 Education team. Her commitment to social and racial justice has led her to focus on broadening participation and creating opportunities for Latina/os interested in STEM fields, particularly within computer science and technology.
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 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.
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.
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.
Morgan Butler is currently serving as the Digital Media Associate for the Joint Center. She is from Carrollton, Texas, and graduated magna cum laude from Grambling State University where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communications. While there, Morgan pursued a focus in broadcasting as well as public relations. During her time at Grambling, Morgan played for the university's softball team and worked for the university's television center and newspaper. She is a member of Sigma Alpha Pi honor society and the National Association of Black Journalists. Morgan hopes to one day be a television or film director after she obtains her masters degree. Morgan comes to the Joint Center, having spent her last four summers working for Project Transformation - a Dallas non-profit that provides summer literacy programs to low-income communities. For all press inquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lydia Munn, a native of Detroit, Michigan, is currently serving as the Development Associate for the Joint Center. She graduated from the University of Michigan where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics with a minor in Afro-American and African Studies. While at the University of Michigan, Lydia was very involved in organizations established to support students and communities of color. She worked in the Trotter Multicultural Center as well as the Office of Academic Multicultural Iniatives, where she was both an Academic Success Partner and Student Assistant for the university’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium. Upon graduation, Lydia moved to Washington, DC and worked at Civic Nation as a Civic Engagement Intern, where she focused on increasing democratic participation on campuses across the nation. In the future she plans to continue her academic pursuits in a JD/MBA program.
Executive and Staff Administrative Assistant
Stephanie Wong is currently serving as the Executive and Staff Administrative Assistant for the Joint Center. Born and raised in Orlando, Florida, Stephanie attended the University of Florida where she majored in Political Science and double minored in English and Asian American Studies. While at UF, Stephanie was involved in a number of organizations and served as president of the Asian American Student Union, Senator for Student Government, and Programming Director for the Southeast Regional Conference of Asian American Leaders. Stephanie has been involved with the Asian Pacific American community since her youth and has focused on issues such as bringing Asian American Studies to campus, political participation, and mental health awareness. Competitively selected by the Asian Pacific American Institute of Congressional Studies, Stephanie interned for the Office of Congresswoman Bordallo. Stephanie is passionate about working with communities of color and served on UF's President's Council on Diversity and is a Multicultural Scholar.
Project Coordinator & Research Associate
Yosef Getachew is the Project Coordinator and a Research Associate for the Joint Center. He manages a team of research associates and assistants focused on supporting research projects and roundtables on issues relevant to innovative elected officials of color. In addition, he is responsible for researching media, telecommunications, and technology issues that impact communities of color. Mr. Getachew is currently a second year law student at the George Washington University Law School. During law school, he has served as a law clerk in the Department of Education and the Federal Communications Commission. Mr. Getachew is interested in regulatory law with a focus on communications law and policy.
Keturah A. Brown, a native of Jacksonville, Florida, is a second-year law student at the George Washington University Law School. Prior to law school, Ms. Brown attended Florida State University where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in African-American Studies and Political Science in 2012 and a Master of Public Administration in 2013. While pursuing her master degree, Ms. Brown was selected as a Florida Gubernatorial Fellow assigned to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. While there, she wrote Florida’s position on the Endangered Species Act. She is an associate of International Law and Domestic Courts Journal and a member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Board and Street Law student advocacy group. She also serves as student director for the D.C. Superior Court Domestic Violence Clerk’s Office Pro Bono Project and student inn advisor for the GW Law Inns of Court Program. Ms. Brown plans to pursue a legal career in energy and environmental law.