Joint Center News: August 2020

This is our regular monthly newsletter, which reviews the Joint Center’s work over the past month.

Economic Studies

The Joint Center released Pandemic Relief Priorities for Black Communities, which urges Congress and the Administration to pass a stimulus package that addresses the pandemic’s disproportionate harm to Black communities. Federal policymakers must agree to a stimulus plan that:

  • Provides Financial Support for Black Workers and their Families by reinstating the $600 federal supplement to jobless benefits, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, increasing SNAP benefits, providing rental assistance, and sending financial support to state and local governments;
  • Sustains Black Businesses by reforming the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgiveness process, providing significant funding for Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions, and strengthening the Minority Business Development Agency;
  • Expands Internet Access Among Black Households by providing a $50 a month emergency broadband subsidy to households and allocating $4 billion for laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots, and other equipment to be used at home by students; and
  • Protects Our Democracy by allocating at least $3.6 billion to help states hold safe and accessible elections, and requiring that states provide online and same-day voter registration, accessible vote-by-mail, early in-person voting, and sufficient staffing and equipment at in-person polling places.

Read the Joint Center’s entire report here.

Joint Center President Spencer Overton provided additional responses to questions from Members of Congress after his testimony at a hearing entitled, “A Country in Crisis: How Disinformation Online Is Dividing the Nation.” Spencer emphasized that: 1) Congress should explicitly state that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act does not provide immunity from civil rights claims when social media companies target employment or housing ads away from or target voter suppression ads toward Black communities; 2) the Barr Justice Department’s proposed reforms to Section 230 would effectively promote disinformation, polarization, and suppression; 3) many platforms currently invest in technologies to remove pornography to maintain advertisers and they should do the same to prevent civil rights violations; 4) proposed legislation to ban political ad microtargeting should avoid preventing less wealthy candidates from targeting and mobilizing their supporters to the polls; and 5) social media companies need much more internal civil rights expertise. Read Spencer’s full 8-page written responses here.

Nationswell covered a Joint Center and AARP partnership analyzing the impact of the future of work on older African Americans. Nationswell’s coverage explains that AI and automation “pose a significant risk to levels of the economic trajectory, life expectancy, and social mobility of Black communities, especially for workers approaching mid-life and mid-career statuses.”

The Knight Foundation released American Views 2020: Trust, Media and Democracy, which summarizes findings from a Gallup and Knight Foundation survey that “polled more than 20,000 U.S. adults and found deepening pessimism and further partisan entrenchment about how the news media delivers on its democratic mandate for factual, trustworthy information.” One key finding is that African Americans (50%), Latina/os (43%), and Asian Americans (41%) are more likely than whites (30%) to say the media’s role in reflecting diversity is “critical.” Additionally, African Americans (44%) are more likely to follow local news very closely than Latina/os (34%), whites (28%), and Asian Americans (22%).

Political Studies

The Joint Center released Racial Diversity Among Top Staff in Senate Personal Offices. In the report, Senior Fellow of Diversity and Inclusion Dr. LaShonda Brenson analyzes staff diversity among chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and communications directors in Washington, DC personal offices of U.S. Senators. Dr. Brenson found that while people of color make up 40% of the U.S. population, they hold just 11% of all Senate personal office top staff positions. African Americans account for 13.4% of the U.S. population, but only 3.1% of Senate personal office top staff. For coverage of the report, see The Grio, The Hill, The New York Times, Politico, and Roll Call.

Read the entire report here.

After the release of the Joint Center’s report on racial diversity in the Senate, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) introduced legislation, Abolish the Last Great Plantation in America Resolution, to “study and make recommendations on the elimination of systemic racism and the promotion of diversity in the Federal Government, and for other purposes.” Coverage of this legislation, which mentions the Joint Center’s report, can be seen on The Hill.

Joint Center Board Member Paul Thornell, Inclusive America Co-Founder Mark Hanis, and Invariant Principal Nicole Venable wrote an op-ed urging Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden to “pick diverse leaders for his cabinet and economic regulatory roles that have to date been dominated by white males, including Treasury, Commerce, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Federal Reserve Board.”

The Joint Center is a proud partner of Inclusive America’s #PledgeForDiversity initiative, which calls for policymakers to reflect the rich diversity of the communities they serve. A more inclusive government is a more effective government. Learn more at

Demand Progress released Recommendations for Updating the House Rules for the 117th Congress. The report contains 129 recommendations over 10 sections that “aim to make the House more inclusive, ethical, and transparent.” The recommendations are a result of “wide consultation with experts on Congress, people in Congress, and many others,” and includes a process to collect and analyze diversity among new and current staff.

The Joint Congressional Task Force on Racial Justice and Reform—convened by the Congressional Black Associates and the Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus—sent an open letter and set of policy proposals to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The letter urges them “to prioritize legislation that addresses systemic racism in America.” Read the entire letter here, and see coverage of their proposal in Roll Call.


On his podcast, WashingTECH Host Joe Miller spoke with Premier, Inc. President Mike Alkire and Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Slotkin on fixing the healthcare supply chain. The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and WashingTECH’s website. Listen here.

Allison Brown and Chadwick Boseman


The Joint Center mourns the passing of Allison R. Brown, who was the Executive Director of the Communities for Just Schools Fund. The following statement is from Joint Center President Spencer Overton: “Allison was a close friend, advisor, and supporter of the Joint Center. She believed that the future of Black communities rested in social-emotional development, self-advocacy and agency, youth-driven work, community-driven school reform, exposing kids to entrepreneurship, participatory research collaborations between experts and community members, and immersing Black communities in economics/finance, technology, and the language of the new economy. Allison was an amazing warrior in the struggle for Black communities and against systemic racism and anti-Blackness in the United States. She understood the multi-generational nature of our effort, her role in it, and the significance of those who will follow us. We are less without her. I’m so glad to have been touched by her model of leadership, vision, and commitment.”

Chadwick Boseman was an esteemed actor, best known for portraying iconic Black figures including Jackie Robinson in 42, James Brown in Get On Up, Thurgood Marshall in Marshall, and the titular superhero in Marvel’s Black Panther. The following statement is from Joint Center President Spencer Overton: “2020 has been a year of unmistakable loss to Black communities, from the blatant display of police violence and other forms of systemic inequality, COVID-19 deaths, and the passing of Congressman John Lewis. The death of Chadwick Boseman is another significant loss. He portrayed our most important heroes to the world magnificently in his professional life, and in his personal life he inspired us with his principled commitment to Black communities. We will miss him.”

Now Hiring

The Joint Center is seeking a Special Assistant to the President and Project Coordinator. The person will manage the president’s daily business by scheduling internal and external meetings, and pro-actively ensuring that meetings and appointments stay on time regarding the president’s schedule; arrange travel and meetings; develop itineraries, meeting logistics and agendas; support operational, managerial, and logistical needs of the board of trustees as necessary; and complete special assignments, work with the president to establish objectives and align time and resources with objectives; and relentlessly prioritize based on evolving opportunities and challenges.

In Case You Missed It

The National Action Network hosted the Commitment March on August 28 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. The march—convened by Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III—took place during the 57th anniversary of the historic March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. The march’s aim is to “demonstrate our advocacy for comprehensive policy accountability reform, the Census, and mobilizing voters for the November elections.”

The Joint Center is proud to serve as a national partner of this event. Watch the entire program here.


On Sept. 2, Joint Center Board Member and Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas Principal Paul Thornell will join a panel of experts at the  Brookings Institution-Georgetown Law event, “Where are the Black financial regulators?Other panelists include University of Tennessee at Knoxville Haslam College of Business Professor Harold A. Black, Former Commissioner of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission Sharon Y. Bowen, Georgetown Law Professor Chris Brummer (who will present findings from his latest research on this topic), and Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari. Congresswoman and House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA) will provide keynote remarks.

On Sept. 16, Joint Center Vice President Jessica Fulton will speak on a panel, Social Security & Civil Rights: A Social Contract, at the 9th Annual Retiring with Dignity Summit.

Supporting the Joint Center

The Joint Center is participating in the Donor Advised Fund #HalfMyDAF HEROES program. With each monetary nomination, the Joint Center earns a better chance to be one of the 150 nonprofits to receive a matching grant of up to $25,000. The deadline is September 30. Learn more here.

Thank you for your support.