Joint Center Updates


Joint Center News: December 2020

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

The Joint Center’s 50th Anniversary

The Eddie Williams Future of Black Communities Leadership Summit is now available to watch online: To celebrate our 50th Anniversary, December 7-9 we convened Black thought leaders, academics, elected officials, and other stakeholders to help frame the economic policy agenda for Black America for the next four years. Watch all three nights of programming, including panels, speeches, and more here.

Our 2020 Accomplishments: Click here to view our annual report reviewing our 2020 accomplishments and our 3-minute video of 2020 highlights. Thanks for allowing us to do this work, and please contribute and continue to support the Joint Center’s efforts to provide data, ideas, and solutions to advance Black communities.

Economic Studies

Dr. Dominique Harrison is our new Tech Policy Director: Dr. Harrison will lead the Joint Center’s work on tech policy issues affecting Black communities, including those related to data privacy, access to and adoption of broadband, ad targeting, and artificial intelligence. She previously was the Project Director of the Aspen Institute’s Digital Program. Read more about Dominique here, and Politico’s coverage of Dominique here.

Vice President Shero: Joint Center Vice President Jessica Fulton was the BlackHer Shero of the Week. In her interview on the blog, Jessica talked about how she became involved in economic policy, the Joint Center’s work, her Black sheroes, her ideal world for Black women, and more.

Jessica’s New York Times’ quote was shared in Vox’s recent article on the parental burnout crisis: “A lot of Black children are in households where there’s just mom working, or there are two parents both working in order to make ends meet,” said Jessica.

A public health infrastructure for the internet: John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Senior Vice President and Chief Program Officer Sam Gill published a Stanford Social Innovation Review piece arguing that “the internet requires fundamentally new knowledge to impel effective response” in relation to public health, and proposes a public health infrastructure for the internet that prioritizes the public interest. Key steps toward building the infrastructure include investing in research and expanding access to proprietary data.

California Wellness invests in Joint Center & other Black equity organizations: The Joint Center thanks The California Wellness Foundation for investing $10.7 million in grants for Black equity and health policy advocacy. The Joint Center is honored to join other recipient organizations, including Advancement Project, California Black Freedom Fund, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, Destination Crenshaw, Movement for Black Lives, Power California, and UCLA Labor Center.

Political Studies

Tracking diversity in hires of new Members of Congress: The Joint Center launched an interactive tracking tool showing how each newly-elected Member of Congress fares in hiring diverse top staff (chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and communications directors) in their Washington, DC office. The tool arrives at a critical moment to increase staff diversity. Currently, newly-elected Members of the U.S. House and Senate are preparing to take office and are hiring to fill over 200 top staff positions. According to our latest analysis, Members have already hired for a total of 71 of 201 (or 35.3 percent) possible positions.

Joint Center Hill staff diversity op-ed in Black newspapers: Joint Center Senior Fellow of Diversity & Inclusion Dr. LaShonda Brenson penned an op-ed published in several Black newspapers calling on new Members of Congress to increase the numbers of mid-level and senior staff of color to accurately reflect the population of the people they represent. The piece appeared in the Bakersfield News Observer (pg. 8), Black News ChannelBlack Press USAGreater Diversity NewsObserver Group Newspapers of Southern California Inc.Pittsburgh Courier (pg. 10), Washington Informer, and Westside Gazette.

Joint Center on Black radio in Philly: LaShonda also appeared on WURD Radio’s Reality Check to discuss the importance of congressional staff diversity: “If you think about Congress, a lot of the work that’s being done is usually being handled by top staffers,” said LaShonda referencing chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and communications directors. “So if we think about the moment that we’re in, in terms of Americans really wanting another stimulus package especially in Black communities…Black businesses suffering, Black workers suffering disproportionately, all of these policies work their way through Congress and Members of Congress need diverse staff, particularly Black staff, to advise them on how different legislation that might pass might impact our communities.”

Watch Tiffany Cross’s great new MSNBC show on Saturdays at 10 am EST: Joint Center President Spencer Overton appeared on the inaugural episode of Tiffany Cross’s MSNBC show, The Cross Connection, to discuss the importance of diversity among top staff on the Hill and in the Biden Administration.

New tools: Representative Democracy released Building and Maintaining a Diverse and Inclusive Congressional Office: An Introductory Guide for Congressional Staff and Leadership to provide “practical tools congressional offices can use to create and retain teams that look and act in service of their districts.” Data from the Joint Center’s Racial Diversity Among Top Staff in Senate Personal Offices were cited in the guide and in Fulcrum’s coverage of the guide.

Black congressional staff tackle systemic racism: The Joint Black Congressional Staff Task Force on Racial Justice and Reform published a full policy report to provide Congressional Leadership with solutions to address systemic racism. The proposal includes legislative recommendations regarding homeownership, small businesses, reparations, criminal justice, voting rights, mental health, COVID-19 response disparities, education, infrastructure, and more.

House continues Select Committee on Modernization: After the Joint Center joined partners urging congressional leadership to continue to the work of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced its extension into the 117th Congress. The Select Committee has played a vital role in encouraging congressional members to consider diversity as they hire new staff, including holding a hearing on “best practices and ways to foster diversity among congressional staff.” Earlier this year, the Joint Center signed a letter supporting the Select Committee’s resolution with 30 bipartisan recommendations including proposed guidelines for the U.S. House Office of Diversity and Inclusion and recruiting from HBCUs. The Joint Center looks forward to continuing our work with the Select Committee.


On his podcast, WashingTECH Host Joe Miller talks about media and tech law and policy news with an influencer in the media and technology sectors. The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and WashingTECH’s website. Listen here.


Pathways to tech jobs: The Diversity in the Tech Sector Working Group of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment (ACDDE) and the FCC’s Media Bureau will co-host a virtual summit entitled A Road Map to Tech Jobs on January 15, 2021, from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 pm EST. The event will be open to the public via live feed on the FCC’s website and the FCC’s YouTube channel.