Joint Center Updates


Our March 2021 Work: MSNBC, SXSW, Data Privacy Roundtable, Another Black Senate LD, OMB Director & More

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

Economic Studies

American Rescue Plan and Black communities: Joint Center Vice President Jessica Fulton joined MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle to discuss how the American Rescue Plan is laying a foundation for a more inclusive economy. Watch the segment here.

Data privacy & Black communities: The Joint Center hosted an invite-only roundtable to identify key data privacy concerns for Black communities. Attendees explored critical privacy issues and big data practices that produce discriminatory outcomes for Black communities. The meeting was organized around two themes: 1) big data and Black communities; and 2) the role of federal agencies & anti-discrimination laws. The Joint Center will develop a report based on challenges, ideas, and recommendations discussed at the roundtable.

Broadband priorities: Joint Center Technology Policy Director Dr. Dominique Harrison joined the Senate Broadband Caucus for a virtual discussion hosted by Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Angus King (I-ME), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on “broadband priorities for 2021 and beyond.” Other panelists included NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association CEO Shirley Bloomfield and Schools Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition CEO John Windhausen. Pew Charitable Trusts Broadband Access Initiative Manager Kathryn de Wit moderated the conversation and FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel provided keynote remarks. Watch the full discussion here.

Tech policy and equity: Dominique joined Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership’s (HTTP) digital forum on “tech and telecommunications policy and its role in expanding civil rights, diversity, digital equity, and accessibility within the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration.” Other panelists included Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC Assistant Director of Telecomm, Technology, and Media Emily Chi, American Association of People with Disabilities CEO Maria Town, and UnidosUS Policy Analyst Claudia Ruiz. HTTP Executive Director Alejandro Roark moderated the conversation. Watch it here.

Digital equity in the Black rural south: Dominique presented research on the digital infrastructure and the importance of broadband access in the Black Rural South for the South Carolina Digital Equity Collaborative.

Will Robots Displace Workers of Color? Joint Center President Spencer Overton joined SXSW EDU’s panel on how the increased use of automation, AI, and robotics may displace Black workers in the rural South, and how to ensure Black workers are prepared to succeed during the changing nature of work. Panelists include Lumina Foundation President & CEO Jamie Merisotis, McGovern Foundation President Vilas Dhar, and New America Public Interest Technologies Vice President Cecilia Muñoz.

SXSW mentor: Dominique served as a mentor during the 2021 SXSW event. As a mentor, Dominque met with experts in other fields as an “opportunity to learn and be inspired by one another.”

Black women in economics: Jessica joined the Advisory Board of the Sadie Collective, the “first and only organization that uniquely addresses the pathway and pipeline problem for Black women in Economics, Finance, Data Science, and Policy.”

Political Studies

Report card on top staff diversity of newly-elected Members: Report card on top staff diversity of newly-elected Members: As of March 29, the Joint Center’s report card tracking top staff hires by each newly-elected Member in the 117th Congress illustrates that so far just 24.9 percent of top staff are people of color, and 5.7 percent are African American. People of color account for 40 percent of the U.S. population and African Americans account for 13.4 percent. The tracker shows that 209 of 213 (or 98.1 percent) possible top staff positions have been filled.

Alex Padilla (D-CA) leads in the Senate and Marilyn Strickland (D-WA) leads in the House for hiring diverse staff in comparison to the diversity of their constituents. Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM) are at the bottom of the lists.
Senator Jon Ossoff & Legislative Director Donni Turner

Commending Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA): The Joint Center commended U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) for hiring Donni Turner (pictured right) as legislative director in his personal office. Turner is one of five Black legislative directors currently serving in the U.S. Senate. Jasmine Dimitriou (Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)), Ariel Marshall (Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)), Lauren Marshall (Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)), and Josh Delaney (Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA)) are the other four.

Presenting congressional staff diversity data: Joint Center Senior Fellow of Diversity and Inclusion Dr. LaShonda Brenson presented recent Joint Center data on congressional staff diversity at FiscalNote’s webinar entitled How to Create a Diverse Capitol Hill and K Street. Other panelists included former Deputy Secretary of Labor for President Obama Chris Lu, Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies President & CEO Madalene Xuan-Trang Mielke, Congressional Hispanic Staff Association Advisory Board Co-Chair Eliza Ramirez-Gamboa, and Pay Our Interns Co-Founder Carlos Mark Vera. Watch the entire conversation here.

Black support for Shalanda Young for OMB director: The Joint Center submitted a letter signed by nearly 30 Black organizations calling for President Joe Biden to nominate Shalanda Young for Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Signatories of the letter include African American Mayors Association, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Black44, Black Economic Alliance, Black Girl Magic Network, Black Voters Matter Fund, Black Women for Biden-Harris, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., NAACP, National Action Network (NAN), National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), National Black Worker Center (NBWC), National Council of Negro Women, National Organization of Black County Officials, Inc. (NOBCO), National Urban League, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Washington Government Relations Group, and more.

Political appointment diversity: Spencer joined the American Constitution Society’s webinar providing advice for lawyers interested in being politically appointed by the Biden-Harris administration. During the discussion, Spencer shared the state of diversity among political appointments so far and compared it to previous administrations and to the promise of the Biden-Harris administration to have a government that looks like the American public.

Transition of power: Spencer joined Fordham Law for a discussion on the transition of power with UC Berkeley School of Law Professor and former FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel and Brennan Center for Justice Election Reform Program Deputy Director Daniel I. Weiner. Fordham Law Professor Joseph Landau moderated the conversation.

Mourning the Passing of
Joint Center Co-Founder Vernon Jordan

The Joint Center mourns the passing of Vernon Jordan, a civil rights icon and lawyer, former president of the National Urban League, and close advisor to President Bill Clinton. Mr. Jordan was also one of the founders of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the 2005 recipient of the Joint Center’s highest honor—the Louis E. Martin Great American Award. Our full statement can be found here.


On April 26-27, Dominque will join AARP’s virtual Joint Summit with the Illinois Department on Aging entitled Disrupt Disparities: Advancing Racial Equity and Aging. More information here.


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