Joint Center Updates


Our October 2021 Work: Data on Broadband & WIOA, Hill Diversity Gets NYT Coverage

Economic Studies

Broadband study earns wide coverage: The Joint Center released “Affordability & Availability: Expanding Broadband in the Black Rural South,” which documents the impact of broadband gaps on Black rural residents in 152 southern counties. The power of the research, said Dr. Dominique Harrison, the study’s author and the Joint Center’s technology policy director, is its ability to hone in on the health, economic, and other impacts on Black rural residents specifically. Among other findings, African Americans in the Black rural South were nearly twice as likely as whites in the Black rural south to lack home internet access.

“To isolate this specific community and really get to the details of what’s going on paints a very clear picture to policymakers about the ways in which the infrastructure package, for example, can have a targeted and intentional impact on these folks,” Dr. Harrison told NPR. Dr. Nicol Turner Lee of Brookings told Reuters the report should be a “wakeup call” for Congress. Dr. Harrison also spoke with NBC NewsHealthCare IT News, and Blogtalk Radio.

Reforming WIOA with equity at the forefront: The Joint Center released “Principles to Support Black Workers in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).” The brief by Dr. Alex Camardelle, director of workforce policy at the Joint Center, outlines five principles for a more equitable public workforce development system. Such efforts could not be more important, he said, as Black workers struggle to regain lost economic footing during COVID-19. The brief is the culmination of a roundtable discussion with national and local workforce experts.

“When you consider that the federal workforce system fails to evenly distribute opportunity, it becomes unmistakable that any reauthorization of WIOA must acknowledge structural racism and directly confront the inequity facing Black workers today,” said Dr. Camardelle.

How to achieve corporate diversity: The Joint Center commissioned WilmerHale—a leading law firm—to create a toolkit for companies committed to addressing systemic bias while minimizing legal risks. The five-part toolkit—”How to Advance Corporate Diversity in Compliance with the Law: A Toolkit—provides insights on understanding bias and aligning incentives to values; best practices for improving hiring, recruitment, and retention of Black professionals in corporate America (from entry-level positions to the boardroom); and guidance on third-party business relationships.

To accompany the toolkit, Joint Center President Spencer Overton co-wrote an op-ed on how to achieve meaningful corporate diversity because “meaningful change will require more than simply wanting to do the right thing.” The op-ed outlines ways companies can address systemic bias while minimizing legal risks.

AI and disinformation: Dr. Harrison joined a NetRoots Nation panel discussing how artificial intelligence fuels online disinformation and what to do about it. Dr. Harrison discussed the policy approaches to prevent data-driven discrimination, including tapping federal agencies’ anti-discrimination laws in other arenas, such as housing. Watch the discussion on YouTube.

Racial digital divides: Dr. Harrison also joined a panel at the 2021 New York University Public Interest Technology convention and career fair to unpack the digital racial divide. She also joined the 5th annual DC Fintech Week to discuss “de-risking” alternative data.

AI bias and online advertising: Dr. Harrison also joined the Brookings TechTank podcast with Dr. Nicol Turner Lee to discuss “how online behavioral advertising can perpetuate racial discrimination and what can be done to remedy such biases.”

Making strides in tech policy: Dr. Harrison was one of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership’s 2021 Tech Innovadores awardees for her work championing digital equity. Dr. Harrison also joined the TPRC program committee and the advisory committee for PolicyLink’s Tech Equity Framework project.

Political Studies

Black staffers on the Hill demand change: The Joint Center’s LaShonda Brenson, senior fellow of Diversity and Inclusion, told The New York Times that she is seeing a trend of top Black staff leaving Capitol Hill, eroding their already scarce numbers. Her comments followed a call by Black congressional staff for Congress to address low pay, limited career pipelines, and a senior staff that does not look like America. The “letter to America” by the Congressional Black Associates and the Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus, which was also picked up by the Washingtonian, cited Joint Center data on staff diversity.

“You can’t just say, I need you to turn out to vote, and not also reflect people of color in these key positions in advising members of Congress on legislation,” said Dr. Brenson.

“Just increase pay”: Dr. Brenson appeared on IssueOne’s “Swamp Stories” podcast episode, “The Other 97% of Congress,” to discuss congressional staffers’ low pay, which puts the job out of reach for many people of color, Dr. Brenson noted. “When we talk to staffers on the Hill and ask them, ‘What could change the lack of diversity?’ they say, ‘just increase pay,’” she said.

Senator whitehouse Monalisa Dugué

A good first step: The Joint Center commends Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) for hiring Monalisa Dugué as chief of staff. Dugué is one of two Black chiefs of staff in the Senate, and the only Black Democratic chief of staff.

The next frontier: Joint Center President Spencer Overton joined the Next Frontier Conference & Expo discussion on “Achieving Parity for Black America by 2030.” The conference focused on next frontier industries and how to empower students, early STEM career adults, and STEM entrepreneurs on their pathway to success in Next Frontier industries by 2030.

Teaching civil rights and Section 230 at Stanford: Based on his law review article on the topic, Joint Center President Spencer Overton spoke to a Stanford Law School platform regulation class about recent arguments by tech companies that Section 230 immunizes them from liability under federal civil rights laws when they steer housing and employment ads toward white users and away from Black users. He also talked about proposed amendments to Section 230 in Congress to address this issue and others.

Republicans court Black voters: Joint Center data on the share of Black voters choosing Democrats in presidential elections (88% from 1964-2008) was cited in a National Review story on how Republicans could reach Black voters.

The Joint Center Mourns the Passing of Colin Powell

Eddie N. Williams & Colin Powell

The Joint Center released a statement from Joint Center President Spencer Overton on the passing of former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell:

“We will remember General Powell’s commitment to public service and Black communities. . . . He always remembered where he came from and tried to ensure that opportunities would remain open to others—as evidenced by his support of affirmative action and other programs designed to facilitate economic mobility and the full participation of Americans from all backgrounds. His memory will live on as a testament to the importance of working across party lines for Black communities.”

Read more here and watch General Powell’s 1988 remarks to the Joint Center as our featured speaker while he served as National Security Advisor in the Reagan White House. Read excerpts from General Powell’s speech (starting on page five) at the Joint Center’s annual dinner in 1997.

Now Hiring

The Joint Center is seeking a communications associate. Under the direction of the vice president, Communications, the communications associate will contribute to a range of communications functions, including overseeing the Joint Center’s weekly and monthly newsletters; monitoring media placements; and managing the press pages, blogs, and event placements on the website.

The Joint Center is seeking a research & policy analyst. Under the direction of the director of Technology Policy, the analyst will be responsible for helping to coordinate all research, analysis, and operations related to the successful functioning of the program. The analyst will also have the opportunity to pitch ideas for research and shape the research agenda of the program.

In Case You Missed It

Businessman with a mask on the phone

Strengthening our workforce policy program: Strengthening our workforce policy program: The Joint Center was among the awardees of a Walmart grant through the Center for Racial Equity. This investment aims to help strengthen postsecondary education for African Americans. Other awardees include 1890 Universities Foundation and CodePath.

Having a voice at the table: Joint Center President Spencer Overton was in conversation with Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves for the Joint Center’s Voice at the Table event. They spoke about how to strengthen Black businesses, provide greater broadband access, and accomplish the priorities of the Commerce Department in the Biden Administration.


On Oct. 26, Joint Center Technology Policy Director Dr. Dominique Harrison will be a panelist at the More Perfect Union 2021 Festival—The Hill’s first annual festival celebrating America’s best big ideas. Dr. Harrison will join editor-at-large Steve Clemons and others in discussing digital infrastructure and skills training. Register here.

On Oct. 27, Dr. Harrison will also be a panelist at the National Urban League’s Whitney M. Young, Jr., Leadership Development Conference, where she will discuss the digital divide.

On Oct. 27, Joint Center President Spencer Overton will join the University of California, Irvine, School of Law to discuss disinformation in American elections. RSVP here.

On Nov. 3, Joint Center Vice President of Policy Jessica Fulton will join a Financial Health Network panel to discuss financial health across race. More information here.