Archive for the ‘Angela Glover Blackwell’ tag
This post originally appeared on The Washington Post’s “Health Care RX” weekly panel discussion, in response to the question: “Recent polls show declining support for President Obama’s handling of the health-care issue. What should he do to get the effort back on track?”
What are we even arguing about again?
Though the volume of the health-care debate has never been louder, it has never been more silent on what really matters to the real lives and real struggles of everyday Americans.
During the campaign, President Obama and his team were geniuses at keeping an even keel and steadily pushing on a single narrative — hope — that was both powerful and flexible. But during the health-care fight, they have been unfocused. Of course, it’s hard to have a consistent message when you’re bargaining with 535 potential legislative partners at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue (not to mention the dozens of TV and radio hosts who wield inordinate power in the modern media landscape).
Obama must take a step back and remind all Americans why we need to reform health care in the first place.
He needs to fill a town hall with people who have faced death or bankruptcy because of insufficient insurance or no insurance at all. Participants shouldn’t be hard to find — all of us have friends or neighbors or family members who have faced this harsh reality (or just go to Andrew Sullivan’s site where he has spent the past several weeks collecting dozens of heartbreaking “Views from Your Sickbed”)
Obama is a master of policy detail and — If he weren’t so politically savvy — would have made a terrific technocrat. But he must stress the big picture here.
We all know the health-care system is broken. We all know dealing with insurance companies is a maddening, often-frightening task. And we all know people will die needlessly unless we get some kind of reform now.
We need Obama to remind us of this fact. Every day. Every hour. The real pain of real Americans needs to become the center of this debate again, not the pitched voices of ill-informed mobs.
As I looked around the White House Office of Urban Affairs listening tour meeting at a packed Philadelphia warehouse space and saw low-income residents and local leaders mingling with some of our nation’s most powerful people (including two cabinet secretaries!), I thought back on where the fight for equitable access to healthy food started for me.
It was 1979 and I was recently out of UC-Berkeley Law School and working for the public-interest law firm Public Advocates when a group of residents of a low-income, African-American neighborhood in San Francisco approached me to see if I could help stop their community’s one and only supermarket from leaving. In my hometown of St. Louis, I had seen first-hand the neglect and despair that festered after supermarkets left poor communities there.
No one had ever tried before to find a legal theory that would provide communities access to healthy food, so we were on uncharted legal ground. Using interviews with more than 150 residents of local communities threatened by a lack of food access, we eventually filed an administrative petition with then-Gov. Jerry Brown seeking redress to the problem of the exodus of supermarkets from low-income communities. The Governor was remarkably responsive: appointing a commission that held hearings throughout the state.
Because of the determination of those residents, California began a slow move toward improving healthy food access for millions of our neighbors; the petition sparked farmers’ markets, cooperative buying clubs, a few cooperative markets-but, unfortunately, not one supermarket.
In the years since, equitable food access has been mostly relegated to a local issue, with fights cropping up sporadically in neighborhoods as local supermarkets threaten to leave. We had seen some successes - like San Diego’s Market Creek Plaza or the Pathmark in Harlem - but the victories had been hard to come by.
That is, until about five years ago, when Pennsylvania’s Gov. Ed Rendell and State Rep. Dwight Evans began to listen to the ideas and innovation of their constituents and the leadership of The Food Trust and The Reinvestment Fund. Out of that collaboration came the Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a remarkable program that has helped open dozens of markets and seed more than 3,700 jobs in under-served communities.
Now, through the tireless efforts of residents and advocates, the White House Office of Urban Affairs has shown real interest in learning about this proven program, hopefully to take the ideas and solutions to the national scale. White House leaders want to lift up the program and hear how it is impacting real people. For the first time, I can see the fight for equitable food access is winnable.
I cannot stress enough how important and exciting it is to have a White House willing to listen to new and innovative ideas. This administration - in virtually every office and agency - seems to recognize that all Americans deserve to live in a community of opportunity.
But that does not mean progress will happen on its own. Far from it. The most important attribute the equity movement has going for it is our tenacity. Thirty years ago, when those residents came into my office to ask for help in improving their community, I knew it would be a long, hard fight. But sitting in Philadelphia this week, I felt emboldened to keep fighting, to keep pushing, because success is always within our grasp.
We must demand equity now.
Black in America 2, the sequel to 2008’s Black in America documentary, hosted by reporter Soledad O’Brien, explores challenging issues facing African-Americans in this country. This four-hour special, features profiles of African Americans who are making a difference in their communities and includes serious discussion with leaders who are focused on solutions.
In this footage, which focuses on the big risks Black entrepreneurs take in starting their own businesses, PolicyLink President and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell, states, that:
“Poor access to loans for Black businesses contributes to a huge wealth gap,” stating that “Black people have always sought small businesses as a way to be able to build their wealth. Historically, they sought their own businesses because they couldn’t get jobs in corporations.”
The clip goes on to profile groups who are helping to bridge this wealth divide, like Management Leadership For Tomorrow, a national nonprofit working to develop the next generation of African American, Hispanic, and Native American leaders in major corporations, nonprofit organizations, and entrepreneurial ventures.
Click here to learn more about this series.
PolicyLink CEO Angela Glover Blackwell has a short piece in this issue of Sojourners magazine, alongside more than a dozen other political and spiritual leaders answering the existential question:”What Sustains Me?”
Here is her piece, though you should check out the full post for more thoughtful answers:
Seek Goodness in All, by Angela Glover Blackwell
I remind myself while spending time with people in the airport or on the bus that at the core, people are always nicer than they seem. It is important to do this because sometimes the problems that we are trying to correct seem overwhelming and the reality that we are trying to create seems out of reach. I am a hopeful person so I try to reinforce for myself that the goodness is there, and it is my job to help people see an issue they haven’t thought about, or see a path they haven’t thought of before. Constantly finding that goodness in people keeps me grounded.
Angela Glover Blackwell is the founder and chief executive officer of PolicyLink.
On April 28th, the Compact for Racial Justice Forum will review the highs and lows of the first 100 days of the Obama Administration. For the past 90 days ARC has moved a national discussion around race and the economy, jobs, health care, immigration, civil rights and immigration.
Featured Speakers Include:
• Angela Glover Blackwell, Chief Executive Officer of PolicyLink
• Tarso Luis Ramos, Director of Research, Political Research Associates
• Deepa Iyer, Executive Director, South Asian Americans Leading Together
ARC’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, Tammy Johnson, will moderate the discussion.
Click here to RSVP.
Thirteen, the New York PBS affiliate, listed Angela Glover Blackwell’s speech at the New School earlier this month as one of “NY’s Best Lectures.” Normally, we try not to toot the PolicyLink horn too loudly at EquityBlog….but this speech, “The Time is Now: An Equity Agenda to End Poverty,” could be an incredibly important one to ensure we seize this singular moment for change.
Across the nation, equity advocates are doing yeoman’s work pushing for opportunity, democracy and inclusion. Angela’s speech highlights some of the leading ideas and offers a way to move forward together.
If you have a bit of time during this holiday week, please watch the speech…and share your ideas for how to seize this precious and potentially fleeting moment.
(Note: Angela starts speaking at about the 11:55 mark, after two very kind introductions)
The next chapter of America’s story begins today.
We have seen an historic sea change in this nation–not only in the election of Barack Obama, but in the ascension of hundreds of progressive candidates to our State Houses and Congress. To make real this promise of change, however, we must ensure that our elected officials live up to the ideals that promote equity and opportunity.
- Sustain the deep levels of democratic participation and civic engagement shown during the 2008 presidential election campaign.
- Build an economy that expands opportunity for struggling families and revitalizes distressed communities.
- Make affordable housing available to all, recognizing its historic role as a gateway to opportunity and asset-building.
- Invest in building strong, healthy communities across America.
All Americans–especially those in low-income communities and communities of color–deserve a chance to participate and prosper. We have a real opportunity today to make the change we seek–but we must all work and push and fight together to make it happen.
What principles do you think should guide the Obama Administration? Weigh in the comments!
You can read the full Achieving Equity and Inclusion in America: Policy Principles for the Obama Administration and New Congress document on the PolicyLink site.