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Good Afternoon AAMA Mayors and Supporters,
As you know, AAMA key priorities include supporting President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Initiative, and standing at the forefront of criminal justice reform efforts through our Justice Reform Task Force. In recognition of these priorities, AAMA is awarding two $2500 Justice Keeper Grants to tax-exempt entities (incl. municipalities and not-for-profit organizations) performing exceptional work on MBK and criminal justice reform. To apply for a Justice Keepers Grant, please complete and return the attached application form by no later than March 22, 2016.
As a reminder, AAMA is also offering 10 $500 Membership Scholarships for small city mayors (under 5,000 residents) to become members of AAMA at no cost for one year. We encourage you to forward the enclosed application to eligible small city mayors that have demonstrated strong leadership within your state. Completed Membership Scholarship applications must be received by no later than March 22, 2016.
Washington, D.C. (March 16, 2016) – The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) today commended President Obama for the prompt nomination of Judge Merrick B. Garland to the United States Supreme Court. AAMA President Mayor Steve Benjamin (Columbia, SC) issued the following statement:
“Judge Merrick Garland is an eminently qualified nominee for the Supreme Court. As Chief Judge for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Judge Garland has earned bipartisan recognition for his commitment to carefully interpreting the law. The interests of justice cannot wait – the US Senate must do its Constitutional duty and promptly consider and vote upon Judge Garland’s nomination.”
Media Contact: Everton Morris, AAMA Deputy Executive Director, Everton@ourmayors.org
African American Mayors Association
Statement on Supreme Court Vacancy
Washington, D.C. (February 29, 2016) – The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) is deeply concerned by recent statements from multiple US Senators suggesting the Senate will refuse to vote upon any potential nominee to the US Supreme Court. AAMA President Mayor Steve Benjamin (Columbia, SC) issued the following statement:
“Under our Constitution, the President has a responsibility to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and the Senate has an obligation to consider and vote upon the nominee. I am confident President Obama will name an eminently qualified Justice to faithfully interpret the law. During a time when many Americans are deeply cynical of Washington, Senators must show up and do their job by giving a Supreme Court nominee a prompt confirmation vote.”
(To read this post on Medium.com Click Here)
The election of President Barack Obama, not even a decade ago, has already been marked down in American history as a major step in the long march for civil rights. Of course, it is clear from the continuing work of advocates and activists today that it was not the last such step. However this month, Black History Month, beckons us to look back and remember all the steps that came before. Forty-Eight years ago, back when the man who would become the first African American President of the United States was only six years old, another man began paving that path of opportunity with strikingly similar tenacity.
In 1967, a different state congressman from a Midwestern state became the first African American to serve in a different prestigious office. Carl Burton Stokes made history when he was elected mayor of Cleveland, Ohio and became the first African American mayor of a major US city. Forty years separate his election from the election of President Obama. Yet their stories are parallel and related as they compose a chapter of the living history of African American perseverance in America.
Like the President who followed in his footsteps, Stokes was also raised by a single mother. He grew up first in a poor Cleveland neighborhood, and then in the city’s first housing project. Stokes was constantly reminded by his mother that education was the key to a better life. His early life was characterized by educational excellence and service to his nation. After serving in World War II, Stokes completed his legal studies and was admitted to the Ohio Bar. He served as an assisting prosecuting attorney for the county, before becoming the first African American to be elected to the Ohio House of Representatives.
As a young attorney and state congressmen, Stokes built a reputation as a civil rights advocate and political moderate, appealing to African American and white voters alike. After he was defeated following his third term in office, he responded to the setback by striving to make an even greater impact on his community. He sought a position which an African American man had never held before — mayor of Cleveland, a major American city. It was an uphill battle. Not only was two-thirds of the Cleveland’s population white, but Stokes’ opponent was the grandson of former President William Howard Taft. When he ran for mayor, the African American community in Cleveland was struggling and tensions between police and citizens were escalating to riots. In the end, he won his historic victory with a narrow 50.5 percent of the vote.
As mayor, Stokes was a fierce advocate for minorities in Cleveland and opened doors for African Americans and women to work at city hall. He united black and white business owners to fund Cleveland: Now!, a program to rejuvenate the city’s poorest neighborhoods. As race riots and financial troubles plagued the city, Stokes was a force of stability and reason earning him a second term. Following his tenure as mayor, he went on to break barriers in his storied career as a news anchor, a municipal judge, and a U.S. ambassador.
The impact of Mayor Carl B. Stokes’s accomplishments transcends his time in office. He was an early beacon of hope for the change we see continued today. Forty-eight years after Stokes’s election, not only is the president of the United States an African American, so are an estimated 471 other mayors in office today. Of course, leaders like President Barack Obama and former Mayor Carl B. Stokes do not just pave the way for African Americans to hold the same positions. They show our nation the importance of diversity and the benefit of empowering Americans of all backgrounds. They are proof of the value of perseverance. They are a testament to the American Dream and the spirit of “liberty and justice for all.”
AAMA was first hand when First Lady Michelle Obama hosted 51 black female dancers to celebrate Black History Month at the White House on February 8th. The students participated in a day filled with classes before performing in front of family and friends with iconic leaders in dance, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Judith Jamison, Debbie Allen, the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Virginia Johnson, and Hip-Hop choreographer Fatima Robinson. To read more about the day on the Huffington Post click here. See more pictures and posts on Instagram using the hashtag #DanceAtTheWhiteHouse
Recently, President Obama took historic executive actions on immigration. While many of you have already taken action to support these measures, we encourage all Mayors to unite forces by signing on to the cities and counties amicus brief being filed to the Supreme Court.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Birmingham Mayor William Bell both serve as co-leaders on the brief. Seize the opportunity to be a national leader on immigration and join them on this monumental step forward in the litigation.
The amicus brief will be filed on March 8, 2016, so you will need to sign on with your city attorney as soon as possible to confirm your participation. For further information and instructions for how to sign on, please click this link and fill out the online form: http://www.citiesforaction.us/amicus_brief
Washington, D.C. (January 26, 2016) — The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) is deeply concerned about the ongoing water emergency in Flint, Michigan. Flint, a majority African-American city, has richly contributed to our nation’s success as the birthplace of General Motors, and as a galvanizing moment in furthering worker rights. President Obama has declared a federal state of emergency in Flint in response to the city’s water crisis, which has exposed residents to harmful levels of lead.
Exposure to lead from drinking water can cause a lifetime of harmful effects, especially for the thousands of children residing in the city. Flint will need an abundance of support from all levels of government, immediately and for the long term, to take care of those affected.
As an initial expression of support, AAMA has accorded membership to the Mayor of Flint, Dr. Karen Weaver, at no cost to the city in order to avail Flint of all available resources of AAMA and its membership base. AAMA will pursue additional ways to tangibly support the residents of Flint in the coming days.
Washington, D.C. (February 7, 2016)- African American Mayors Association (AAMA) President Steve Benjamin co-authored the Op-Ed with Gregory A. Thomas entitled, ICMYI: Congress Must Pass the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015. which was distributed to members of Congress. To read the full text of the Op-Ed, please click here.