Empowering Our Young People, and Stemming the Collateral Damage of Incarceration

by Roy L. Austin Jr., Karol Mason

Today, officials from the White House, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) welcomed a diverse group of federal officials, non-profit workers, faith leaders, school administrators, researchers, and child welfare advocates to the White House, to announce a series of steps aimed at providing stronger support to help children with incarcerated parents succeed, and overcome the unique obstacles they often face.

President Obama has been committed since day one of his presidency to the idea that every child should have an equal opportunity to learn, grow, dream, and thrive. Yet for children of incarcerated parents, this can seem like a far-off reality.

Nationally, more than 2.6 million children have a parent in prison, and approximately half of these children are under the age of 10 years old. Losing a parent to incarceration can result in devastating consequences for children, including poverty and housing instability. Nearly 20% of all children entering the child welfare system have an incarcerated parent, and a recent study suggests that children with parents in prison are at an increased risk for asthma, obesity, ADD/ADHD, depression, and anxiety.

Since taking office, President Obama has called for increases in the Bureau of Prisons budget to expand education programs that strengthen family and parental ties, and for demonstration grants within the Second Chance Act to enhance parental and family relationships for incarcerated parents as a re-entry strategy.

In a series of announcements today, the Department of Justice unveiled the newest round of grant awards from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Children of Incarcerated Parents Mentoring Demonstration Program, and the Second Chance Act – Strengthening Relationships Between Young Fathers and Their Children. In addition, the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, Charles Samuels, announced the creation of a new Reentry Resources Division at DOJ, and Pamela Hyde, Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at HHS announced new resources to help incarcerated parents with reentry and navigating the child welfare system.

The announcements were made as part of today’s White House event, which featured remarks by Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, and Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. The audience also heard from Miss America 2012, Laura Kaeppeler-Fleiss, who spoke on her personal experience as the child of an incarcerated parent.

Also featured during the event was the premiere of “Echoes of Incarceration,” a documentary film project commissioned by the Children’s Television Workshop (Sesame Street). “Echoes of Incarceration” provides intensive filmmaking and advocacy training to youth aged 16 to 22 to produce documentary films told from their own life experiences as children of incarcerated parents.

Each of us has a role to play in ensuring that children of incarcerated parents have the opportunity they deserve to live happy and successful lives. To learn more about President Obama’s leadership, the Administration’s efforts, or to look for ways to do your part,please visit the federal Children of Incarcerated Parents web portal here.

Roy L. Austin Jr. is the Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity. Karol Mason is the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs.

Round 2 of Obamacare Enrollment Will Be Shorter and Harder

As states gear up for round two of Obamacare enrollment next month, they have their sights set on people like Miles Alva.
Alva, 28, works part-time at a video store and is about to graduate from Cal State Northridge. Getting insured is about the last thing on his mind.  
“It’s not a priority,” the television and cinema arts student said. “I am not interested in paying for health insurance right now.”
The second round of enrollment under the nation’s Affordable Care Act promises to be tougher than the first. Many of those eager to get covered already did, including those with health conditions that had prevented them from getting insurance in the past.
Read the rest:  Here

African American Mayors Association Supports the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Communities Challenge

Washington, D.C. (September 30, 2014) – The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) commends President Obama on the launch of the My Brother’s Keeper Communities Challenge.  The AAMA is committed to working with the White House and other national organizations to ensure that municipalities rise to the challenge to create a comprehensive plan of action to convene local leaders, assess current programing, and amplify initiatives that are successful in improving the lives of young men and boys of color.

AAMA President, Mayor William A. Bell, Sr. (Birmingham, Ala.) released the following statement: “As mayors, we must first hold ourselves and our cities accountable to ensure that our next generation does not fall through the cracks. Not on our watch. Over the next thirty days, we will be working hard to ensure our mayors are accepting the President’s Communities Challenge and are convening key stakeholder meetings in their cities.  The My Brother’s Keeper Initiative is a key priority for AAMA.”

AAMA 1st Vice President Steve Benjamin (Columbia, S.C.) also offered the following remarks “The My Brother’s Keeper Communities Challenge is an extraordinary and historic initiative that demonstrates the importance of all cities coming together not only as a rescue mission for our some most vulnerable citizens, but also as treasure hunt to find our next generation of leaders among these boys and young men of color to cultivate. I proudly accept the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Communities Challenge and encourage all mayors to lead on this important issue.”

About the African American Mayors Association
African American Mayors Association (AAMA) is the only organization exclusively representing African-American mayors in the United States. African American Mayors Association exists to empower local leaders for the benefit of their citizens. The role of the African American Mayors Association includes taking positions on public policies that impact the vitality and sustainability of cities; providing mayors with leadership and management tools; and creating a forum for member mayors to share best practices related to municipal management.


AAMA President, Birmingham Mayor William Bell To Travel to St. Louis County, MO to Discuss Situation in Ferguson


William A. Bell, Sr., mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, and president of the African American Mayors Association (AAMA), will be traveling to St. Louis County on Friday, August 292014, to discuss the recent events in Ferguson, MO with officials and residents at the request of the Board of Trustees of the AAMA. He may also attend a rally in Clayton, MO.

As the leader of the nation’s only organization exclusively serving black mayors and the top elected official of one of the key cities involved in the Civil Rights Movement, Bell is uniquely qualified to offer perspective on the unrest, and strategies for reaching peace in Ferguson and other cities affected by this and similar tragedies.  The goal of the visit is to begin to develop a tool-kit of strategies to prevent similar occurrences in communities across the United States.

The African American Mayors Association issued a statement Aug. 13 regarding the tragic death of Michael Brown and the resulting civil unrest.


Michael B. Coleman commentary: Ferguson has important lessons for cities nationwide

Michael B. Coleman commentary: Ferguson has important lessons for cities nationwide

Speaking to U.N. panel, Mayor William Bell declares Birmingham a “thriving example of what change brings” following civil rights struggles

Speaking to U.N. panel, Mayor William Bell declares Birmingham a “thriving example of what change brings” following civil rights struggles

Statement by the President (Update on Ferguson, MO)

From the President’s Statement at 12:49 pm

…. [First comments addressed Iraq]

Now, second, I want to address something that’s been in the news over the last couple of days and that’s the situation in Ferguson, Missouri.  I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images we’ve seen in the heartland of our country, as police have clashed with people protesting.  Today, I’d like us all to take a step back and think about how we’re going to be moving forward.

 This morning, I received a thorough update on the situation from Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been following it and been in communication with his team.  I’ve already tasked the Department of Justice and the FBI to independently investigate the death of Michael Brown, along with local officials on the ground. 

The Department of Justice is also consulting with local authorities about ways that they can maintain public safety without restricting the right of peaceful protest and while avoiding unnecessary escalation.  I made clear to the Attorney General that we should do what is necessary to help determine exactly what happened, and to see that justice is done.

I also just spoke with Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri.  I expressed my concern over the violent turn that events have taken on the ground, and underscored that now is the time for all of us to reflect on what’s happened, and to find a way to come together going forward.  He is going to be traveling to Ferguson.  He is a good man and a fine governor, and I’m confident that, working together, he is going to be able to communicate his desire to make sure that justice is done and his desire to make sure that public safety is maintained in an appropriate way.

Of course, it’s important to remember how this started.  We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances.  He was 18 years old.  His family will never hold Michael in their arms again.  And when something like this happens, the local authorities –- including the police -– have a responsibility to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death, and how they are protecting the people in their communities.

 More info: http://time.com/3111730/barack-obama-ferguson-michael-brown/

African American Mayors Association Statement on the Deaths of Michael Brown and Ezell Ford

The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) offers its condolences to the family and community of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri who tragically died this week.  The AAMA echoes the words of President Obama in saying that his death is heartbreaking, and we applaud Attorney General Holder’s commitment to a fulsome review.  We also offer our deepest sympathies to the family of Ezell Ford in South Los Angeles, California, who was also fatally shot this week.  

Many cities of our member mayors have been impacted by these events and subsequent unrest in their communities.  We encourage those mayors, as well as leaders across the country, to lead our citizens in peaceful organizing, while also ensuring that these matters are thoroughly and justly investigated by law enforcement.  The AAMA will continue to keep these young men, their families, and their communities in our thoughts and prayers.

– AAMA President William A. Bell, Sr. & the AAMA Board of Trustees