Clemency Letter to the President of the United States

Dear President Barack Obama:

The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) was launched in 2014 to represent over 500 African American mayors and their 48 million constituents across the United States. We are a premiere organization representing black elected officials, and we focus on empowering mayors in their communities and elevating their voice on a national stage. We strengthen the executive abilities of our member mayors, and we advocate for public policy positions that benefit our constituents.

Mr. President, we applaud and strongly support your administration’s significant initiatives to address policies confronting the criminal justice system, many of which disproportionately impact African American men and women who reside in our cities. One such policy is your use of clemency to review and remedy lengthy sentences, particularly where newer law has discredited old sentences. With the abolition of parole in the federal system in 1984, there are extremely limited options for review of sentences, resulting in prisoners not having the opportunity to show they have reformed.

To date, you have beneficially changed the lives of over 900 people, most of who never thought they would ever see life outside of prison walls. You gave them a second chance, allowing them to return to our communities to show they can be productive citizens. Your initiative reinvigorated the policy discussion around widespread incarceration and the proper role the executive can play to alleviate harsh punishments via clemency. This is helping to bring balance to a justice system that for decades has meted out extraordinarily lengthy sentences that often have not fit the crime.

Mr. President, we as mayors have witnessed firsthand the devastation drugs have caused, but we also bear witness to the harm that has come from the war on drugs. Harsh and lengthy sentences have snatched mothers from children, men from loved ones, furthered the destabilization of families and communities in our cities, and caused the displacement of our constituents in federal facilities throughout the country.

Because of the slow pace of legislative change, correcting the injustice of severe, fiscally unsound and often racial discriminatory sentences through clemency is imperative.

We know that you have set forth specific criteria for release pursuant to the clemency initiative, including a ten-year threshold, conviction of a non-violent offense, and having a clean institutional record. We want you to know that we welcome back to our communities all those who no longer present a threat to society, whether they fit all the parameters of the criteria or not. This would allow consideration of deserving candidates whose prison term may not have reached ten years, those whose crimes may have been misleadingly not characterized as non-violent, as well as a serious consideration of increasing numbers of elderly applicants who have aged out of criminality.

The spiraling growth of the prison population must be stunted. We reject the “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” narrative, and recognize the executive power of clemency as a key safety valve in correcting the injustice of harshly severe, fiscally unsound and often racially discriminatory sentences.

It has often been said that “each of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done.” We believe in mercy, forgiveness and fairness.

We respectfully submit the attached list of clemency petitions to you from individuals whom we would welcome back into our communities. We feel that special consideration be given to certain categories of applicants as well, such as the elderly and women. There are also non-citizens, some of whom wish to return to their home countries, where our tax-paying citizens are paying for their continued incarceration. Our staff has reviewed the petitions of each of these candidates, and we implore you to give them consideration as you wind down the last two months of your historic presidency. They may or may not come from or plan to return to our specific cities, but because circumstances are similar across the board in Black America, we are united in calling for their release.


Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake
City of Baltimore, Maryland
AAMA Member, Clemency Initiative Chair

Mayor Sly James
Kansas City, Missouri
AAMA President

Mayor William Johnson
Holly Hill, South Carolina

Mayor Steve Benjamin
Columbia, South Carolina
AAMA Immediate Past President

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson
Gary, Indiana

Mayor Petrella Robinson
Town of North Brentwood, Maryland

Mayor Bill Bell
Durham, North Carolina

Mayor Tony Yarber
Jackson, Mississippi

Mayor Kevin Johnson
Sacramento, California

Mayor Toni Harp
New Haven, Connecticut

Mayor Leon Rockingham
City of North Chicago, Illinois

Mayor Patrick Green
Normandy, Missouri

Mayor Ras Baraka
Newark, New Jersey

Fmr. Mayor Johnny Ford
Tuskegee, Alabama

Mayor McKinley Price
Newport News, Virginia

Mayor Wayne Hall
Hempstead, New York

Mayor Lovely Warren
Rochester, New York

Mayor Mario Avery
Fairburn, Georgia

Mayor Lee P. Walker
Landover Hills, Maryland

Mayor Jacqueline Goodall
Forest Heights, Maryland

Mayor Bradley Sellers
City of Warrensville Heights, Ohio

Clemency Petitioners:

Sean Andre Wilson (Fed. Reg. #52945-080 F.P.C. Lewisburg, PA). Filed petition for Clemency on May 17, 2016 with the Office of the Pardon Attorney.

Alice Johnson, Mandatory Life Without Parole, 1st Offender

William Underwood, Mandatory Life Without Parole, 1st drug offender (Attorney Nkechi Taifa)

Mark Myrie, 10 years, 1st Offender (Attorney Nkechi Taifa)
non-citizen – upon commutation wants to be deported back to Jamaica

Michelle West, Mandatory Life Without Parole, 1st Offender

Robert Shipp, Mandatory Life Without Parole, 1st drug offender (Attorney Mark Osler)

Cheryl Howard, Mandatory Life Without Parole
Possession with Intent to Distribute Crack Cocaine and Conspiracy

Michael Holmes, Mandatory Life Without Parole

LaShonda Hall , 45 years, 1st Offender
Drug Conspiracy

John Knock, Mandatory Life Without Parole, 1st offender for marijuana

Eric Wilson, Mandatory Life Without Parole (Attorney MiAngel Cody)
Conspiracy to distribute drugs

Troy Lawrence, Mandatory Life Without Parole (Attorney MiAngel Cody)

Steve Liscano, Mandatory Life Without Parole (Attorney MiAngel Cody)

Corey Jacobs, Mandatory Life Without Parole (Attorney Brittany Byrd)

Trenton Copeland, Mandatory Life Without Parole (Attorney Brittany Byrd)

African American Mayors Association Statement on the Presidential Debates

(Washington, DC), On behalf of the 500 African American mayors across the country, Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, MO and President of the African American Mayors Association, released the following statement in response to the first presidential debate:

“Last night’s debate highlighted how the next president will influence some of the most important issues in America – criminal justice reform, transportation and infrastructure, job creation, and national security. These issues impact the everyday quality of life of our constituents and are top priorities in every city.  It is our moral and civil imperative to participate in the election process, and all our voices must be heard.”


“We were particularly proud to see the acknowledgement by both candidates of the role mayors play in decreasing gun violence. It is one of the most urgent issues facing our nation, and it will indeed take all of us—the federal government, state legislatures, local leadership and grassroots organizers—to end the gun violence epidemic in this country.  In subsequent debates, we hope to hear how the candidates will spur entrepreneurship and support early childhood education.”

African American Mayors Association Applauds Response to New York and New Jersey Bombings

(Washington, DC), On behalf of the 500 African American mayors across the country, Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, MO and President of the African American Mayors Association (AAMA), released the following statement following the terror attack in New York City:

“Our thoughts are with the dozens injured in this week’s bomb attacks in New York City and Seaside Park, NJ as well as the officers injured while apprehending Ahmad Khan Rahami, the primary suspect in bombings. The African American Mayors Association also applauds our colleagues Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, Mayor Derek Armstead of Linden, NJ, and Robert W. Matthies of Seaside NJ for their exemplary leadership over the past week. They have endured a civic leader’s worst nightmare, and did so while maintaining transparency and open lines of communication, and working in coalition with local and federal partners to help quickly identify and apprehend the suspect. This has been a model for the rest of us in our response to emergencies.”

African American Mayors Association Statement on the Deaths of Terence Crutcher and Keith Scott

(Washington, DC), On behalf of the 500 African American mayors across the country, Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, MO and President of the African American Mayors Association (AAMA), released the following statement in response to the deaths of Terence Crutcher and Keith Scott:

“My colleagues at AAMA, and I, extend our deepest condolences to the grief-stricken families of Terence Crutcher and Keith Scott. They are in our thoughts during this incredibly difficult time.

Every day, more than 89 people are killed by gun violence. The violence in cities across the country coupled with the shooting deaths of citizens, whether armed or unarmed, fosters anger and mistrust between the police and the communities they serve. Though we are still learning more about these particular incidents, what we know for sure is that improving community policing is a national imperative. We must work together to improve trust and communication between police officers and citizens. Police officers have to possess the agility and desire to nonviolently de-escalate and disengage tense situations before resorting to deadly force. It is an essential skill in their daily work, and the only way to fulfill their duty to protect us all.

We applaud the U.S. Department of Justice for its swift response to these incidents. The African American Mayors Association is committed to improving communication and trust between citizens and law enforcement. We will continue this work, more committed than ever, to making our towns and cities safe for everyone.”

AAMA President Sly James: Why America Needs a New Agenda for Cities

We all know the stories of crumbling roads, failing bridges and broadband access that lags behind our international peers. The last few decades have been hard on our urban centers but Americans are falling in love with cities again. Cities all over the country are experiencing major influxes of new residents.

In fact, today, over 63 percent of the nation’s population lives in a city. That number is even higher — 70 percent — in the Midwest, where the city I lead is located. Despite this, an agenda to revitalize and restore the infrastructure of our cities has been shockingly absent from our presidential political discourse. That is, until recently.

The Democratic Party, in its Cities Agenda amendment to the platform, is now the first political party to develop a comprehensive plan on city infrastructure during this election cycle. And this week, the Republican party also made cities an issue in their campaign. Donald Trumpentered the conversation with a speech in Detroit outlining an ambitious infrastructure agenda, declaring “We will build the next generation of roads, bridges, railways, tunnels, seaports and airports that our country deserves.” We look forward to seeing the details of his plan.

Indeed, public transportation, roadways, highways, bridges, electricity, and waterways are at the very core of the services our citizens need to thrive. Our infrastructure is the skeleton that supports cities and improving it lifts up local economies.  It’s a major factor in where people decide to work and businesses decide to locate. From the creation of bike paths and making safe water accessible to all, infrastructure impacts public health and quality of life outcomes.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) releases an infrastructure report card every four years. The last one, published in 2013, was grim. ASCE gave the nation a cumulative grade of D+ on its infrastructure and that was slightly higher than the results of the previous report. But another ASCE report detailed the enormous positive economic impact that is possible through an increased investment in infrastructure.

In “Failure to Act: The Impact of Current Infrastructure Investment on America’s Economic Future,” released in 2012, ASCE found that investing $157 billion in infrastructure each year until 2020 could protect 3.5 million jobs, $2.4 trillion in consumer spending, and $3.1 trillion in GDP. $94 billion in transportation investments alone would protect 877,000 jobs.  We clearly cannot afford the status quo.

Mayors are doing everything we can to maintain the integrity of these foundational services. Some  have implemented innovative public-private partnerships to partially fill the resource gap the federal government’s inaction has left. But, too many of us are forced to navigate a patchwork of state laws that limit our ability to allocate the resources necessary to modernize local infrastructure.

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan is a devastating example of what can happen when local leaders are not fully empowered to maintain the infrastructure in their cities and towns. That’s why I could not agree more with the Cities Agenda’s basic premise that “local leaders are best equipped to create a better future for their residents — but need the resources and flexibility to get the job done.”

The Cities Agenda recognizes that local economic progress can only be achieved by addressing multiple, seemingly intractable, issues simultaneously. It calls for increased investment in housing and schools, jobs, transportation and health in cities across the nation. Specifically, it will build on game-changing programs like the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and the Hardest Hit Fund, which have revitalized communities overcome by blight.

And, the Cities Agenda promises to foster community vibrancy by expanding programs that leverage private sector investment to combat poverty, such as the New Markets Tax Credit and the State Small Business Credit Initiative. These programs are critical to the health and stability of our nation. The benefits are enormous and exponential.

As the president of the African American Mayors Association, which represents the over 500 black mayors in the country, I can tell you that mayors are driving this critical conversation on investments in infrastructure.  Mayors have seen, first hand, the impact of federal underinvestment in cities and infrastructure for too long.

Although the Cities Agenda was initially adopted by the Democrats, there is no reason that this should be a partisan issue. Republicans entering this dialogue is good for advancing the conversation on infrastructure investment. Business leaders need to weigh in just as much as labor and community members. All of us sit in the same ditch when something breaks and repairs need to made.

Regardless of who wins the White House, or the majorities in Congress this November, we must increase the pressure on our federal leaders to fix our cities.


Sly James is mayor of Kansas City, M.O., and President of the African American Mayors Association. 

Job Opening – Operations Associate

Job Description

The primary responsibility of the Operations Associate is the administration of all aspects of ongoing AAMA programming, including in-person meetings and teleconferences. The Operations Associate will report to the Executive Director and ensure the successful execution of events, including the AAMA Annual Conference. Additional duties include coordinating speaking engagements and events for member Mayors, drafting monthly organizational newsletters, assisting in the preparation of financial invoices, answering incoming office calls, and other related duties as assigned.



The Operations Associate must have strong communication and writing skills, as well as a solid understanding of Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and related applications. The candidate must be a self-starter and comfortable in a dynamic start-up environment. Bachelor’s degree is required. Experience working for an elected official or organization representing elected officials is strongly preferred, but not required.   AAMA is an Equal Opportunity Employer.



Commensurate with experience.


To Apply

Please send your resume and cover letter to Deadline to apply is August 19, 2016. Applications will be considered as they are received.

President Obama to Participate in Town Hall on Race With David Muir – Thursday @ 8pm

President Obama to Participate in Town Hall on Race With David Muir – Thursday @ 8pm

By ABC NEWS Jul 12, 2016, 6:39 PM ET

With the recent tragic events in Minneapolis, Baton Rouge and Dallas still fresh on the minds of Americans, President Obama is expected to participate in a Disney Media Networks town hall this week titled “The President and the People: A National Conversation.”

The town hall will be moderated by “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir and held in Washington D.C. It will focus on candid discussions on race relations, justice, policing and equality by the members of the community. ESPN’s Jemele Hill will join Muir.

The one-hour event will come just days after President Obama attended a Dallas memorial for five police officers shot dead last week by a sniper. It also comes after two black men were killed by officers in Louisiana and Minnesota — controversial shootings that sparked a wave of protests.

“We turn on the TV or surf the internet, and we can watch positions harden and lines drawn and people retreat to their respective corners,” Obama said today during the memorial. “We see all this, and it’s hard not to think sometimes that the center won’t hold. And that things might get worse. I understand. I understand how Americans are feeling. … I’m here to say we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem. And I know that because I know America.”

The town hall is set to air Thursday at 8 p.m. ET and will be simulcast commercial-free on ABC, ESPN, Freeform,, Freeform Digital, Watch ABC, Watch ESPN, Yahoo, ABC News’ Facebook page and YouTube channel as well as ABC Radio.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

African American Mayors Association Statement on the Deaths of Five Dallas, TX Police Officers

African American Mayors Association Statement on the Deaths of Five Dallas, TX Police Officers

(Washington, DC), Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, MO and President of the African American Mayors Association, released the following statement in response to the deaths of five police officers in Dallas, Texas:

“Everyday men and women wake up, put on uniforms and hit the streets to protect American cities. For mayors, these are among the first city employees we see each day. They protect our citizens and our families. Yesterday’s attack on them is an attack on everything we hold dear.”

“Today, I join with 500 African American mayors across the country to offer condolences for the families of the five police officers killed in Dallas, TX. Their grief is unspeakable. We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers and hope for a swift recovery for the officers injured in the shooting. Our police officers are among the most invaluable resources our communities have. They are essential to keeping our laws functioning and our citizens safe. We are deeply grateful for their partnership, today and every day.”

“More than almost any week in recent memory, these past days have thrown into sharp relief the fault lines in American society. We must work to improve trust and communication between police officers and our citizens. We must continue training for law enforcement on de-escalation and disengagement, and stem the tide of unwarranted killings. And we must immediately pass gun violence prevention legislation. At this time, we must come together and do the important work of creating an America that is safe for us all.”

“Our hearts are broken. Our cities are mourning. Today we rise to guard our guardians. Today we say enough is enough.”

Contact: Donald Gatlin,

Statement from Mayor Lester E. Taylor III on Recent Shootings of Unarmed Men and Police

Statement from Mayor Lester E. Taylor III on Recent Shootings of Unarmed Men and Police

East Orange, NJ, July 11, 2016: The tragic incidents of last week weigh heavily on my heart and my mind. Captured on video, shared on social media, replayed endlessly on our televisions, and splashed across the front pages of our newspapers, the disturbing images from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Falcon Heights, Minnesota and Dallas, Texas have forced Americans to confront a raw set of emotions about racism, injustice and law enforcement.

I’ve had to revisit my own set of emotions and the harsh reality that I am living and raising my three children in a world where we may be judged by the color of our skin and not by the content of our character.

The recent avoidable acts of violence against Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were reactions borne by bias. Statistics show that unarmed black men account for about 40 percent of the people fatally shot by police. When adjusted by population, unarmed black men were seven times as likely as unarmed white men to die from police gunfire. New training techniques, more accountability through reformed laws, and better police hiring practices are just some of the solutions that can help fix a system that has been broken for far too long.

In East Orange, we are blessed to live in a community where our police officers stand apart from other urban communities for equally reflecting the people they serve. The brave men and women of the East Orange Police Department have worked tirelessly to drive down crime, enhance community police relations, and increase youth outreach. The result is a city that is safer than it has been in 50 years. As our own police – and law enforcement everywhere – continue to cope with the senseless attack against their fellow officers, I urge everyone to continue to show their support and respect for those who selflessly risk their lives daily to protect us from harm.

As we mourn, heal, analyze, and take action, we must unite on what makes us one. We all know someone who could have been Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, or Eric Garner. We must look inward and recognize our equal worth and dispose of the stigmas that surround not only people of color, but Americans from all walks of life. Collectively and individually, we must demand change. Let the action begin with you.