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.

 

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

Like most Americans, I am deeply saddened and troubled by the events in Ferguson, Mo. As a mayor, I am painfully aware that racial tensions have the potential to boil over in any city, including my own.

I am extremely proud of the positive way in which people of different races, ethnicities, nationalities and cultural backgrounds live and work together in the city of Columbus. But no city is immune to the raw emotions that can be unleashed by a single incident.

There is no textbook way to respond to a community crisis such as the one sparked by the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager shot by a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9.

But the book has now been written by Ferguson city officials on how not to respond.

While I am certain that the vast majority of Ferguson police and city personnel are decent, caring people, the impression that has been left with the rest of the nation is of a bureaucracy that is insensitive, deceptive and incompetent.

What we see in Ferguson is an overwhelmingly white police force without a clue of how to deal with the black residents they are pledged to protect and serve. In the absence of open communication, there is fear, mistrust and hostility.

This is why we must never shy away from the topic of race. If racially charged issues are not discussed openly, they will fester and infect the entire community. And if we do not talk about race during times of relative tranquility, then by the time a crisis comes, it already will be too late.

To build trust between the police and the black community in every city in America is both essential and extremely difficult to achieve because of the history of this dynamic in America. Trust will not be created overnight; it must be earned over time.

The failure to build this trust is tragic for the people of Ferguson, who are in desperate need of strong, compassionate and transparent leadership at this time. But it is instructive for the rest of us, some of whom may ourselves be similarly tested someday.

Ferguson reminds us why it is important to respect our residents’ First Amendment rights of speech and assembly. While Columbus, thankfully, has not been faced with protests on the scale of what Ferguson is dealing with, our police are known for treating demonstrators with respect, interacting with them and allowing them their space. To greet protesters with riot gear and weapons drawn only increases tensions — and potentially provides gasoline for the fire.

Ferguson reminds us why it is important to insist on a diverse safety force. Those who have argued that the recruitment of African-Americans here in Columbus serves no substantive purpose now have the harsh example of Ferguson to refute them. The city of Columbus is not where we need to be in this regard, which is why we have stepped up our efforts to recruit qualified women and minorities to our public-safety forces. We do this not in pursuit of an arbitrary percentage but because a Police Division that doesn’t reflect the diversity of the community can result in resentment and distrust. And diversity makes for a stronger and better Police Division.

Ferguson reminds us why it is important to couple strong police enforcement with strong community outreach. Our police use aggressive tactics that lead to arrests and seizures of guns and drugs. They also interact with residents through neighborhood bicycle tours, block-watch meetings and individual conversations. We do this because our residents will work with our police if they have positive relationships with them.

Ferguson reminds us why it is important to prevent violence by addressing the root causes of crime. We’ve created a violence deterrence initiative through which trained youth-intervention specialists engage young people on the streets to steer them from bad choices, while offering positive alternatives.

I do not congratulate myself for achieving all our goals through these efforts. On the contrary, Ferguson reminds me that we are imperfect as a city, and we have much more to do.

I would be naïve to presume that a crisis like the one facing Ferguson city officials today could never happen here.

We must not only learn from Ferguson’s mistakes but also ask ourselves each day whether we’re doing all we can to earn the trust and confidence of our residents.

Michael B. Coleman is mayor of Columbus.

Birmingham mayor passes the civil rights movement torch to North County

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)– The mayor of Birmingham, Alabama came to St. Louis Friday to meet with African American mayors in North County where he called for dialogue and action.

William Bell is president of the African American Mayors Association.

In the 1960’s, his city played a pivotal role in the civil rights movement where peaceful protest was met with violence and hatred.

Mayor Bell described his meeting as a passing of the torch.

Bell says his association plans to put together a plan to help cities address the issues facing African American youth here and across the country.

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

mayorimageWashington, D.C. – August 28, 2014 – William A. Bell, Sr., mayor of Birmingham, Alabama,Birmingham, Alabama mayor William Bell and president of the African American Mayors Association (AAMA), will be traveling to St. Louis County on Friday, August 29 to discuss the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri with officials and residents at the request of the Board of Trustees of the AAMA. He may also attend a rally in Clayton, Missouri.

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.

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.

Media Contact:

Marlena Reed, communications 21
mreed@c21pr.com, 404.814.1330

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