President & Chief Executive Officer Of The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, A Shuanise Washington, Shares A VISION OF A GLOBAL BLACK COMMUNITY

publicpolicy_openingimage_smallIn light of recent tragedies, it seems as though the plight of our countrymen, particularly African-Americans, is hopeless. Mass shootings, rampant police brutalities and murders, rioting in the streets and other signs of mayhem and despair seem to be the focus of every major (and minor) news outlet. During these times, however, we must be careful to make sure our reactions are not shortsighted and emotional, but instead long-reaching and well-deliberated.

A. Shuanise Washington, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF), has some views on how to achieve changes in public policy to address not only the immediate and precipitating causes of the recent events, but also address the institutionalized disparities that are the underlying causes of those same (and other) events.

Since 1976, the CBCF has been the premier research and educational institution dedicated to advancing the global Black community. Their vision of a world in which all communities have an equal voice in public policy through leadership cultivation, economic empowerment, and civic engagement is what propels their mission to advance the global Black community by developing leaders, informing policy and educating the public.

Monarch Magazine: In your current position, what would you name as the biggest challenge?
A. Shuanise Washington: I regard every challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow. One of our biggest challenges at the CBCF is generating awareness about our many programs all designed to advance the global Black community. I’ve found that although the CBCF is well known and respected along the east coast corridor, there are still many throughout the country who simply don’t know about our internship, fellowship and scholarship programs and other initiatives, and who don’t know that you don’t have to live in a Congressional Black Caucus member district to take advantage of them.

MM: How has that challenge evolved in the past months? Years?
ASW: As we continue to work to increase our impact, we’ve now turned our focus to the launch of several new initiatives. I am proud of the work we have accomplished thus far, and excited about growing the foundation in the future.

MM: What are your goals for your current position?
ASW: At the CBCF, we envision a world in which the Black community is free of all disparities and able to contribute fully to advancing the common good. My goal is to expand the CBCF’s reach and influence, and grow the programs that seek to eliminate barriers to health care, education and employment that African-Americans and other underserved communities face.

publicpolicy_secondimage_smallMM: What is your view on today’s environment for African-Americans?
ASW: We know that there are disparities impeding the African-American community from enjoying the liberties and justice promised to all. We have witnessed numerous unjust acts of violence by police toward African-American youth. We have read the headlines that call attention to Blacks lagging in education and employment. But we are now in a time in which people are ready to tackle those tough conversations and find solutions for improving race relations and eliminating inequities that impact African-Americans. We are in a unique position now to make lasting change and create a better future for not just the Black community, but for all Americans.

MM: How do you feel about “The Talk” African-Americans are giving to their sons (and now daughters)? What advice would you (have you) given to the African-American youth in your life? What advice do you have for the parents of African-American youth?
ASW: “The Talk” is a symptom of the disparities African-Americans are currently facing. But along with that talk, parents should find a way to also discuss the systemic factors that contribute to the Black unemployment rate, the school-to-prison pipeline among Black youth, the use of excessive police force, and disparities in quality health care and in fair housing, and encourage youth to become civically involved to help move us forward as one nation with liberty, justice and respect for all of its citizens.

MM: What will it take to offset the recent turmoil surrounding Black America?
What can or should we do to avoid future incidents?
ASW: The community outcry is valid and can be heard around the globe. However, the violence and destruction that comes from the frustration is counterproductive. It is important to remain peaceful in protest and encourage productive dialogue. We should remain committed to exploring solutions that enhance community trust and address the disparities in socioeconomic status.
Through our Annual Legislative Conference, our Center for Policy Analysis and Research (CPAR), and our new Policy Now online community, the CBCF is providing the tools and platforms for engagement in public policy and the policy-making process.

MM: There has been a lot of discussion within the African-American community around economic sanctions and using our “collective buying power” (or the lack thereof) to force change. What are your thoughts on this theory? How can we go about making it work? Will self-imposed African-American financial sanctions get us the empowerment and changes for which we are so desperately searching? Can this turn the tide? If not, what can?
ASW: It is true that with $1.1 trillion dollars of buying power1, collectively African-Americans are a powerful force; but instead of imposing economic sanctions, we should spend our valuable dollars in our community, and examine ways to help minority business owners achieve economic parity. Through our Center for Policy Analysis and Research (CPAR) the CBCF identifies factors that inhibit equal access to capital.

MM: Could you suggest 5 things we as a people should do or adopt in order to improve our position both domestically and internationally?
ASW:

  1. In the 21st Century, African-Americans must be a part of the exponential growth of the tech industry. African-American youth should be encouraged to pursue STEM opportunities as these fields perpetuate our nation’s competitiveness and stimulate our imminent economy.
  2. We must mobilize voters in midterm and general elections and help them to understand the social, political, and economic consequences of voting. The Black community must be fully engaged in the public policy process and have a strong understanding of how public policy can support the African-American community in constructive, long-term ways. The CBCF’s Policy Now is an online community that engages people in the policy-making process and helps them to understand how public policy impacts their daily lives. Sign up today at policynow.org.
  3. We must examine critical issues and comprehensive policy solutions that promote environmental sustainability and economic growth in Black communities.
  4. African-Americans must focus on the importance of preventive health, HIV/AIDS awareness, mental health, child wellness, and chronic diseases, and become educated about our options for access to quality and affordable health care and treatment.
  5. Finally, we need to think globally! The CBCF is working to increase career and study options involving U.S.-China relations through its Emerging Leaders: U.S.-China Study Delegation. More information on our Emerging Leaders program and other initiatives can be found on our website at www.cbcfinc.org.

1. http://www.marketplace.org/topics/your-money/ask-carmen/black-buying-power-hits-11-trillion-what-does-it-mean