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To Be Equal

Guest Editorials

This Is Why We March

"It's just so overwhelming to see all who have come to stand with us. Look at the masses - Black, white, all races, all religions...We need to stand like this at all times." —Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, at the “Justice for All” March in Washington, DC on Saturday, December 13

Few times in a nation’s history is the conscience of its citizens shocked and awakened—across racial, economic, generational and even ideological—lines. Times when the collective consciousness of a people screams—and demands without apology—that it’s time for a change, that things must be different and that it must start today.

So, when people ask, “Why do we march?,” I tell them we march because of the views expressed, concerns shared, and pain felt by all the people who took to the stage to speak and the tens of thousands who marched and chanted for “Justice for All” on Saturday in Washington, DC. We march for the millions more across America who know that what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” more than 50 years ago is still true today: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

In this catalytic moment driven by cataclysmic circumstances, what we have witnessed across America since the non-indictments of officers in the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner may be new to a generation, but it is not new to a nation.

Catalytic moments birthed by cataclysmic circumstances—the horrific beating and murder of Emmett Till, the killing of four little Black girls in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing and the murders of civil rights workers Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney. These events shocked our nation into more than awareness. They shocked us into action—action that resulted in the passing of the most comprehensive and sweeping civil rights laws our nation has seen in its history.

That is why we march—because Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, John Crawford and others did not deserve to die; because Marlene Pinnock did not deserve to be viciously beaten and Levar Jones did not deserve to be shot for complying with a trooper’s request; because the excessive use of force—deadly force—by law enforcement against unarmed African Americans has no place in the land of the free and the home of the brave; because police should not fear the communities they have sworn to protect and communities should not fear those who serve to protect them; and because we—as a nation—must and can be better.

We marched in Washington—as we have so many times before—as a multicultural band of historic civil rights organizations united with legislators, clergy, everyday Americans and young people who have committed ourselves to working for the change we want to see and to peaceful, nonviolent advocacy, activism and change. Everyone committed to that mission—no matter age, race, religion or background—is and has always been welcome. The challenges before us are big enough that we all have a role to play in the solutions.

We have been here before—and we can change a nation again. That is why we and our partners—the National Action Network, NAACP and Black Women’s Roundtable—marched in DC this past weekend along with many others. It’s also why we will continue to be in communities across America every day, doing the work that the National Urban League has consistently done for 104 years to ensure a better America for all citizens.

We marched in our nation’s capital to protest injustice—and most importantly to put forth a plan of action—a plan that will help ensure that no other family in America ever has to feel the pain of the mothers, fathers, wives, daughters and sons who stood with us 10-POINT JUSTICE PLAN: National Urban League Police Reform and Accountability Recommendations

1) Widespread Use of Body Cameras and Dashboard Cameras

2) Broken Windows Reform and Implementation of 21st Century Community Policing Model

3) Review Police Use of Deadly Force Policies and Adopt a Uniform Deadly Force Standard

4) Comprehensive Retraining of All Police Officers

5) Comprehensive Review and Strengthening of Police Hiring Standards

6) Appointment of Special Prosecutors to Investigate Police Misconduct

7) Mandatory, Uniform FBI Reporting and Audit of Lethal Force Incidents Involving All Law Enforcement

8) Creation and Audit of National Database of Citizen Complaints against Police

9) Revision of National Police Accreditation System for Mandatory Use by Law Enforcement To Be Eligible for Federal Funds

10) National Comprehensive Anti-Racial Profiling Law Marc H. Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.


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Reclaiming The Legacy Of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

BY BENJAMIN F. CHAVIS, JR.

The 2015 Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday should have a different impact on the collective consciousness of Black America. Why? Because once again there are millions of Black Americans who are more determined than ever to keep pushing forward to achieve full freedom, justice, equality and empowerment. The historic methodology, style and substance of Dr. King’s leadership needs to be reclaimed by those with the heavy responsibility to lead.

By re-embracing Dr. King’s prophetic activism and mobilization genius, I believe Black American leaders of national organizations will be effective in countering the backward drift of voter suppression, racism, violence and hopelessness. The tone set in the King Holiday ceremonies this year should focus on achieving equality and economic empowerment for all.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a strong, visionary, mesmerizing leader. He used nonviolent civil disobedience as an effective strategy. He challenged injustice everywhere while generating enough political capital that led to the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Shortly before King’s assassination in April 1968, he was clear about the need to secure economic justice en route to becoming what he called the “Beloved Community.”

Over the past year, there have been numerous demonstrations across the nation demanding racial justice in the wake of police killing of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Rumain Brisbon. It was a positive sign of progress to witness street protests that, in the spirit of Dr. King, setranscended race and class. All forms of injustice must be opposed. It was Dr. King who reminded us that “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

As was the case in the past, young people today are only less prejudiced than their parents and preceding generations. Even so, emerging young leaders are not relenting—they are pushing forward with renewed energy, conviction and vigor. In fact, we should not forget that Martin Luther King was only 26 years old in 1955 when he became the primary spokesman for the nascent Montgomery Bus Boycott Movement.

Many campaigning for public office are looking beyond MLK Day to the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Our challenges if to make sure the quest for equality and justice does not get placated by the politics of expediency. In other words, the momentum to transform America evident in 2014 should not be allowed to dissipate over the next year.

Now that the U.S. economy continues to rebound, efforts to end poverty in our communities should be significantly increased. Interestingly, those who opposed President Barack Obama blamed him for things that were already bad when he assumed office. And now that the economy has improved, they refuse to give him credit for the recovery.

As we prepare to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we should remember that he concluded that economic justice was also a key civil rights issue. Two weeks before Dr. King was murdered, he addressed a rally in Memphis of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). King stated, “Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality……. For we know now that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger?” Dr. King was on point.

Today, the struggle is not just about having more money to buy something. It is about knowing how to more effectively invest and spend the $1.1 trillion that Black Americans are expected to spend annually by 2015. It is about owning more businesses in our communities. In the tradition of Dr. King, we have to wisely leverage our huge consumer power.

We are grateful that the legacy of Dr. King’s leadership continues to be vibrant and relevant to the advancement of the cause of freedom and justice. We, therefore, face the future with a stronger confidence that we still shall overcome, largely by reclaiming Dr. King’s legacy.

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: dr.bchavis@nnpa.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drfc.


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Voters Call For Clarity; IRS Should Listen

BY BILL SCHAMBRA and LISA GILBERT

Nonprofit political activity is at a crossroads. Nonprofits have come under criticism from some on the left for spending too much dark money to influence politics, while some on the right critique the IRS for subjecting certain groups applying for nonprofit status to increased scrutiny based on their names.

In the face of this hyper-partisanship, the conservative Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy & Civic Renewal and progressive Public Citizen are joining to discuss new ways to reform the IRS’ treatment of nonprofit political activity and to hear from a vital voice that has so far been silent – that of the voter.

A new bipartisan poll . released at an event co-hosted by the Hudson Institute and Public Citizen, shows that more than 8 out of 10 voters think it is important to have clear rules concerning political activities of nonprofit organizations. This is in stark contrast to the rules as they stand, which are so vague and difficult to administer that they’ve been partially blamed for last year’s targeting scandal, in which in which some applications for nonprofit status were selected for more intensive review based on key words in their names.

The poll indicates that 80 percent of voters think that organizations taking advantage of unclear regulations is a problem, showing that they are rightly concerned with the consequences of the absence of clear rules. Among voters who had an opinion, a majority favored changing the way nonprofit activities are regulated to establish clearer and fairer rules for what counts as political activity. Voters also overwhelmingly favored disclosure of political spending by nonprofits.

This poll comes out at an important time for the future of nonprofits.

In November 2013, the IRS proposed a new definition of political activity that would have applied to 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations. The proposed rule was criticized for its potential to restrict activities that nonprofits had traditionally been allowed to engage in – such as host candidate forums and conduct voter registration campaigns. The IRS is currently revising those rules and will publish a new draft in early 2015. We hope that the new draft will protect those valuable nonprofit activities.

The poll was conducted by Lake Research Partners, a Democratic polling firm, and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, a Republican polling firm. The firms conducted a live telephone survey of 800 likely voters between July 26 and July 29. The numbers of Democrats, Republicans and Independents polled reflected the proportions of projected likely national 2014 voters from each of those parties.

The poll results show that nonprofit political activity isn’t an issue that matters only to tax lawyers. The integrity of nonprofits must be protected so they can continue to fulfill their mission to serve the public. Naturally, groups as diverse as ours do not agree on everything that the new rules from the IRS should include. However, we think the IRS should listen to conversations like those taking place between our groups, as well as to the resounding agreement among disparate members of the public, to inform their decisions on what the next draft of their rules should contain.

The impact of these regulations on our election system (and public trust in it) will be substantial. Now that the public’s voice is part of the conversation, we think these discussions will be even more valuable.

Bill Schambra is director of the Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy & Civic Renewal. Lisa Gilbert is director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.