Articles

The L.A. Riots, the Mystery of 25, and Those Damn Jobs

Most people know that 7 is lucky and 13 is cursed. But there’s also something about 25. Every 25 years black America’s relationship with the police explodes into the national conversation. The current era is defined by Black Lives Matter and countless videos of black and brown people being harmed by law enforcement. But 25 . . .

Originally Posted on Extra Newsfeed (April 2017)


The Road to Oscars:  The Justice System on Trial

Within the Oscars race (and America) not everything is La La Land. Over the course of the 2016 awards season, which will officially end on February 26, one issue that came up over and over again — the American Justice system. From the fictional to some all too real documentaries, Hollywood was reflecting a national conversation . . .

Originally Posted on Medium.com (February 2017)


Should Progressives Follow Trump’s Lead on Race (and Poverty)?

After three debates and seemingly endless months of media coverage, everyone should have some sense of what it would be like to wake up on the morning of November 9 knowing that Donald Trump will be our next president. Many would mentally go through the list of all the issues they care about . . .

Originally Published by The Huffington Post  (October 2016)


Facilitating Father-Child Contact

With a punch to his father’s face, the character George Lopez (played by George Lopez on The George Lopez Show) expressed decades of anger and pain. In the funniest way possible, the “Long Time No See” episode of the early 2000s show spoke to the realities of many absent fathers and their children . . .

Originally Published by the Institute for Family Studies (June 2016)


Black-ish and the Creative Challenge to Pedigree

Andre Johnson is a name that announces a man’s blackness before he even enters the room. It’s a perfect fit for the central character of the ABC comedy Black-ish which ended its second season earlier this week. Johnson, played by actor Anthony Anderson, unapologetically brings his whole self into all of his relationships–both at home and in the office . . .

Originally Published on Medium.com (May 2016)


What’s Next for the Healthy Marriage Initiative?

The future of the Healthy Marriage Initiative, which funds relationship education classes and related programming for low-income families, is at risk. If Congress finally moved forward with its long overdue reauthorization, it wouldn’t be surprising if individuals from both the left and the right called for its demise . . .

Originally Published by The Family Studies Blog (June 2015)


Walter Scott and the Need for Child Support Reform

Walter Scott’s death was striking because a police officer fired eight shots at him while his back was turned. When something so tragic occurs, observers tend to wonder why. The officer’s actions and utter disrespect for human life can never be justified. But recently, the New York Times published new information about Scott’s split second decision to run — his child support caseAccording to his brother, “Every job he has had, he has gotten fired from because he went to jail because he was locked up for child support” . . . 

Originally Published by The Huffington Post  (April 2015)


Oscars’ Near Misses:  Poverty Documentaries

In the lead up to the 87th Annual Oscars ceremony, 134 documentaries were submitted for consideration by the Academy. Only 5 were nominated. Amongst the 129 near misses, was a list of films illuminating interesting aspects of poverty in America. Here are seven of the better ones . . .

Originally Published by The Huffington Post (February 2015)


Upgrading Black Children from the Projects to Homelessness

An episode of The PJs (1999-2001) is on my list of must-see Christmas specials. Eddie Murphy was a creator of this cartoon which is easily one of his most underappreciated works. The special is a hood version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and, like the other episodes in the series, is a hilarious take on life in a high-rise housing project during the 1980s/1990s era . . . 

Originally Published by The Huffington Post (December 2014)


Good Times and the War on Poverty

This week’s commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, the first major piece of War on Poverty legislation, brings to mind the 1970s show Good Times. For the uninitiated, the general premise of the show was that a family of good people kept trying to do all the right things (working hard, guiding their children the best they could, going to school). Periodically they would start to get ahead, the audience would think that they were finally going to get out of the ghetto, but then the inevitable setback . . .

Originally Published by The Huffington Post (August 2014)


Was Leslie Jones’ Infamous Sketch All Bad?

This week comedian Leslie Jones found herself in the middle of one of the latest social media debates about race. Her brief segment on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update invoked images of slavery, sexual exploitation, and the complete dehumanization of black people. To many, few things about these themes are laughable. This is understandable. But the situation does not deserve one big stamp of disapproval . . .

Originally Published by The Huffington Post (May 2014)


Putting the Spotlight on Family Law Legal Needs

Historically, it has been common for couples to develop formal visitation and support arrangements when going through a divorce. Some Americans have even made prenuptial agreements a standard practice, making divorce decisions even before they walk down the aisle. These arrangements clarify expectations and responsibilities, preventing the need for constant negotiation (and perhaps arguments) about when parents will spend time with their children or how much economic support will exchange hands. For black families this is not the standard . . . 

Originally Published by The Washington Informer (September 2013)


The March on Washington: Looking Back on 50 Years (with Zach Murray)

August 28 marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. It is a time to celebrate a movement, a speech, and leaders who influenced generations of people around the globe and achieved genuine progress for diverse groups of Americans.

There is no doubt that America has come a long way since the civil rights era. But while the indignities of segregated public accommodations have largely disappeared, another significant theme of the march remains highly relevant half a century later: the struggle for economic opportunity and equality . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (August 2013)


Finding Room for Men in the Safety Net

A relatively small but growing group of voices has been championing the cause of low-income men and fathers—they come from grassroots groups, national organizations, foundations, Congress, and even the White House. Their reasons may vary but, at heart, all of those involved in the movement seem to agree that low-income men and fathers have an inherent value that is not being fully realized. Currently, far too many men are simply disconnected in far too many ways—from employment . . .

Originally Published by Network Connection (Fourth Quarter 2013)


Time with Dad: Helping Families with Visitation Arrangements

Families have been changing and evolving over the past several decades. Increases in divorce rates and unwed pregnancies continue to drive the rise in single-parent households; the trend is most prevalent among families living in poverty and African American families. Unfortunately, policies have largely failed to keep up with these trends, and as a result, families suffer . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (June 2013)


Top 10 Reasons Why Cutting Poverty Programs to Resolve the Fiscal Showdown is a Bad Idea

As the fiscal showdown continues—with a little more than a month before a series of onerous automatic federal spending cuts and tax hikes go into effect—our national values and priorities are once again being tested . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (November 2012)


Improving the Poverty Numbers Through Wedded Bliss?

Last week the U.S. Census Bureau released new data on poverty in America—the verdict being that the numbers reflecting 15 percent of Americans living in poverty, while still unacceptably high, have stabilized after successive years of recession-related increases. Unfortunately, the release of the new numbers hasn’t been accompanied with a renewed and expansive national discussion about constructive ways of making serious progress in solving the nation’s poverty problem. Some conservatives (like those with the Heritage Foundation) continue to offer up overly simplistic solutions—mainly that more women need to get married. But putting the spotlight on marriage as a silver-bullet solution to poverty takes us in the wrong direction by placing the focus on a symptom rather than the larger disease of economic insecurity (or a lack of good jobs and wages) . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (September 2012)


Mandatory Life Without the Possibility of Parole for Juveniles is Unconstitutional: Supreme Court Upholds Notion that Young Offenders Should Be Treated Differently than Adults

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court took a welcomed step in protecting juvenile offenders. In Miller v. Alabama it ruled that states could not mandate life without the possibility of parole sentences for youth involved in homicide cases, adding to old and recent precedents that say children must be treated differently in the eyes of the law. While the decision is a step in the right direction, the ruling leaves far more to be done around issues that weren’t directly considered by the High Court in the Miller case . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (June 2012)


Honoring the Hopes and Dreams of Our Nation’s Dads: Developing Policies Meeting the Needs of Low-Income Working-Class Men

Undoubtedly, the nation will find many ways to honor its dads this weekend. This sentiment should extend to the halls of Congress and the White House. This is especially so now as too many low-income fathers are worried about their ability to put food on the table for their children and finance the dreams they have for their families. So significant are these concerns that in some ways it’s easy to wonder what it would be like if these fathers and their interests were even more central to the conversations happening in Washington, D.C. and at other levels of government, informing my work and that of others in the policy world as we seek to improve outcomes for children and families . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (June 2012)


If Ryan Gets His Way on Poverty: Budget Would Widen Income Gap and Shred the Safety Net

Yesterday House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released a budget plan for fiscal year 2013. Quite simply, if Rep. Ryan gets his way the nation will never make a full commitment to solve major social problems and in many ways we will take giant steps backward to a time when there was virtually no safety net for those falling on hard times . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (March 2012)


 ‘Undefeated’: The other 2012 Oscar Winner with a Black Cast

Once you get past the possibility of confusing it with the Sarah Palin documentary (The Undefeated), which I’m guessing is not as good, you find out that this film is about Bill Courtney, a white Alabama business owner who volunteers as a football coach in a mostly black inner city school, while one his white friends provides part-time housing for one of the black players so that the young man can get tutoring (no tutor would go out to the student’s neighborhood) . . . 

Originally Published by The Grio (March 2012)


 Newt Gingrich Caught in Race-Baiting ‘Catch-22’

With thunderous applause in support of Newt Gingrich’s continuing effort to connect poverty to stereotypes of African-Americans, the story of race-baiting in the 2012 election continues.

An experienced politician and strategist who was Speaker of the House during the contentious period of welfare reform, he knows all too well where the racial landmines lie, making it obvious that he has been purposely stepping into them. This clear political strategy to gain a certain group of white voters always presents a Catch-22 for the black community and progressives . . .

Originally Published by The Grio (January 2012)


Coming Together as 99 Percent: Occupy Wall Street Movement Highlights the Least Fortunate in America

Occupy Wall Street’s two-month anniversary along with the recent setbacks protesters are now experiencing in New York City, Oakland, and elsewhere suggest that now is a good time for reflection on how the movement reflects the plight of poor and low-income Americans and has the power to draw the bright light of the media on often neglected issues, among them the need to: Create “good” jobs . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (November 2011)


Killing the American Dream: Top Five Efforts by Conservatives to Make it Harder to Escape Poverty (with John Craig)

Americans across our nation recognize that the wealthiest 1 percent made out like bandits during the Great Recession and are doing just fine today while the other 99 percent of us struggle to make ends meet amid the slow economic recovery. But it’s also important to focus on what conservative policymakers are proposing to do to those among us who are at the very bottom of the economic ladder . . .

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (November 2011)


We Need New Narratives on Black Poverty: Solutions Will Require Moving Past Negative Stereotypes

This weekend President Obama addressed the Congressional Black Caucus to suggest a unified agenda to reduce black unemployment and poverty. This was after a couple of weeks of ongoing media focus on divisions among the Congressional Black Caucus, the president, and outside commentators such as Tavis Smiley and Steve Harvey over the amount of time the president spends talking about economic challenges currently facing African Americans. Maybe it’s the media’s need to highlight conflict, present things in black-and-white terms, and constantly frame everything around the next election. But whatever the reason, the media’s magnification of infighting eclipses a constructive discussion of the problem and solutions—you know, all the other stuff the CBC and commentators were talking about and those carefully laid out policies offered by Obama on Saturday. And it highlights a bigger and long-lasting problem in this country about how we talk about black poverty . . .

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (September 2011)


 Looking to the Future of Welfare Reform

There has to be a better way forward. In the coming months Congress should seriously work toward defining the next era of the program. And what makes the most sense is a shift to a singular mission of ending poverty.

This must involve ensuring access to employment opportunities by connecting low-income workers to bold and sorely needed job creation efforts and subsidized employment opportunities. It must remove barriers to income by increasing education and job training, and improving access to childcare and transportation. Those who need them should also have access to social workers and other professionals . . . 

Originally Published by The Hill (August 2011)


Looking to the Future on the 15th Anniversary of Welfare Reform: Establishing a Goal to End Poverty

August 22 marks the 15th anniversary of the signing of the welfare reform bill, making this a good time to reflect on the future of what is now known as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program. One would expect that during this unprecedented time of high unemployment and hardship that TANF—one of the biggest programs serving people in poverty—would be of interest to Congress . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (August 2011)


‘The Help’ in Our Society Today: The Stories that Connect Then and Now 

The Help, this week’s non-action movie release, tells the story of black household workers in the South in the early 1960s — domestic helpers who take great risks by sharing stories about what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes. Their tales not only reveal the great sense of empowerment that comes from sharing and having your voice heard but also remind us of the greatness of the real women who do this work today under sometimes terrible conditions. The release of the movie offers a moment to draw the connections between those household workers five decades ago and current immigrant domestic workers, many of whom are of Latino, African and Caribbean descent . . . 

Originally Published by The Huffington Post (August 2011)


Timing is Everything:  Adjusting Antipoverty Programs Now Will Not Significantly Reduce the Federal Budget Deficit

The Government Accountability Office earlier this week released a timely report examining a broad range of federal government programs to identify potential duplications and administrative cost savings. The report’s focus on “fiscal pressures facing our national government” alongside recommendations to fix our nation’s “long-term fiscal path” by taking action against overlapping programs were immediately seized upon by policymakers across the political spectrum as they debate how to reduce our federal budget deficit . . .

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (March 2011)


The Right Priorities: Congress Should Pass Key Children’s Legislation During the Lame Duck Session

Congress is going to be busy with many items during its brief lame duck session. But while they decide whether to continue expensive tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans they must also determine the fate of some far less costly policies that are crucial for the well-being of our nation’s children–Child Nutrition, Child Support, and the TANF Emergency Fund, which provides subsidized job opportunities for low-income parents . . . 

Originally Published by The Huffington Post (November 2010)


Expanding the Availability of Free Legal Assistance in Family Law Matters (with Hillary Evans)

Family law cases represent the greatest area of unmet legal need. According to the Legal Services Corporation, providers are unable to serve 391,038 people a year who need this type of assistance, representing a full 41 percent of denied cases. Issues related to child custody, visitation and child support may be particularly important to the families of the 44 percent of low-income children (below 200 percent of poverty) who live with only one of their parents. Non-custodial parents, typically fathers, could face challenges that limit time spent with their children and produce other negative consequences. Some fathers are involved in domestic violence cases or have children in the child welfare system . . .

Originally Published by Cornerstone Magazine (September-December 2010)


Stretching the Safety Net: New Census Poverty Data Suggest the Need for Elevated Government Funding

Today’s poverty numbers gave the nation new statistical confirmation of what was plainly evident in almost every corner of America—more families experienced greater financial struggles last year than in the previous year. The ranks of the poor and near poor swelled dramatically in 2009, the second full year after the Great Recession’s onset. The U.S. Census reports that 14.3 percent of the population or 43.6 million people fell below the poverty line—the largest number in the 51 years since the data has been published. This is compared to 39.8 million the previous year. The change is increasing demand for antipoverty services . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (September 2010)


We Can’t Stop Growing Jobs Now: Extending the TANF Emergency Fund Will Help Workers, Businesses, and States (with Melissa Boteach)

One of the best-kept secrets of the recovery act is a job-creation engine known as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Contingency Fund. This program has enabled 35 states to partner with the private sector over the past year and a half to create more than 240,000 new jobs for low-income and long-term unemployed workers and to meet the rising need for services. Yet it’s set to expire in a month on September 30 if Congress does not extend it . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (August 2010)


The New Housing Normal for Low-Income Families: Longstanding Affordability Crisis Hurts Children and Adults

Low-income families began experiencing a new normal on housing over the last several years defined by shared housing and frequent moves. These changes are rooted in a longstanding housing affordability crisis that has hurt many American children and adults.

The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010, H.R. 4213, which was passed by the House and is now being considered by the Senate, could help address the issue. The legislation would capitalize the National Housing Trust Fund, which is designed to build, preserve, and rehabilitate affordable housing. This would help fix a pre-existing problem that the recession has only exacerbated . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (June 2010)


Today’s Jobs Numbers Do Not Tell the Full Story of Men and Their Families

Even as the economy benefits from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, and continues to show some signs of being on the mend, today’s unemployment numbers continue to demonstrate how badly workers are faring–especially if they are low-wage and/or low-skilled men. In February, those with the least amount of education had an unemployment rate of 15.6% as compared to the general rate which remained static at 9.7%. The unemployment extension that was signed by President Obama earlier this week and the pending jobs bill should provide some relief. However, low-income men are facing serious challenges that reach beyond the impact of the recession and that affect their children and families . . .

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (March 2010)


Lessons in Humanity (and Poverty Policy) Just in Time for the Holidays: Recognizing the Connection Between Fathers and Families

As the holidays approach and thoughts turn to spending time with family, my mind frequently shifts to those families who are experiencing difficult times this year. One in particular stands out—that of the “praying robber.” Greg Smith is a 23-year-old African American who walked into a payday loan center with the intent to rob it. He was confronted by Angela Montez, a white female working at the loan center who somehow encouraged Greg to pray with her, shed some tears, hand over the bullet in his gun, and simply walk out of the store with only $20. It was a definite win for humanity, and deserving of the coverage it received on Oprah. But is also represents a tremendous system failure that is illustrative of some serious breakdowns in poverty policy, which too often ignores men’s needs despite their ability to contribute to family well-being and reductions in child poverty . . .

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (November 2009)


 A Legacy of Poverty: New Census Numbers Fail to Reflect the Severity of Inherited Problems

The current recession’s challenges continue to weigh on the nation, Congress, and the new administration. This morning the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual poverty numbers, revealing that 39.8 million people, or 13.2 percent of the population, lived in poverty during 2008. This is 2.5 million more people than the previous year and 1997 was the last time the nation had a rate that was approximately this high . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (September 2009)


Essential Legal Services: Funding the Legal Services Corporation

Millions of low-income families across our country are more in need than ever of service-oriented lawyers to help them cope with legal issues in a deepening recession. They need lawyers who provide legal assistance to families who cannot afford to pay for attorneys to help them navigate a variety of civil legal challenges, including foreclosure, landlord-tenant issues, government assistance eligibility, family law issues and consumer issues . . .

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (May 2009)


 Helping Those Most in Need

Conservatives are up in arms over the fairness of increasing taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year. They should spare more than a thought for those who did not prosper so fabulously over most of this decade and then got whipsawed by the Bush recession that began in December 2007. President Obama certainly is . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (March 2009)


Bailout Package Lends Some Relief to Low-Income Families

Attached to Congress’ approval of the bailout package is a brief two sentence provision that will bring welcome relief to the families of over 13 million low-income children. The provision expands the reach of the Child Tax Credit, which will help families cope with the growing financial challenges associated with the current economy . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (October 2008)


 Campaigning Against Poverty

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign demonstration. On May 13, 1968, demonstrators gathered to hear remarks by Rev. Ralph Abernathy, the leader who had the reins of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., just one month earlier. The Poor People’s Campaign was the fulfillment of King’s earlier vision and planning and brought thousands of poor people to Washington, D.C. to camp out day and night in a “City of Hope” on the National Mall . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress Action Fund (May 2008)


A Second Chance: Key Anti-Poverty Law Enacted to Fight Recidivism (with David Kane)

President Bush yesterday signed the Second Chance Act of 2007, taking a key step toward improving the lives of former prisoners by awarding grants to organizations and agencies to improve access to drug and mental health treatment, education, job training, employment, housing, and family services . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (April 2008)


Neighborhood Realities: Media Focus on Poverty, Race, and Health (with Meredith King Ledford)

Social scientists and progressive policymakers have long known that black and brown children are more likely to live in poorer neighborhoods and therefore be exposed to greater health risks than their white counterparts. This month, the Public Broadcasting Service and the specialist journal Health Affairs are separately taking much needed steps to publicize these links between childhood poverty, race, and health . . . 

Originally Published by the Center for American Progress (April 2008)