LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD
Reduce the Rate is a successful coast-to-coast campaign for more affordable student loans led by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. The campaign resulted in a package of initiatives that cut much of the profiteering out of student lending and set caps on the percentage of earned income that borrowers are required to repay. Reduce the Rate rallies and marches were held in a number of cities – the campaign continues with a call for lower interest rates, better options for students and more favorable repayment terms. Hearing the call, the Obama Administration has instituted a plan to lend directly to students and cap repayment at 10% of income.
Home Retention and Foreclosure Prevention
RPC continues to back bankruptcy reform as the long-term solution for mortgage default. In Georgia, RPC continues to advocate for judicial foreclosure, mandatory mediation and other provisions. Temporary moratoria have proven insufficient to stem the tide of foreclosures. Had the industry and the federal government adopted RPC’s proposed Homeowners Bill of Rights when it was proposed in 2008, much of the current pain associated with mass foreclosures, loss of a trillion dollars in homeowner equity and instability in the residential real estate market could have been avoided. We still need a systematic, comprehensive approach to mortgage default.
RPC’s requests for alternatives to foreclosure led CitiBank and Wells Fargo to withdraw more than 200 homes scheduled for foreclosure from the monthly sheriff’s sale in Fulton County, Georgia in September 2009. Members of Rainbow PUSH picketed the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta numerous times from 2008 to 2010 to express concern that average Americans are experiencing the brunt of the deepening economic crisis. BankofAmerica announced its principal reduction program just days after a half-day meeting between RPC and top Bank of America officials in Charlotte.
Atlanta became Ground Zero for the anti-foreclosure effort in 2009 and 2010 with RPC hosting a series of clergy meetings at Antioch with bankers, a public hearing with State Representatives serving as hearing officers at Mt. Ephraim in Atlanta in February, obtaining hundreds of petition signatures and marching on the state legislature to urge reform of Georgia foreclosure law. The reform legislation cleared the Senate and the House Judiciary Committee and came very close to passage on the final day of the legislative session. During the 2010 WSP Conference, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas E. Perez announced a new task force to investigate the causes of the mortgage meltdown that wrecked the world’s economy.
Civil and Criminal Justice System
In June 2009, the Atlanta office of RPC organized Constitutional Law Update, featuring noted civil rights lawyers Barbara Arnwine and Loretta King to discuss the current state of civil rights law. The program qualified for Continuing Legal Education Credits that practicing attorneys must earn in most states to maintain their license to practice law.
The Atlanta regional office has filed a Habeas Corpus petition on behalf of Reginald and Jennifer Spearman, Pennsylvania siblings facing 25 years in confinement on a conviction with dubious evidence. Today, the Governor of Pennsylvania is also considering a clemency petition. In September 2009, the office also won a new trial for Calvin Stevenson, an Augusta man sentenced to 45 years in confinement for a crime in which he played only a minor role. The federal court found that Stevenson had been denied the right to counsel in violation of the 6th Amendment.
RPC vigorously and successfully opposed House Bill 291 during the 2009 session of the Georgia General Assembly, which, under the guise of outlawing discrimination, would have outlawed most voluntary remedies for discrimination in Georgia. Had the bill passed, virtually every voluntary effort to foster diversity inclusion would become illegal.
RPC in Atlanta filed suit to oppose efforts by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to exempt part of Georgia from coverage under Section V of the Voting Rights Act. The suit was settled by agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of Georgia, with assurances that the Voting Rights Act would continue to be enforced in the state. Atlanta RPC filed suit against the State of Georgia to require it to democratize the allocation of state-subsidized pre-Kindergarten slots.
Business Development Director Randolyn “Tina” Jones focuses monthly Trade Bureau meetings on building capacity and access to capital. Recent speakers include decision makers like Michael Cooper from Georgia DOT and George Andrews, President of Capitol City Bank. Rev. Jesse Jackson and long-time RPC supporter Greg Calhoun managed to re-open Alabama casinos, saving 5000 jobs in the process. The Atlanta office conceptualized the “5% Solution”, aimed at encouraging blacks to spend 5% of their disposable income with minority-owned firms in partnership with the Atlanta Business League. Every day the Atlanta staff works on behalf of minority-owned and disadvantaged firms to gain contracting opportunities with major regional entities such as MARTA, Atlanta Airport, Southern Company and Home Depot.
Corporate Diversity and Inclusion
RPC educates and protects consumers by alerting them to corporate practices that do not take diversity and inclusion seriously. Butch Wing, Axel Adams, Janice L. Mathis and other RPC staff members met with Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase, YUM! and other firms to encourage their efforts to promote fair play and equal opportunity. YUM! Brands (parent company of KFC and Pizza Hut) stepped up their diversity commitment with a pledge to increase the minority-owned outlets by 250 and created a $50 million fund to assist in the effort.
RPC won a concession from a major retailer that it would only consider African American-owned firms for its marketing effort toward black consumers. Unfortunately, RPC’s intervention was too late to stop the major retailer from awarding its Hispanic advertising contract to a majority firm. RPC also criticized Burger King for dropping its black and Hispanic ad agencies. The move was surprising, given Burger King’s generally favorable posture toward black consumers.
Officers of the Greenville Chapter of RPC - Davida Mathis, Lottie Gibson, Ralph Anderson and James Nesbitt - met with BMW officials in South Carolina early in 2010 after a non-urban advertising dictate surfaced for miniCooper. As a result of RPC’s efforts Mini increased its minority-owned media buy and BMW agreed to work more closely with community groups to ensure fair employment and contracting.
It also successfully represented a group of nurses who alleged race discrimination against the corporate owner of a chain of nursing homes. RPC successfully represented a group of beverage distribution employees who allege race discrimination. So far, the mediation has resulted in promotions, cash settlements and diversity training for company managers.
At the urging of RPC, AFC (Popeyes) has recently hired an African American male to direct its diversity strategy. Despite its popularity with minority consumers, Popeyes has few black-owned outlets, suppliers and corporate executives.
RPC representatives attended annual shareholder meetings at Citigroup, Ford Motor Co., Newell Rubbermaid and Equifax in an ongoing effort to promote diversity and inclusion. Representatives also traveled to Kentucky to meet with Toyota officials to raise similar issues. The Executive Director of Public Policy, Government Relations & Telecommunications attended the AT&T Shareholder’s Meeting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, April 30, 2010. Rev. Jesse L. Jackson raised the same issues at the J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America and Comcast meetings.
PUSH Excel and RPC Youth Programs
As a result of discovering that the leading cause of teen deaths in the South is auto collisions, UPS and The Peachtree Street Project continue their partnership with public schools to teach safe driving techniques to nearly 10,000 metro youth, using UPS’ Five Seeing Eye Habits interactive curriculum.
Every year the PSP project supported back to school efforts in Athens, GA distributing more than 1000 book bags and supplies in 2010. Athens is on the northern end of a string of counties in east Georgia that experiences “persistent poverty”, i.e. a rate of poverty 25% or more, for more than two decades. CEF also hosted a leadership meeting in Athens to encourage community stakeholders to take a more active interest in building a healthy community at Bethel Midtown Village, a high poverty and crime neighborhood.
More than 300 persons attended the Youth and Young Adult Summit held during the 2009 Creating Opportunity Conference. Groups traveled from Atlanta, Stone Mountain, Greenville, Wadley and other areas to attend the motivation and enrichment event.
RPC takes pride in school visitations as we make every attempt to keep our children in school, stop violence in our communities, improve student grades and test scores, teach Safe Teen Driving, register students to vote and encourage students to enroll in education. A partial list of the school visits includes Stone Mountain, South DeKalb, North Druid Hills, MLK High and Towers High in DeKalb County, GA.
CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION FUND, INC.
CEF regularly surveys major corporations to determine whether they practice diversity and inclusion. CEF counsels firms that want to make improvements. Surveys were sent to all automotive manufacturers to gather data on the success of their diversity plans, focusing on corporate governance, human resources, procurement, dealer development, advertising & marketing, auto show, financial and professional services and philanthropy. Survey results are expected in mid-June so that analysis can be completed in time for the Fall Automotive Summit.
In 2010 The Peachtree Street Project will publish an update of its study on corporate governance in the Southeast – of which there have been three editions. The study examines the extent to which Fortune 500 Corporations in the Southeast practice diversity and inclusion.
ONE THOUSAND CHURCHES CONNECTED
This non-sectarian, non-denominational self-help alliance of more than 1300 congregations is at the heart of CEF. This year, 43 new congregations joined the alliance. OTCC conducted seminars on end of life care with VITAS. Axel Adams works closely with all denominational leaders. OTCC established a partnership with the Census Bureau to assure a full count in the Southern region.
OTCC continued to spread the good news of financial literacy by training trainers in congregations around the country. OTCC also helps attend to those who have become casualties of the economic recession. CEF is re-tooling and turbo-charging the OTCC financial literacy programs so that families, congregations and whole communities have the tools to make wise financial decisions and grow wealth.
OTCC selected and appointed 50+ conveners in various markets from around the country to work directly with OTCC. It regularly holds national clergy conference calls to discuss issues and concerns of the faith community around the country. OTCC also outlined and instituted a convener training certification program
OTCC works to make consumers savvy by introducing them to goods and services offered by conscientious providers who offer value and who also value diversity and inclusion. OTCC provides technical and other assistance to RPC chapters while promoting membership in OTCC. Perhaps one of OTCC’s most enjoyable features is the fabulous Ministers’ Luncheons that occur at each RPC conference, which are organized by OTCC National Director Axel Adams.
Energy and Environment
Meetings were held with Georgia Power and DTE Energy (MI) to encourage more robust minority participation in projects owned by the energy giants. The heart of the Green Jobs revolution begins in urban and suburban mass transit. Rev. Jackson encouraged mass transit, more rail lines, green jobs and weatherization when he spoke at multiple rallies in Atlanta on behalf of the Clayton County transit and MARTA. Efforts resulted in a temporary fix for Clayton County. Efforts are continuing to assure transportation equity in Georgia and across the South.
Poverty and Financial Literacy
The State of Rainbow America, conceived by Janice L. Mathis, was televised on C-Span from the 2009 Annual Conference featured national policy advocates reviewing solutions to the disparities that poor communities and communities of color continue to face.
Led by Janice L. Mathis, CEF counseled hundreds of families in Atlanta and around the nation, who were facing foreclosure, escalating mortgage payments and sinking property values. CEF made applications for payment forbearance, modification, refinance and other foreclosure prevention measures. OTCC held on-site modification programs in partnership with HUD, Bank of America and Wells Fargo in Atlanta, Charlotte and Greenville, SC. In partnership with Wells Fargo, Axel Adams continues to provide ongoing financial literacy counseling to churches on topics such as debt reduction, asset protection, and lending.
CEF participated in The State of Black America: Saving and Building Wealth, a forum that focused on financial education. The conference helped individuals and families save and build wealth through information, advice, and encouragement. The conference also offered advice on debt reduction, home buying, education and retirement.
HAITI: "We turned our back on Haiti after they helped us. We owe Haiti, Haiti doesn't owe us."
Based upon his long relationship with Haiti, Rev. Jackson decided to visit the country within days after the January quake. During the visit, Rev. Jackson met with the President, Prime Minister, government officials, and the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti. Southern Region Director Joseph Beasley was one of the first on the scene in quake-ravaged Haiti, drawing on his long and deep connections to the nation to bring humanitarian aid.