Blog Posts Related to the African American Community

  • Our 'Fierce Urgency of Now'

    Ed. note: This is part of a series of blog posts written by Administration officials in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington. Read more here.

    When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the March on Washington, he described a “fierce urgency of now.” He reminded a divided nation that we need one another, and that we are stronger when we march forward, together. “We cannot walk alone,” he said. “And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back.” 

    A half century later, Dr. King’s words have renewed meaning.

    For every little boy or girl in America whose health lies in the balance, there is an urgency of now.

    For every one of our neighbors who lives day-after-day in fear because they do not have insurance, there is an urgency of now.

    For every mom or dad who has faced bankruptcy because of a mounting medical bill, there is an urgency of now.

    Without the opportunity to live a healthy life, there is no opportunity to live the American dream or participate fully in our communities. Without the freedom which comes from having access to quality health care, there is no freedom to reach our full potential in the workforce or watch our kids or grandkids grow up. Without the security of health insurance, there is no economic security for middle-class families, and so many other families working their way into the middle class. 

    The time for division and debate has passed. Now is the time to march forward. 

  • President Obama, President Clinton and President Carter to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington on Wednesday August 28th

    This Wednesday will mark 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at the base of the Lincoln Memorial; a moment which served to punctuate a movement that changed America. 

    To honor this occasion, President Obama will be joined Wednesday, August 28th, by President Jimmy Carter and President Bill Clinton, members of the King family and other civil rights leaders and luminaries at the Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call to Action event at the Lincoln Memorial, to commemorate Dr. King’s soaring speech and the 1963 March on Washington.  

    As we mark this important anniversary, we reflect on what the Civil Rights Movement has meant for the country, and perhaps most importantly, the hard work that lies ahead as we continue to pursue the ideals laid out by Dr. King, and sought by the hundreds of thousands of Americans who marched through our nation’s capital fifty years ago. 

    This event is open to the public. Doors open at 9:00 AM, for an 11:00 AM program start on Wednesday, August 28th at the Lincoln Memorial. Guests arriving after 12:00 PM are not guaranteed admittance.  In order to access the venue, you must enter from the east side of the Reflecting Pool, on 17th street, near the World War II Memorial.

  • 50 Years Later, Our March Goes On

    Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the National Action to Realize the Dream March

    Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the National Action to Realize the Dream March, August 24, 2013. (Justice Department photo by Lonnie Tague)

    Ed. note: This is part of a series of blog posts written by Administration officials in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington. Read more here.

    It was an honor to speak at the National Action to Realize the Dream March this morning to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

    Fifty years ago, Dr. King shared his dream with the world and described his vision for a society that offered, and delivered, the promise of equal justice under the law. He assured his fellow citizens that this goal was within reach - so long as they kept faith with one another, and maintained the courage and commitment to work toward it.

    And he urged them to do just that. By calling for no more - and no less - than equal justice. By standing up for the civil rights to which everyone is entitled. And by speaking out - in the face of hatred and violence, in defiance of those who sought to turn them back with fire hoses, bullets, and bombs - for the dignity of a promise kept; the honor of a right redeemed; and the pursuit of a sacred truth that’s been woven through our history since this country’s earliest days: that all are created equal.

    Those who marched on Washington in 1963 had taken a long and difficult road - from Montgomery, to Greensboro, to Birmingham; through Selma and Tuscaloosa. They marched - in spite of animosity, oppression, and brutality - because they believed in the greatness of what this nation could become and despaired of the founding promises not kept. Their focus, at that time, was the sacred and sadly unmet commitments of the American system as it applied to African Americans.

  • African Leaders Meet to Discuss Immigration Reform

    Today, the White House is meeting with a group of African leaders to discuss the benefits of commonsense immigration reform for African immigrant communities. The meeting coincides with this weekend’s festivities marking the anniversary of Dr. King’s historic March on Washington. 50 years later, his words still resonate with those fighting for more equitable, just treatment of immigrant families. This forum presents an opportunity to celebrate African immigrant communities and their contributions to this country while reaffirming a shared commitment to fixing our broken immigration system. Together, we acknowledge that there is still more work to be done in defense of the American Dream.

    African leaders represent a vital part of the growing coalition in favor of immigration reform. Their support is crucial to the Administration’s efforts to improve the system and better meet the needs of immigrants from African countries, one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in the United States, with more than 1 million obtaining U.S. permanent residence since 2000. These immigrants use multiple pathways to enter the United States. From parents reuniting with children, to refugees fleeing persecution, to immigrant entrepreneurs creating jobs, these individuals make rich contributions to our Nation’s growth. That is why African immigrant communities would benefit from commonsense immigration reforms that would reunite families, strengthen protections under the refugee and asylum programs, legalize those who are living in the shadows, and increase avenues for employment for African graduate students and entrepreneurs.

    To highlight the many other ways in which modernizing our immigration laws would positively impact the African immigrant community, I am pleased to announce that the White House is releasing a fact sheet on the benefits of immigration reform for African immigrants and refugees.

    The Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill in June that creates an earned path to citizenship, continues to strengthen border security, holds employers accountable, and streamlines the legal immigration system for families, workers, and employers. The Congressional Budget Office and other entities have found that providing earned citizenship for undocumented immigrant workers would increase their wages and, over 10 years, boost U.S. GDP by $1.4 trillion, increase total income for all Americans by $791 billion, generate $184 billion in additional state and federal tax revenue from currently undocumented immigrants, and add about 2 million jobs to the U.S. economy. The White House has also released a series of reports that make the economic case for immigration reform.

    Now is the time for the House to act so immigrants from Africa and many other countries that make up this great nation can continue to contribute to our society and economy.

  • What the Affordable Care Act Means to Communities of Color

    Ed. note: This is crossposted from See the original post here.

    Recently, I traveled to Oakland, California, to participate in a town hall about how the Affordable Care Act is improving health and strengthening communities - especially communities of color that have long faced disparities in health and health care.

    As the event was coming to a close, a woman in the audience stood up and asked if she could read a letter from her daughter. Her daughter hadn't been able to attend the event, she told us, but wanted to share her story with everyone.

    She had started college a few years later than most, at the age of 22. During her freshman year, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis - a devastating discovery. But there was one source of relief: thanks to the health care law's provision enabling young people to stay on their parents' health insurance until the age of 26, she was able to stay on her parents' health plan, access the treatment that she needed, and continue her studies. And even though she has since turned 26, the opening of the new Health Insurance Marketplace - and the law's ban on discrimination due to pre-existing conditions - will provide her with new opportunities to secure affordable coverage.

  • Creating a Technology Spark

    Deena Pierott

    Deena Pierott is being honored as a Champion of Change for her work to expand opportunities for young learners from communities historically underserved or underrepresented in tech fields.

    Deena Pierott challenges the status quo. She champions change and influences the course of events around her. During her decades-long career in the public and private sector, Deena consistently sought ways to be inclusive, remove exclusionary barriers, and insist upon full stakeholder engagement.  Deena is a doer. She takes action, living by Tagore’s philosophy: “You cannot cross the sea merely by staring at the water.” Recognition of her efforts by the White House as a Champion of Change is fitting and validates her creative efforts and dedication to meet the needs of her community while promoting equity, diversity and inclusion.

    Deena learned early that information is a powerful tool and that there are far too many that don’t have access - you don’t know what you don’t know – and in marginalized communities, what you don’t know can leave you behind.  Deena creates bridges between marginalized youth and information. She enables access to Information about the broader world and how those youth can fit into it and thrive.

    The promise of technology today and the dramatic impact it’s had on how we communicate and interact drives Deena to see opportunities for change and means for impacting the lives and careers of marginalized youth. However, young people of color and those who have been marginalized in various ways are not engaging with those thriving, specialized fields as career choices.  Most tech-related opportunities are reserved for students who have already demonstrated promise and interest. In 2011, Deena started iUrban Teen Tech as a tool to provide empowering and inspiring programming that would steer these youth – especially the ones who are left out, overlooked and disengaged - into the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Her intended demographic is African American and Latino males, who are at the highest risk of dropping out of school in the Portland Metro area where Deena has built her program.

    Since that time, more than 700 young people have experienced iUrban’s innovative programming known as iUrban Teen Tech. iUrban includes interactive workshops at tech summits that explore current technology trends and that expose students to leading speakers within various technologies. iUrban also sets up bi-monthly tours with local companies, allowing students to witness first-hand how technology is used and how it affects their daily lives.  Industry tours include producers of animated video games, athletic footwear, cyber security, energy and many more. IUrban’s teen-led think tank also designs tech-based solutions for local community concerns and issues.  These are then presented to public officials and business leaders.

    What makes iUrban Teen Tech extra special is its community. It takes a village to support a child, and the iUrban village relies on all those stakeholders who have an interest in the success of these youth.  Parents are at the center of that village, participating in summits, volunteering as chaperones on industry tours, and reinforcing the learning and exposure that students receive back in the household.  iUrban also has the support of an impressive collection of leading regional CIOs through its STEM Industry Advisory Council. And, finally, universities, where as partners hosting programs on their campuses, they are able to excite student aspirations of one day going to college. Of course, no successful program could happen without the support of sponsors and volunteers – they help make it all happen.

    “I am proud of the way that iUrban Teen Tech has established a welcoming community that also provides a strong support network, not only for racially marginalized children, but also those in foster care and youth with disabilities. At one summit, for example, we had participation from two tables of deaf students and we provided interpreters. We allow all youth that want to learn into our programs. Of course, not all of the participants who go through iUrban end up wanting to pursue STEM-related careers, but at least they’re having access to mentorship, being exposed to tech-related career possibilities, and most importantly, being motivated to graduate from high school and consider college as an option. Soon, iUrban Teen Tech will be expanding various parts of its programming into cities in Washington, California and other states.”

    The development of iUrban Teen Tech has not been easy and does not rest on a strong financial foundation. Most of its sponsors, though generous, provide in-kind donations rather than the financial support the program needs. Its success and future continue to be in the hands of one very strong and dedicated woman and the support of a very few, yet consistent, volunteers.  As Deena blazes a new path for marginalized youth to follow, she recognizes the uniqueness of her programs, their exceptional inclusiveness, and the broad impact of their diversity.  The social impact of iUrban Teen Tech helping “Deena’s Kids” is enormous.

    iUrban Teen Tech is part of Deena’s umbrella vision with two other social ventures: Mosaic Blueprint, a recruiting source for companies searching for diverse candidates, and the Urban Entrepreneur Network.“Everything I do is related to and fosters equity, diversity and inclusion. That’s what it’s about for me - trying to open doors for others as I wish someone had done for me. That is my path. Serving my community is what fulfills and inspires me to be a Champion of Change.”

    Deena Pierott is the Founder and Executive Director of the iUrban Teen Program.