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Advancing Racial Equity Series

Racial Equity: A Biden-Harris Administration Priority

The promise of our nation is that every American has an equal chance to get ahead, yet persistent systemic racism and barriers to opportunity have denied this promise for so many. President Biden is putting equity at the center of the agenda with a whole of government approach to embed racial justice across Federal agencies, policies, and programs. And President Biden will take bold action to advance a comprehensive equity agenda to deliver criminal justice reform, end disparities in healthcare access and education, strengthen fair housing, and restore Federal respect for Tribal sovereignty, among other actions, so that everyone across America has the opportunity to fulfill their potential.

The Foreign Press Centers’ Advancing Racial Equity Series provides journalists with access to experts on the history, contemporary struggles, and opportunities present in U.S. race relations.

In this on-the-record, hybrid briefing in recognition of International Day for People of African Descent, a panel of experts including Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Congressman Gregory W. Meeks , Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice Desirée Cormier Smith, and Professor Justin Hansford, discuss efforts to protect and advance the human rights of people belonging to marginalized racial and ethnic communities and combat systemic racism, discrimination and xenophobia around the world. The panel will also discuss the work of the United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent.

President Biden has made Americans’ access to health care a priority for his administration. In a January 27, 2022, statement, President Biden announced “Health care should be a right, not a privilege, for all Americans.  And one year into my Administration we are making that right a reality for a record number of people—bringing down costs and increasing access for families across the country.”   In recognition of President Biden’s focus on racial equity in health, and specifically Black health and wellness, this briefing features Dr. Anton Gunn, former senior advisor on healthcare to President Obama, and Dr. Omekongo Dibinga , health/wellness speaker and Professor of Intercultural Communication at American University, who has been featured in Oprah’s “O” magazine, CNN, and TEDx. Both speakers discuss historical health disparities in underserved communities and possible remedies.

Icons of Voting Rights
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Throughout U.S. history, civil rights leaders past and present have fought to ensure that the freedom to vote is a fundamental right for everyone.  Civil rights icons such as Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Fannie Lou Hamer were instrumental in laying the foundation for securing and maintaining the right to vote for African Americans, culminating in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought many changes to the voting process in 2020, and many new voting laws, raising new questions about the future of voting rights in the United States. Dr. Keisha N. Blain, an award-winning historian and expert on the U.S. civil rights movement, provides a historical overview of icons of voting rights and the Voting Rights Act, while contextualizing their continuing relevance for contemporary voting rights issues today.  Her new book Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America, explores how Hamer’s ideas remain salient for a new generation of racial justice advocates.

As communities reckon with the legacy of Confederate memorials, civil society and community leaders are working together to find new ways to confront difficult histories and racial equity issues.  A leading example is The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the largest arts and humanities philanthropy in the United States, which has recently launched the $250 million Monuments Project.  This project—the largest in the foundation’s history—will support the creation of new monuments, as well as the rethinking of existing ones.  The project’s first grant was a $4 million award to Monument Lab in Philadelphia, and subsequent grantees included five projects to be funded include partnerships with support to the Emmett Till Interpretive Center (Sumner, MS); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) (Los Angeles, CA); MASS Design Group (Boston, MA); Prospect New Orleans (New Orleans, LA); and Social and Public Art Resource Center (Los Angeles, CA).  Dr. Elizabeth Alexander, President of the Mellon Foundation, discusses these groundbreaking initiatives, and how the Mellon Foundation works with public and private partners to ensure that future generations inherit a commemorative landscape that more accurately reflects the diversity and complexity of U.S. history.

This June, millions of Americans will celebrate Juneteenth against the backdrop of ongoing efforts to address racial justice, and the one year anniversary of the biggest protests for racial justice in a generation.  As the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, Juneteenth is a holiday that holds deep meaning and significance for African AmericansDr. Brenna W. Greer, Associate Professor of History at Wellesley College, discusses the history of Juneteenth, how the commemoration has developed, and its meaning today within the context of current racial equity issues in America.

In January 2021, U.S. National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy noted that “climate change is a racial justice issue” in a videotaped speech.  This briefing, with Khalil Shahyd of the Natural Resources Defense Council, focuses on the topic of equity as it relates to the climate crisis and the environment.

The Summer of 2020 saw the United States’ biggest protests for racial justice and civil rights in a generation, when deaths of African Americans in police custody brought a national reckoning with systemic racism.  As we near the one year anniversary of some of the largest demonstrations in U.S. history, Dr. Alvin Tillery,   Associate Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University, discusses: what the recent verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial means for racial equity in the United States, how current racial justice movements, like Black Lives Matter, fit within the broader history of the U.S. civil rights movement, and how today’s efforts differ from past American racial justice initiatives.

U.S. Department of State Principal Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter, an alumna of prominent HBCU, Howard University, moderates a conversation with Dr. Harry Williams, President and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, who provides an overview of the role of HBCUs in U.S. higher education.

For Women’s History Month, and part of our series on understanding America, Dr.Daina Ramey Berry, Chair of the History Department at The University of  Texas at Austin and the author of “A Black Women’s History Guide” and six other books and scholarly articles on slavery, will provide a historical perspective of the leadership of Black Women from 1619 to 2021 – The Year of the Black Woman.  She will also discuss the role African American women play today at the forefront of the movement to expand voting rights.

In this program, “Representing the American Experience: Award-Winning Filmmaker Stanley Nelson in Conversation with Peter Nicks,” two eminent U.S. filmmakers will discuss their work, followed by a question-and-answer session.

With the COVID-19 pandemic having a disproportional effect on Black-owned businesses, several U.S. cities have developed resiliency funds to support the black business community. One example is the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, which launched a $1Million resiliency fund for small black enterprises. Oakland Chamber CEO and President Cathy Adams, and two business leader recipients of the fund, discuss how they are re-building and supporting an equitable recovery, the difficulties business owners have faced during the pandemic, and the need for these types of funds.

To provide context and expertise on current advocacy efforts to address criminal justice reform, the Foreign Press Centers’ host Bryan Stevenson, an acclaimed public interest lawyer and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.  Mr. Stevenson discusses EJI’s leadership on criminal justice reform, as well as the public education work of EJI’s Legacy Museum, and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which chronicle the legacy of slavery, lynching, and racial segregation, and the connection to mass incarceration and contemporary issues of racial bias.



U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future