Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund - President and CEO Report
September 25, 2009 Board Meeting
The summer months were full of activity at LCCREF as our DTV team criss-crossed the country to complete its work on the DTV campaign, debrief with local partners and begin an evaluation process. At the same time our DTV campaign was coming to a successful conclusion, our census campaign was completing work on a new report, Counting in the Wake of a Catastrophe: Challenges and Recommendations for the 2010 Census in the Gulf Coast Region. The report which provides a fresh assessment of the demographic and socioeconomic conditions along the Gulf Coast that pose challenges to achieving a complete census count, was released in New Orleans the week preceding the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. LCCREF also continued to serve as the coalition hub for communications efforts to educate about the record of Judge Sonia Sotomayor and to provide updates on her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The summer months also found staff saying good by to two of its key members: Mistique Cano, Vice President for Communications, who has joined Google where she will be handling the daily press relations around Google's legislative and public policy work; and Paul Edenfield, Senior Counsel, who has accepted a job at the U.S. Dept. of Labor, where he will be handling federal appeals of labor law cases.
At the same time we welcomed Jeff Miller as our new deputy communications director and with Mistique leaving he has moved into the position of Interim Vice President for Communications. Jeff comes to LCCR/EF with a background in journalism, politics and nonprofit advocacy. He was the Washington correspondent for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., The Evansville Courier of Indiana, and The Ventura County Star of California. Since leaving journalism in 2006, Jeff has been a communications director for U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and for The Justice Project, which works to increase fairness and accuracy in the criminal justice system.
The challenges we face ahead in an increasingly polarized and uncivil environment got a little more daunting with the loss of our field general in the fight for civil rights. From the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, the cause of civil and human rights had no better friend than Senator Edward M. Kennedy. We miss him deeply, but his words and his passion will continue to inspire us and we feel a special obligation to keep his legacy alive.
Below are summaries of the work undertaken on our policy initiatives primarily during the third quarter organized under our team structure, with support from the policy, communications, field, and development departments:
Affirmative Action/Educational Equity (Anjali Thakur and David Goldberg, Team Leaders)
In May, LCCREF/AFC, in co-sponsorship with the Fulfilling the Dream Fund, convened the third national strategy meeting on equal opportunity. The convening provided an opportunity for key state and national allies to share updates on the status of equal opportunity at the national and state levels, and to discuss the communications/messaging/framing, legal, legislative, field, and fundraising strategies that could be part of a pro-active agenda advancing equal opportunity. In August, the Leadership Conference hosted a meeting for the Asian American Justice Center and the Minority Business Legal Defense and Educational Fund to brief LCCR members on the current state of affirmative action litigation in the contracting arena. As members of the Unity Group (a new coalition of minority and women contractors), their presentation was timely as both houses of Congress and the Obama administration will soon be considering ways to defend and improve various programs aimed at encouraging equal opportunity for women and minority contractors. There was a full discussion of the status of the cases and their impact on other areas of civil rights, equal opportunity, and education law. A working group was formed to keep LCCR members in closer contact with the groups working on contracting cases and develop joint strategies for helping the administration combat these cases. A larger meeting with the broader LCCR community is being planned for this fall.
The Leadership Conference continues to work with coalitions in Colorado and Nebraska to determine next steps to advance the fight for equal opportunity, as well as to identify ways to sustain each state coalition. LCCREF will be co-convening, along with Colorado Unity, a strategy meeting to take place this fall during which opportunities for advancing equal opportunity in the state will be identified. In Arizona, where Ward Connerly's anti- equal opportunity initiative was referred to the 2010 ballot by the state legislature, LCCREF is working in a consultative manner with Arizona organizations on an overall strategy for conducting public education messaging and grassroots outreach around the initiative.
LCCREF staff are participating in planning meetings/discussions to assist the Fulfilling the Dream Fund in developing the agenda for their 3rd annual national convening of their grantees and donors, scheduled to take place in October. Following up on the national strategy meeting LCCR/EF co-sponsored with the Dream Fund in May, the Dream Fund's national convening will provide an opportunity to continue the conversations and discussions started in May which focused on various sets of strategies.
In July, LCCREF's Campaign for High School Equity (CHSE) project held a panel discussion on health and nutrition and the disparate impact of health problems like childhood obesity and diabetes on educational achievement. The event brought health researchers together with education advocates to discuss effective strategies for promoting health care and better nutrition in schools serving lower-income families and communities of color. In August, CHSE sponsored a Capitol Hill briefing on common standards and their impact on communities of color. CHSE, LCCREF, and staff from other LCCR members who are partners in the CHSE project also met with representatives of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers who are drafting the common standards to discuss the need for input and review of the standards by representatives of communities of color. We also discussed the need for resources to ensure proper implementation of the standards in our communities.
The Realize the Dream: Quality Education is a Civil Right project's video project is designed to tell the story of effective education reform from the students' perspectives and with a filmmaker's eye — instead of using a policy perspective — and to deliver the stories through new, creative multimedia channels. The project's pilot video, which focused on the Higher Achievement program, has proven to be a very effective fundraising and recruitment tool and has had a great impact on Higher Achievement's efforts to replicate their program and expand to new cities. LCCREF is working closely with Higher Achievement to ensure the successful opening of its first two Achievement Centers in Baltimore. Drawing on the lessons learned from the success of the Higher Achievement project, Realize the Dream is now producing similar videos of three more education programs
Census (Corrine Yu, Team Leader)
The Census 2010 campaign is being carried out through a collaborative of national civil rights groups with expertise in the census. LCCREF serves as the campaign's overall coordinator/driver, organizing internal meetings, keeping track of internal deadlines, tasks, and assignments, and coordinating and driving overall public awareness, research and materials development, field outreach, and communications activities.
In the week preceding the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, LCCREF, together with local advocates and Gulf Coast residents, held a press conference and press call to release a new report, Counting in the Wake of a Catastrophe: Challenges and Recommendations for the 2010 Census in the Gulf Coast Region. The report provides a fresh assessment of the demographic and socioeconomic conditions along the Gulf Coast that pose challenges to achieving a complete census count. It also makes practical recommendations for policymakers and the Census Bureau designed to ensure the most accurate count possible. LCCREF held a press conference on August 24 in New Orleans followed by a telephone press conference the same day. LCCREF Counselor and LCCR President Wade Henderson was joined by the leaders of our local Gulf Coast census partners, Moving Forward Gulf Coast and the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, to talk about the report's findings and recommendations and the importance of a fair and accurate count to the Gulf Coast. The press conferences attracted strong local and national media coverage, including the Times-Picayune, The Associated Press, National Journal, BET Television, three local television stations and three radio stations. The report was also picked up by several blogs. The report is available on LCCREF's web site, http://www.civilrights.org/counting-in-the-wake-of-a-catastrophe-lccref.pdf, along with video of Wade Henderson and residents of LA and MS discussing the challenges facing the Gulf: http://www.civilrights.org/archives/2009/06/counting-the-gulf-coast-4.html.
We have conducted two trainings (in Biloxi on July 11 and a workshop in Chicago on July 28 that was part of the NCLR annual conference) and have solidified local partnerships in Atlanta, Milwaukee, the Gulf Coast, and San Francisco as well as developed a major city strategy with mayors' offices in New York City, Houston, LA and Chicago. We have developed a "pitch" letter to local groups about how they can get involved in 2010 census efforts, including LCCREF's campaign. Moving forward, we will develop a promotional packet on LCCREF campaign for outreach to local groups. We also met with Census Bureau officials on July 10 about the ways The civil rights coalition can be helpful in making the 2010 count a success.
LCCREF initiated an early awareness bus ad campaign in five of our target cities: Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee, San Francisco and Seattle. The ads—created in-house—focused on how a fair and accurate census will benefit communities in areas such as job creation and housing. The ads were printed in English, Spanish and Chinese and will run October 7 to December 28.
We also produced a first round of banners, podium signs, posters, t-shirts and other materials to help our local partners begin to do census outreach to hard-to-count populations in their communities.
DTV/Media and Telecommunications (Erica Swanson, Team Leader)
LCCREF's November 2008 – August 2009 campaign to assist underserved communities on the analog to digital television transition has come to a successful close. LCCREF's DTV Assistance Campaign developed a grassroots, hands-on outreach and support program in seven markets nationwide and, through partnerships with approximately 100 local community based organizations and the guidance of local coordinators, provided direct assistance to nearly a quarter million people most in need.
Importantly, this campaign created local grassroots and media expertise on an issue that for many was technical and difficult to grasp; and helped to frame the DTV transition as an issue affecting communities of color, low-income families, people who speak languages other than English, people with disabilities, and seniors.
LCCREF continued to play a vital role in shaping national and local news coverage on the issue, focusing the lens on vulnerable communities that would be most affected by the transition. On a daily basis, LCCREF provided press support for 20 local partners and assistance centers in the seven cities, helping partners think about press opportunities, and driving press to coupon donation drives, local assistance forums and other events. LCCREF also took the lead on drafting press materials, advising, pitching, and scripting events. Post-transition, LCCREF drafted several press releases notifying local and national press about DTV information such as the coupon program deadline, where to mail in donated coupons, how to get help on antenna issues, and other "news you can use."
LCCREF is working with an independent evaluator to assess the campaign; a full report will be available in fall 2009.
LCCREF continued to serve as the coalition hub for communications efforts to educate about the record of Judge Sotomayor and to provide updates on her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Our efforts included a rally in Upper Senate Park the day before the final Senate confirmation vote and watch parties across the country and in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Puerto Rico.
These events attracted positive and prominent coverage in major daily newspapers, on radio, and on broadcast and cable networks.
Half in Ten
The U.S. Census Bureau recently 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. The Leadership Conference is working through the Half in Ten campaign, a collaborative effort with ACORN, the Center for American Progress, and the Coalition on Human Needs, www.halfinten.org, to help turn the tide against poverty.
Half in Ten is working to increase the attention of policymakers to a number of proposals, including the extension of unemployment benefits, increasing investments in federal safety net programs, and modernizing the federal poverty measure.
LCCREF's public education project is designed to shed light on the importance of workers' rights and the right to unionize, and how a broad pro-worker agenda advances civil rights and the pursuit of economic equality. LCCREF will provide research support to LCCR as it re-releases an updated report on the importance of unions and workers' rights to the civil rights movement. The release of the report, entitled Let All Voices Be Heard: Restoring the Right of Workers to Form Unions, is expected later this month. LCCREF continues to monitor other workers' rights issues, including the issue of whether FedEx Express's drivers and other ground workers should be covered by the Railway Labor Act (RLA), a law designed to cover rail and airline workers. Under the RLA, it is more difficult for workers to unionize than under the other private sector labor relations statute, the National Labor Relations Act, which typically covers non-airline, non-railway workers. The Leadership Conference is also preparing a report on the issue of FedEx Express's RLA coverage, which we plan to release this month.
On September 15, LCCREF participated in a major health care conference, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's annual conference. Wade Henderson delivered remarks and participated in a panel discussion on the need to address health disparities and improve health care. The speech can be downloaded here: http://www.civilrights.org/about/speeches/health-care.html.
Housing Media Campaign (Lisa Haywood, Project Director)
LCCREF continues to work with the National Fair Housing Alliance to promote its National Media Campaign targeted at renters and homeowners struggling to carry their mortgages, facing eviction, or in danger of foreclosure, or families ready to purchase a home. Final Products include: :15, :30, and :60 second TV PSAs in English and Spanish titled "Struggle" which depicts everyday folks struggling to lift various houses. Tagline: "If You're struggling to carry your mortgage, we can help – Foreclosure is not a foregone conclusion"; and directs you to the website makinghomeaffordable.gov; and rental Print Ads of "Struggle"and "Now Renting" which informs the public about recognizing housing discrimination and gives an 800# -- 1-800-669-9777 (voice), 1-800-927-9275 (TTY) -- and website www.hud.gov/fairhousing to report discrimination so HUD can investigate. Additional products are expected to be released at a NFHA press conference shortly. LCCREF will promote the final products through its website, LCCR member organizations, the civil rights monitor and events and conferences.
We continue to seek out opportunities to use the web to disseminate our messages. For example, as discussed above, when we released our report on the Gulf Coast and the census, we also released a video featuring residents from the Gulf Coast—a librarian, a firefighter, and a community advocate – who see the impact of the census in their professions and everyday lives. The video, circulated in press releases and on YouTube, explained why the census is important to communities. www.youtube.com/watch?v=eC27JxK2e5s&feature=channel_page
Similarly, as the DTV campaign came to a close, the Leadership Conference traveled out into the field to capture our impact on communities through photos and video. Throughout the week of the transition, we launched and updated a photo blog where we loaded photos from canvassing, in-home installations, and community events. For Judge Sotomayor's confirmation hearing, we sent out our first ever video action alert, and circulated a support video virally on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfFPddDkf6Q
The Leadership Conference continues to be more strategic in reaching out to new media and blogs to promote the work of the coalition and advance our issues. LCCR regularly invites bloggers to join its standard press conference calls and continues to send press releases, civilrights.org website posts, and action items to bloggers and listservs with prominent bloggers. As a result of this work, LCCREF has been mentioned or been hyperlinked in more than 300 blog posts in the past quarter on a range of issues from the Sotomayor nomination to census related issues in the Gulf Coast.
Re-energizing LCCR/EF's Brand
We have recently completed an examination and update Brand identity. The new brand identity is the result of a long-term strategic planning project that included significant research by GFK-Roper and Beveridge Seay and many conversations with civil rights coalition members and other progressive activists, including a convening in January 2009 of a cross-section of the entire community with a stake in the Leadership Conference and the broader civil and human rights coalition. We will share the results of our brand examination at the next board meeting.
In the words of Senator Kennedy, "the work continues," and "the dream lives on." The LCCREF is better positioned than ever to assist with the challenges ahead and the dedicated and tremendously skilled staff works every day to help make the dream a reality. Thank you for your assistance and for allowing me to serve as LCCREF's President and CEO.