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Black Policy Conference

at the Harvard Kennedy School

The 7th Annual

2011 Conference In Review


Over the past seven years, the Black Policy Conference has grown into a leading policy-driven forum addressing issues that affect communities within Africa and the African Diaspora at large. Our backdrop is the renown Harvard Kennedy School, where students and faculty are dedicated to the mission of the school: to train enlightened public leaders and generate the ideas that provide solutions to our most challenging public problems. The 7th annual Black Policy Conference, Igniting the Flame: Reunite | Revitalize |Realize, strived to reunite the African Diaspora and revitalize a coherent policy agenda in order to realize sustainable outcomes. The 2011 Conference in Review seeks to capture the dialogue between our conference keynotes, panelists, and participants, as well as provide a number of realworld examples of policy solutions that can work from the ground-up in order to address the challenges facing Black communities today. It is our hope that the 2011 Conference in Review continues to spark creative conversations about how to energize students, alumni, faculty, and policy practitioners in becoming passionately involved in improving Black communities around the world, while acknowledging the strength in the unity of the Diaspora. Thank you for taking time to join our effort and we look forward to seeing you at the 8th annual Black Policy Conference!

The 7th Annual Black Policy Conference Steering Committee

Akilah Robinson Co-Chair, Fundraising & Keynotes Gabrielle Wyatt Vice Chair, Marketing & Outreach

Ozzie Smith Co-Chair, Logistics & Panel Management Nathan Dial Vice Chair, Logistics

History and Mission

The Black Policy Conference at the Harvard Kennedy School was created many years ago, but sadly faded shortly after. In 2005, Nicole Campbell (MPP 05) resurrected the idea and its second incarnation began. The conference was born out of the desire to create a lasting institutional legacy for black students on the campus, a homecoming for alumni, and an open exchange of ideas. Today, the Black Policy Conference provides an opportunity for the convergence of the worlds greatest minds and practitioners with the hope and intent of finding solutions for issues facing Black communities around the world. The Black Policy Conference strives to: Enrich the dialogue at Harvard and beyond surrounding Black issues; Build a sustainable network among current students, alumni, faculty, and policy practitioners; Create innovative ideas and share best practices for addressing policy issues that affect Africa and the African Diaspora; and Inspire individuals to be engaged in the policymaking process.

Pictured above: Tom Burrell, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Burrell Communications

Conference Overview

Friday, April 8, 2010 A Conversation with the Honorable Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Moderated by Michele Martin, Host of NPRs Tell Me More Saturday, April 9, 2010 Morning Panels: Health Policy & International Policy Luncheon: A Discussion with U.S. Mayors Kasim Reed & Adrian Fenty Afternoon Panels: Education Policy & Media Policy Closing Banquet: Keynote Address by Michelle Alexander, Civil Rights Lawyer and Advocate, Author of The New Jim Crow Honorees: Andress Appolon and Brigadier General Charles Hooper

A Discussion with the Honorable Susan Rice

As our keynote speaker for the 7th Annual Black Policy Conference, the Honorable Susan Rice discussed U.S. involvement in Libya and the Ivory Coast, the roots of her interest in international affairs and public service, and how she, as an African American and as a female, has navigated her career, among other topics. Key Takeaways On humanitarian intervention. Ambassador Rice emphasized that while there is no doctrine of humanitarian intervention, the decision to intervene in Libya was the right decision, especially given Muammar Qaddafis record of atrocities against his own people, the eminent murders of the people of Benghazi, and the Arab Leagues plea for international help to protect the Libyan citizens. On her roots in public service. Her interest in public service has been life-long. She was born and raised in Washington, D.C. to parents who were very public service-oriented, and went to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar to study something outside of her comfort zone international relations. From Oxford, her career led her into the private sector at McKinsey, but ultimately back to the public sector, working on the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign in 1988 and to the National Security Council under former President Bill Clinton. On navigating her career. Like others, Rice worried early in her career that showing interest in Africa-related issues might pigeonhole her. As a result, she initially declined the position of Director in the Office of African Affairs on the National Security Council. After working on UN peacekeeping missions, Rice accepted the position, noting that her interest in Africa was not a starting point, but an evolution and that ultimately, individuals should follow their passion, wherever it leads.

There is no doctrine in my judgment. Theres no cookie cutter answer that you can apply to every circumstance; it was possible to act and right to act. - Susan Rice on the decision to intervene in Libya

Health Policy Panel

If a healthy choice is easy, how do we fight the constant factors that still overshadow it? - Dr. Melicia Whitt-Glover

Obesity in the Black Community: Where do we stand and where can we go? Panelists Dr. Gary G. Bennett, Associate Professor of Psychology and Global Health, Duke University Dr. Deborah Cohen, Senior Natural Scientist at the RAND Corporation George Khaldun, Chief Administrative Officer, Harlem Childrens Zone Dr. Melicia Whitt-Glover, President & CEO of Gramercy Research Group Shavon Arline, National Director of the Health Program, NAACP

Key Takeaways On the roles of the human psyche and environments. Influenced by her background in psychology, Dr. Cohen focused on the interaction between our psyche and our environments which are often dominated by concepts of consumerism, overabundance, and instant gratification. She explained the mental processes we go through when deciding what to eat, arguing that it is disconcertingly easy to make poor choices, and extremely difficult to make healthy choices. In this discussion, Cohen invoked concerns about health-food availability and exercise accessibility, and noted that communities are organized in ways that lead to unhealthy eating habits. On the role of social and cultural norms. Panelists discussed consumerism in the African American community as one aspect that helps account for the disproportionate onset of obesity in Black communities. The existence of social and cultural norms shape how we engage in capitalist society. Dr. Whitt-Glover challenged the panel to examine socio-cultural norms that prevail specifically in the African American community conflicting messages such as the American/human value of health, the emphasis on a woman being "thick," and the negative connotations of skinniness in black popular culture. On combating childhood obesity. Coming from the NAACP, Arline focused her discussion on ways to engage civic minded Black citizens to address childhood obesity as a civil rights issue. Here panelists agreed that obesity in children is a significant concern because people who struggle with obesity in their adolescence are very likely to be obese in adulthood. Looking through this lens, Arline suggested activism and education as the solutions, encouraging community organizing and the use of intentional messaging as tools to increase access to healthy foods.

International Policy Panel

When you are working overseas people are going to look at you on a basis of what you can do as an individual. Race becomes less important. Nationality becomes less important. - Julius Coles
The Role of Blacks in Foreign Service Panelists Carleene Dei, Haiti Mission Director, USAID Julius Coles, Director of Global Education, Andrew Young Center for International Affairs Emmanuel Nouga-Ngog, Senior Subject Matter Expert, U.S.Africa Security Relations, Pacific Architects and Engineers Key Takeaways On the role of identity in foreign service. As African American officers working in foreign service, both Coles and Dei observed they were viewed principally as Americans. Both panelists postulated that the concept of race looms larger in the American than in that of most other societies in the world. Thus, African Americans think differently, and more frequently about race than people from different nations nations with separate race relations and racialized histories. With this in mind, he advises African Americans to understand that contrary to the situation at home, when abroad they will not be viewed first as African Americans, but as Americans. On the presence of Blacks in foreign service. Panelists discussed how socioeconomic inequalities have a significant impact on the numbers of Blacks in foreign policy. Coles indicated that only in the past decade or two has American foreign policy begun to branch away from its long tradition of domination by elite, white males. Thus there have certainly been gains and improvements made; by Coles approximation, African American representation in American foreign officials has increased from 6 percent in 1950 to 13 percent in 2009. However, he noted that it will take more time for people of color to have a true impact (especially numerically) in foreign policy. On changing the international debate. Nouga-Ngog proposed that we shift the debate on international economic competition to one of international cooperation to find a win-win situation under which our respective countries find more opportunities, understanding that military and governmental institutions cannot create jobs for the He thus also sees a need to encourage entrepreneurship and private sector growth in America, and especially in the African American community, the racial bracket currently showing the lowest rates of entrepreneurial growth.

A Discussion with U.S. Mayors

Managing Dynamic Cities in Challenging Times Panelists Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta Adrian Fenty, Former Mayor of Washington, D.C. Moderator Dwight Hutchins, Global Managing Director, Accenture

Key Takeaways On economic development. Fenty pointed out that one of the most significant economic development challenges in D.C. is that new jobs often go to people outside the city. While he acknowledged that part of the solution is to do more to ensure D.C. residents are hired in the short term, Fenty asserted that the more challenging and rewarding endeavor is improving the citys educational systems for the long run. This logic led Fenty to focus his energies on improving schools first and foremost, taking full control of the school system as one of his first acts in office. On change leadership. Before making radical changes, Reed advised that it is important to earn the trust of your employees and the community by not firing people immediately before making radical changes. Reed also emphasized the need to treat the Governor and the legislative branch as consistent partners, warning that the consequences can be severe. On managing dynamic cities. Both Reed and Fenty agreed that a mayor has to be politically strong enough to be able to make the right choice between what is right and what is politically expedient, and that involvement in the school system is an imperative.

Media Policy Panel

Our charge as a community is to look for this media and support that presents black people in humanistic and holistic ways. - Moikgantsi Kgama
Key Takeaways On the historical portrayal of African Americans in the media. All participants in the panel agreed that in today's digital world as well as in the past, media plays a significant role in reinforcing negative stereotypes of black people, established centuries ago during slavery. On counteracting negative media messaging. Burrell argued that there is no force more powerful in affecting attitudes and behavior than media messaging and propaganda. For Burrell, our present collective inability to recognize and counteract negative imagery is due to the fact that blacks, as a community, are entertained by their own pathologies. He urges the black community to speak out and force mainstream media producers to depict more realistic, and constructive images of black people. On the need for Black media makers. Kgama suggested that we need not fight to remove negative images put forth by the mainstream, but should instead focus on what we as the black community produce. She places the onus for change on black filmmakers, writers, and producers, and responsibility with the black populous to support these positive artists in their efforts. On the importance of media literacy. Smith-Shomade emphasized the importance of media literacy understanding the complexity of what we see and how to navigate these images, and the importance of being conscious of the media we consume and produce, and how we are affected by it. On raising awareness. Foreman stressed the importance of understanding all dimensions of the media industry and understanding the war being waged against positive black consciousness and the prevalence of negative images in the media act as a sort of "self-fulfilling prophecy." For her, the main task is to gain understanding and raise awareness about how the system is constructed and how we can counterbalance it at its foundation.

Telling Stories: Black Media Makers, Youth Consumption, and Accountability Panelists Tom Burrell, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Burrell Communications Jeanette Foreman, Jeanette Foreman & Associates of Chicago & Atlanta Moikgantsi Kgama, Founder & Executive Director, ImageNation Cinema Foundation Beretta Smith-Shomade, Media Studies Associate Professor, Tulane University

Education Policy Panel

You have to have the courage to make decisions so that you can actually do what is right for kids. - Kaya Henderson

How is Todays Reform Climate Ultimately Serving Black Children and Communities? Panelists Robert C. Bobb, Emergency Financial Manager, Detroit Public Schools Courtney English, Managing Director of Program and Development, ChildfirstUSA Kaya Henderson, Chancellor, D.C. Public Schools Antonio Saunders, Founder & CEO, Seventh Sourou Gentlemens Academy

Key Takeaways On shutting down schools. Henderson asserted that policymakers need to be bold enough to do what is best for the kids even if it is unpopular in the short-term. For example, policymakers must have the courage to shut down underperforming, unfilled schools if that money could be used for better projects. She acknowledged that the country has finally awoken to the educational challenges we face, but pointed out that, we are treating this [education reform] as a fix as opposed to our general obligation to education as the great equalizer. On early childhood education. Bobb emphasized that the solution to closing the achievement gap must address the preparation gap black students are beginning behind their white peers before they enter schools. He stated: The issue of children and their needs begin before those children arrive at our schoolhouse doors. Beyond early childhood education, the panelists also agreed that teacher quality, accountability, and parental involvement are important components of the solution. On enacting school reform. The panelists pointed out that while not all, but many of the answers to the challenges we face in education have been identified, we are still collectively lacking the institutional capacity to act. There is enormous power in the current professional structures within education and in current education laws and regulations.

Keynote Address by Michelle Alexander

Key Takeaways

On our current context and progress. Alexander disagrees with the contention

that much has changed since the civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others. She feels that this approach to black narrative implies that we are on the right path and that if we continue, then we will ultimately realize Kings dream and reach the promise land. On the New Jim Crow. She asserted that a vast racial under-caste now exists in our country. Today, more African American adults operate under correctional control than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before Civil War. A young black man is more likely to go to jail than to graduate from college. More government funding flows to drug enforcement and police agencies than to American schools. On how to move forward. Alexander emphasized that dismantling the system of mass incarceration in America should be at the forefront of all civil rights agendas for it will take nothing short of a revolution a movement of civic awakening, engagement and protest to achieve this end.

It has been the refusal and failure to recognize the dignity and humanity of all people that has served as a sturdy foundation for every caste system that has ever existed in the United States or anywhere else in the world. It is our taskto end this history and cycle of caste in America. - Michelle Alexander


At the Saturday Closing Banquet, the Black Policy Conference honored two phenomenal members of the Harvard Kennedy School Community. Congratulations to: Andress Appolon, Julius E. Babbitt Alumni Service Award Recipient and Brigadier General Charles Hooper, Donald M. Steward Alumni Achievement Award Recipient Both honorees, through deed and action, reflect the ideals of the Harvard Kennedy School. They have modeled public service both inside and outside of the work environment, contributing their time and talents to the benefit of the greater public. Thank you for your continued commitment to public service, the Harvard Kennedy School, and communities of color!

Pictured above: Donald Stewart, Andress Appolon, and Brigadier Hooper with the BPC Steering Committee

Looking Forward

In 2010, the 6th annual Black Policy Conference led a call to action for black people around the world to mobilize as a collective. The conference focused on the crossroads between policy and action, discussing the inherent value and power of the actions of individual citizens, while also hearing from policymakers, practitioners, and community leaders who are inspiring collective action. The 7th annual Black Policy Conference sought to reunite the various collective movements in the Diaspora. The conference focused on revitalizing a coherent policy agenda by providing a number of realworld examples of policy solutions that can work from the ground-up in order to address the challenges facing Black communities today. Today, in the aftermath of the global recession, it has become evident that inequalities in education, employment, healthcare, and civic participation are not only faced by communities of African descent, but by other minority populations as well. At the same time, minority populations are growing around the globe and finding innovative solutions to challenges facing their communities. Looking forward, the Diaspora should continue to celebrate the Black communitys heritage of perseverance and leadership, and recognize the shared experiences of communities of color, in order to develop collaborative and sustainable solutions for Black and other communities of color. Pictured above: Michelle Alexander with student representatives from Howard University