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Opportunities to Effect Change

Opportunities to Effect Change

This is a multi-entry blog about the American Rising Electorate, authored by a Sr. Advisor, Analyst, and Strategist (#PoppingTheCLUTCH).

In the end, this is a blog about opportunities, as well as strategies for engaging “communities that share the same interests” and ways to encourage them to become a part of the solution through donations, volunteering, social, academic, and civic engagement. Although this blog pulls from my experiences in the organizations listed below, in no way does that render our model ineffective for other non-profits, charitable institutions, businesses, government agencies, or for-profit institutions. Truthfully, I’ve witnessed these strategies effectively applied in just about every organization and effort conceivable. I learned these strategies while working for the institutions listed below and each provided me a unique set of issues, demographics, geographies, and resources to pull from.

Within these organizations we will explore the nuances of “non-ethnic” vs “authentic” engagement tactics and learn if they work or not. We believe the problem a current collaborative faces is that they’re one-dimensional in their approach. Their work is based on an assumption that “non-ethnic” civic behavior is the standard. Therefore, the behavior of people of color is viewed as “deviant” versus being understood as behavior rooted in and reflective of a different set of values, beliefs, experiences and world view.

One problem with this approach is that we fail to recognize opportunities to understand the complex nature of political behavior by people of color. This makes it difficult to learn from experiences that vary from the so-called standard and that makes it almost impossible to put into practice policies that will empower the progressive community to move forward.  Instead, we waste time on forcing a square block into a round hole. We direct resources to develop programs, services, methods and frameworks that ultimately do not deliver the desired outcome and do not develop leaders of color who speak the language of the desired voter. Our approach is different and the blog that I have chosen to write will be rooted in our experiences and presented within that context.

Before yours truly arrived in this town, I had no idea that I would become a Sr. Advisor, Analyst or a Strategist. In fact, I came to Washington more than 20 years ago as an intern in the office of Presidential Personnel. Functioning as an intern at the White House not only expanded my capabilities but also set in motion a series of experiences that laid the foundation for what would become the opportunity of a lifetime. As a result of that opportunity I became a Sr. Advisor for PowerPAC+ where I was groomed to be a political tactician. While there, we perfected our work to transform the nescient “Rising American Electorate” to what is now a driver of American politics. This blog gives an account of that conversion and in what way our approach shaped it.

Our methodology was cultivated by way of my personal journey, from the White House, People For the American Way, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation to Common Cause, the NAACP, A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Tavis Smiley Foundation, Maryland Leads and PowerPac+. The tactics learned in these organizations consequently develop into a point of reference for most of our handiwork through the decade. Throughout my time in Washington, I’ve toiled and tinkered with many strategies, methods, and systems to create a structure to hang our ideas on while we refine and develop innovative ways to edify the models. Within PowerPAC+, there were five people in particular who were significant in advancing these ideas. At the NAACP there were dozens of leaders, members, activists, unit leaders, state presidents, and board members — including individuals whose anecdotes are recounted later in this blog. Note that each and every one played an important part, especially the board of directors for the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and people I regard as friends, they were all ground-breaking innovators who molded these theories and efforts. It is our aspiration that over the course of the next several months you will find something in our learning to help you connect with the information and resources you need to support and further your mission.

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Kirk Clay is a partner at Capitol View Advisors a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Learning: Relax, just relax. It’s all going to be all right #2R1WM

By Kirk Clay

“I’d been studying the microphone for a dozen years, and I suddenly saw what I’d been doing wrong. I’d been singing too loud. One night I was listening to a record by Lester Young, the horn player, and it came to me. Relax, just relax. It’s all going to be all right.”

– Marvin Gaye –

Not long ago, we were in a public school to speak on strategies for training students in leadership development. While there, we visited old friends that work in the education community. We began to talk about students of color and their unique mental health concerns as it relates to self-advocacy and self-management. We discussed the importance and implications of self-care and learning to respect and set healthy boundaries. Lastly, we shared with them our goal to work with institutions to create spaces that are liberation focused. We shared our belief that with adequate resources and a cooperative spirit, students of color have the potential to change the future of education in America while improving their opportunities.

Some of our friends were not convinced. They countered with stories of unexpected political events from the past few years. Their point was that “it takes good policies from good leaders to make good change.” They fear that politicians will continue to use “inappropriate” targeted messages and “hyper-partisan” mobilization campaigns to drown out any policy that would genuinely improve America’s education system. Our friends are afraid that students of color may not have the resources to heal, grow, and stand up during this cultural storm.

We do not believe this to be true. First, we can teach our children to recognize and connect with others that are experiencing similar issues. Sure, it may take some work for them to identify communities that share their interests — remember that most of us alter our outward appearances for the “public eye,” but micro-aggressions will still show up as a telltale sign. Second, they must learn that it is okay to feel a healthy sense of cultural paranoia and or suspicion as you “stand up” for what you believe. Just remember to be aware of what is going on in the world and do not allow it to stultify progress. Lastly, we must remind them of the dangers of suppressing emotions through unhealthy activities – this may lead to bad habits as an adult. The key is to acknowledge the current environment while addressing the shame and fear related to it. Then normalize it while helping them to identify tools to help them stay grounded when they are in school.

We must train our students on the importance of boundaries and self-care. As you know, students of color are consistently navigating the “rigorous pulse” of school life while dealing with their own experiences and family challenges. They struggle to find alignment with being a dedicated student and honoring themselves. Many of the students I talk with have experienced tragedy at home. The only way for them to heal is to share their vulnerabilities with others. We must help students of color label the pain they experienced so that they can address this trauma from a place of health. Everything may seem amplified, but they must learn:

  1. As a person of color, they “are enough” and worthy of taking a break every once in a while.
  2. It is essential to set boundaries, use grounding techniques, and schedule time for themselves to detox.

We must always remember that everyone is affected by race, and we all have work to do — no matter race, religion, or gender. Even from a policy point of view, there is clear evidence that increased civic participation by communities of color can offset any conceivable lag in voter turnout. This has always been the case, according to a recent study, the African American share of the total vote in Illinois increased from 10 percent in 2006 to 19 percent in 2010. Due to this strong turnout, a candidate who embraced pro-education policy became governor, with only one-third of the vote from others.

Moreover, we believe that with proper education and policy momentum, people of color can impact voter turnout rates across this nation. If we close the gaps between the populations that are eligible and likely voters, we will have a better chance of regaining our voice and enacting pro-education policies:

  • Pro-education policy candidates could win Georgia with just 41% of the vote from others and Arizona with just 37%.
  • In Nevada, where Latinos represent 16% of the vote share, 69% voted for the “pro-education policy” Senate candidate. This was an increase of 4% over the 2006 turnout.
  • In Colorado, Latinos were an impressive 12% of the vote share and pushed the “pro-education policy” candidate over the top.

We finished our conversation, concluding that educators and policymakers must become familiar with theories of liberation psychology and ways to apply those strategies in their work. The truth is that students of color are most influenced by authentic educators that experience things similarly in terms of history and culture. We have and can continue to come together to develop transformational relationships that dramatically impact education, leadership, and civic engagement. We agreed that by embracing commonalities and addressing differences, we could seize the moment to build a bridge of promise for education in America. Communities of color and their expanding share of America’s educational system should not create anxiety; instead, it should reinforce America’s steadfastness for a new all-inclusive brand of education.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Back to School: Something Greater Than What We See #2R1WM

By Kirk Clay

“An artist, if he is truly an artist, is only interested in one thing and that is to wake up the minds of men, to have mankind and womankind realize that there is something greater than what we see on the surface.”

– Marvin Gaye –

If you read the most popular headlines today, you would think that this is unequivocally the worst time to be a young student. As usual for most adolescents, just figuring out who you are in your development is tough enough. You are often battling feelings of acceptance, relationships, and growing academic expectations. Your identity is being developed amid the backdrop of who your family says you are, the holidays you celebrate, religious events you attend, and other cultural experiences with your friends.

As I pointed out in my last blog, this summer, we have a little more to reflect on than usual. As the education community begins to make plans for the upcoming year, there are a few questions that we must address to heal the whole school community. First, how does racism impact the mental health of people of color (POC) students? Second, in what way does “race-related” stress show up in young people? Lastly, how can students mitigate the impact of racism, learn from their experiences, and heal while living a productive life?

The two most significant areas of concern are:

·           Racial Identity Development – How we perceive, learn, and come to know who we are to ourselves, within groups, and to others in our environment.

·           Cultural Trauma – a dramatic loss of identity and meaning, a tear in the social fabric, affecting a group of people that have achieved some degree of cohesion.

For students like my neighbor, who attends Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, this begins their final year as RBHS’s first cohort of graduating seniors. Before these scholars walk across the stage and enter the adult world, there are a few “POC” student-centered issues to address. For example, they need to be prepared for the possibility of living in an environment where they will experience race-related micro-aggressions. Moreover, they may be exposed to a racially charged domestic terrorist activity and feel shocked as they learn how expendable some people view POC lives are. These experiences could cause feelings of anxiety, anger, and or depression then lead to a physical manifestation of “stress” in the form of stomachaches, headaches, and even “post-traumatic slavery syndrome.”

The 400th anniversary of Africans arrival in America is this year. The seeds of post-traumatic slavery syndrome were planted at the beginning of our union, and the legacy through past actions of prejudice, discrimination, racism, and microaggressions exist today. For example, the U.S. Constitution states that America will count every person every decade and use the results of that count to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. However, this originally had profound injustice embedded in it by stipulating that slaves held in bondage were counted as three-fifths of a person. In 1868, Congress ratified the 14thamendment, allowing former slaves to be counted as full-individuals, one result of the costly, bloody struggle of the Civil War.

Immediately following the Civil War, during Reconstruction, over 600 African Americans occupied various elected offices across the nation. With the end of that era came an almost century-long period of despair, which began when African Americans were habitually disenfranchised through Jim Crow practices, lynching, segregation, institutionalized racism, and incarceration discrepancies, to name a few. By 1965, only 300 African Americans occupied elected offices. This type of social injustice has had a lingering impact, and can only be accounted for through reparations and addressed through appropriate policies.

Our children see the effects of this injustice daily. When our young students feel upset by the things they read or see on social media and don’t have a clear reference point to connect their emotions and behaviors, they stop trusting their neighbors. We have to give them confirmation that we have been here before. They must know that it’s okay to “feel the feelings.” Let’s acknowledge that these issues were previously swept under the rug but not anymore. We must inform them that their feelings are appropriate and will be affirmed and supported. We should teach them to recognize what triggers them and show them the necessary coping skills. They should always protect themselves and maintain personal safety but be sure to live their truth.

To be continued …

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Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

The Impact Of Ron Brown’s Legacy #2R1WM

“To be an artist is a blessing and a privilege. Artists must never betray their true hearts. Artists must look beneath the surface and show that there is more to this world than what meets the eye.”  

– Marvin Gaye –  

By Kirk Clay

Parents, teachers, and many students across America are now engaged in an endeavor that occurs every summer — they are on “summer vacation.” Some teachers will take a trip for a much-needed break “away from it all.” Others are set to visit their family while some will be busy earning extra money on short term projects like teaching summer school. Though it will be a diverse mix of experiences, please make no mistake that their collective activities will have a significant impact next year.


Similar to all educational systems in the U.S., this is a critical moment for Washington, DC school communities. For the learning community at Ron Brown College Preparatory — an innovative public high school in Washington, DC that serves male students of color — this moment and movement are even more critical. Yes, this summer vacation brings with it the same introspection, joy, and liberation that most educational communities will enjoy, and yet it is still a bit different. The difference lies with the singular purpose of this school. This community aspires to connect talented young males of color to a multitude of opportunities, therefore providing them with a path to live free from the fear of poverty, violence, and death.


This concept originates from the radical but straightforward vision set out by a collection of innovative community leaders, lawmakers, and educators, which asserts that “America will successfully teach every child regardless of zip code.” I know this sounds easy, but as someone that spends time in the classrooms at Ron Brown, I see all of the remarkable efforts, genius, and curriculum implementation happen every day. Honestly, the teachers, care team, and administrators are some of the most committed, supportive, and sophisticated educators I have ever met. I am routinely impressed by the teachers as they executed their curriculum and the care team as they implemented “restorative” practices. The way they give “props” for student accomplishments while having courageous conversations on the areas that we all can improve is inspirational.


This reminds me of the school’s namesake. Ron Brown was the 1st black Commerce Secretary for the United States of America. Note that this was a massive deal at the time, considering not many African Americans had a position with that level of responsibility in the 90s. I met Secretary Brown the summer I first arrived in Washington, DC. I was amazed by his intellect, leadership skills, and fashion sense. He would often ask about “my people,” and I would talk with him about my grandmother that lived in the area before we would “talk shop.” Later, he would give me tips on picking the right combination of shirts and ties.


He taught me that the summer is like a mirror. “It is a tool for reflection, discovery, correction, and action.” His point was that I should use my summer to reflect on life, assess what changes need to be made, plan my next steps, and implement my new learning. What’s funny is that educators have always used their summers to innovate. The only difference is that this summer, we have a little more to reflect on than usual.

To be continued…

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Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Ensure that every American who works hard and plays by the rules has the opportunity to live the American dream #PushTheVote

As November 6 becomes the focal point of this election season. As speculation continues over whether the House and or Senate will change leadership, our attention turns toward Georgia. Not because of the obvious reasons, but because of what this “opportunity” represents for Voters of Color (VOC), the Youth Vote (YV), and institutions of faith. Although census data shows that Atlanta only grew 0.8% to 420,003, neighboring Athens-Clark County grew by 15% to 116,714. This significant growth may help to give Georgia a new congressional seat plus an extra Electoral College vote in 2020.

What kind of leader will we choose? Will it be someone with a strong sense of duty and responsibility to every person in this country? Will they remain focused and committed to serving the needs of Americans even during “hard times?” After the long list of surprise victories this year, we feel like we may be turning a corner.

So far, it seems that this election is about priorities. Voters want to know if “your priorities reflect the reality of our educational system, civil rights, and economic resurgence?” They seem to want to know more about women’s healthcare, higher education, and middle-class safety nets and “must-do” fiscal treatments. Voters believe what most experts have acknowledged for years — “at the end of the day, investing in the economy is good for the economy.”

Moreover, Voters of Color (VOC) in places like Georgia are becoming energized. The political landscape resembles that of November 3, 1998, where the hyper-partisan nature motivated communities of color to demonstrate their concerns through the power of the vote. In 1998 Voters of Color were 30% of the vote share. Progressive candidates won the governorship, retained control of both houses of the legislature, and candidates of color made significant gains.

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As history has shown, Voters of Color can make a difference in the outcome of elections. For example, VOC in Georgia makes up close to 35% of the citizen voting-age population, and most of those registered voted in 2008. POC made up 34% of the vote share in the 2008 general election. This number increased to 35% in 2010, a Tea Party wave year. The potential impact would be significant in 2018 if every eligible Voter of Color voted. Especially in cities like Atlanta and Athens-Clark County, where there are over 230,000 “Key” Voters of Color combined.

This takes us back to something I learned years ago. It is essential for everyone— Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, and Native Americans—to work within an all-inclusive cooperative environment. 2018 is a critical moment for our nation as we remain committed to ensuring that our democracy leaves no one behind. Organizations and institutions within our communities must embrace a diverse and energetic approach to political enfranchisement.

Thank you for your support in all that you do. Remember to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Instagram for the latest updates, and we will be in touch again soon with more from Capitol View Advisors.

Everyone should have the opportunity to live the American Dream

America is in the middle of a demographic explosion, and we are now seeing the signs of a new “electoral” paradigm. With the results of last night’s election, Ayanna Pressley (congressional candidate for Massachusetts 7th District) advancing to the general election. Although this outcome was a shock to many, there is reason to believe that there will be more women candidates of color “winning” soon.

Notably, she received 55,743 votes last night, but a closer look at past election results reveals a winning path for future candidates of color and women. In 2013 Ayanna Pressley, an African American woman and the first woman of color ever elected to the Boston City Council demonstrated how unifying the voters of color is key to maximizing the impact of voters of color (VOC).

Let me explain by comparing the results of Boston’s preliminary 2013 mayoral race with Pressley’s at-large 2013 city council race. Pressley ran among a pool of 20 candidates for one of four run-off spots. She won with 17% (42,915) of the votes cast for the City Council candidates. That same year, candidates Martin Walsh and John Connolly received 18% (20,854) of the vote and 17% (19,435) of the vote respectfully. Combined, that is only 40,289 total votes, 2,626 fewer votes than Pressley received in her race.

How was Pressley able to win more votes in comparison to two mayoral candidates — especially given the fact that Pressley competed in a larger pool of candidates? She won because she was able to consolidate her base of votes from women, people of color, and progressives. In short, she had the opportunity to run as the only prominent woman of color. Let us look at this from a demographic perspective using Ward 18, which encompasses Hyde Park — this neighborhood embodies one of the highest VOC potentials candidates of color and women.

Here some significant trends:

This area is considered a super voter “sweet spot” – an area with a large pool of voters that consistently vote.
Hyde Park’s African American and Latino populations grew 22% and 67% respectfully, making people of color 78% of the population.
Pressley won Ward 18 with 5,490 votes in 2013 and did well this year too.
In 2013, the top 3 mayoral candidates of color Charlotte Golar Richie, Felix Arroyo, and John Barros split the Ward 18 vote 2314, 1160, and 1039 respectively.

The splintering of the vote was also seen in neighborhoods like Hyde Park, where the lack of consensus among progressive groups and voters created conflicting loyalties. Arroyo grew up in Hyde Park but found it difficult to close the vote gap without networking and unifying efforts with other candidates like John Barros.

The demographic advantage does not guarantee that multiple candidates of color can run in the same election and win. However, Pressley’s success points to an opportunity for investment in neighborhoods that may yield a significant return. This also means the opportunities in neighborhoods like Hyde Park have become prime openings for suitable candidates with commonsense messages to breakthrough. We believe that if this electorate is engaged with resources, the right message, a good candidate, and a successful voter registration campaign – we may take a considerable step forward towards electing a historic number of women of color.

Thank you for your support in all that you do. Remember to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Instagram for latest updates and we will be in touch again soon with more from Capitol View View Advisors.–


Kirk Clay

Our system works when everyone gets a fair shot

Can you believe that the race for Governor in Florida now features a “Progressive” Person of Color! After this week’s gaff by his opponent, this should be a fascinating race considering Hispanics make up more than 12% of the Republican Party in Florida.

 

As I stated before, the fundamentals of this election mirror 2010 (with a different result). There is clear evidence that increased civic participation by communities of color can offset any conceivable lag in progressive voter turnout.

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Soon this election season will kick into full swing, and it is clear that there are a number of important states and districts in which People of Color (POC) may help to decide both primary and general election results. For example POC in Florida make up 29.5% of the Citizen Voting Age Population and 69% are registered to vote. The key is turnout. Remember even in a great “turnout year” like 2008, POC made up 28.9% of the vote share in the general election although more than a third did not vote (37.7%). Imagine what could happen in 2018 if we energize and turn out every eligible voter? Especially in places like Jacksonville, FL where there are over 200,000 “Key” POC voters.

 

Changes in congressional seats are at stake as well. We know that reapportionment gave Florida two congressional seats in 2010. Many voters have moved in and out of those districts for 8 years now. In fact, Florida may pick up one more seat therefore the race Governor will impact 2020 redistricting.

 

There is no doubt that there will be a number of heated congressional contests as well. In these races, pitting refurbished candidates against surging progressive candidates, the momentum is swinging progressive. Most of the focus this year will be on the fact that the Democrats need a bunch of seats to take back the house and the Republicans need a few seats to keep control of the Senate.

 

But there are other dynamics in these elections that may prove to be far more significant. Political experts often portray people of color as incidental as it relates to the broader sphere of American politics. Moreover, they seem to find it difficult to connect exceptional election results to evidence-based demographic trends. On one hand, we all recognize the fact that certain POC turnout levels will produce certain results. On the other hand, some of us miss the fact that those turnout levels in 2008 were connected to resources and political investment in POC communities.

 

The same holds true for other parts of the country. Young POC politicians are running for office in Georgia, Maryland, Texas, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada, and a number of places in California but without adequate resources they will need to win..

 

There is no doubt that these candidates are more than capable of running competent campaigns. The truth is, they are beneficiaries of the civil rights movement and gained valuable tools from our forebears. That’s probably what led them to throw their hat in the ring to begin with. Their interests represent our collective guiding beliefs. Once in office, POC politicians will have the opportunity to build coalitions and work towards creating a collective social, cultural, and economic apparatus for people of color, communities of faith and young people.

 

But will their war chest benefit from the collective social economic advancements of the progressive community? Will they receive the support they need to defeat their opponents? If we care about diversity in political leadership, we shouldn’t just express our support through the vote. We should express our concern through monetary civic engagement. The fact is, if you invest political resources in a POC candidate this year, you will most likely have a positive return.

 

Thank you for your support in all that you do. Remember to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Instagram for latest updates and we’ll be in touch again soon with more from Push The Vote.

 

Sincerely,

 

Raven, Daya, Chuck, Kirk and the #PushTheVote Team

 

The promise of America is that every child will have the opportunity #PushTheVote

How does the Arizona primary results impact the people who most need economic and social justice? Young people are our future and the promise of America is that every child will have the opportunity to grow up to live a successful life. This is only possible when every child receives a quality education. It will take sound programs, schools, and policies that work and we have to vote to make this a reality.

I predict the fundamentals of this election will mirror 2010 but will have a different result. With adequate resources and a cooperative spirit, people of color, communities of faith and young people have the potential to have impact in states like Arizona and Georgia.

There is clear evidence that increased civic participation by communities of color can offset any conceivable lag in progressive voter turnout.  For example, according to a study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the African American share of the total vote in Illinois increased from 10 percent in 2006 to 19 percent in 2010.  Due to this strong turnout, a candidate who embraced progressive views became governor with only one-third of the white vote.

The same was true for Latinos in Colorado, and Nevada. In Nevada where Latinos represent 16% of the vote share, 69% voted for the progressive Senate candidate. This was an increase of 4% over the 2006 turnout. In Colorado, Latinos were an impressive 12% of the vote share and pushed the progressive candidate over the top.

I believe that with proper resources and civic momentum, people of color, communities of faith and young people can impact voter turnout rates this year. If we close the gaps between the populations that are eligible and likely voters, we will have a better chance of regaining our voice and enacting education policies that work. For example a progressive candidate could win Georgia with just 41% of the White vote and Arizona with just 37%.

The truth is that Americans have and can continue to come together to develop transformational relationships that dramatically impact civic engagement, education, culture, and economics. Young African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans have always participated in elections. However, their expanding share of the electorate has the potential to reinforce America’s steadfastness for a new all-inclusive brand of education.

Thank you for your support in all that you do. Remember to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Instagram for latest updates and we’ll be in touch again soon with more from Push The Vote.

Sincerely,

Raven, Daya, Chuck, Kirk and the #PushTheVote Team