Opinion: Level the college playing field for black women

East Bay Times

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya

Dzifa is a hard-working, immigrant woman who overcame some serious odds to recently get her Ph.D from the University of California, Los Angeles, in Public Health. Highly educated and gainfully employed with a coveted post doctoral fellowship position, Dzifa is closer to achieve her dream of conducting research to make a difference in the lives of women in her home country, Ghana. It seems Dzifa is winning at life by most standards.

Yet, Dzifa’s accomplishments also come at a huge price. Financing her education on her own, she carries more than $100,000 in student debt. As a result, she lives on an extremely tight budget and grapples with finding side gigs to help her with the high cost of living and making her way out of this enormous debt. Rather than taking on research she knows can make a difference, she takes on projects that are stable and adequately funded.

To read Jhumpa’s full op-ed, click here.

Reimagining Justice and Legal Advocacy


By Anne Price, President

Originally published in Insight Center’s June 2017 Newsletter.

There has never been a more critical, more insistent time to reimagine access to justice. The demand for legal assistance for Americans striving to make ends meet is at an all-time high. Only half of those seeking assistance from federally funded legal aid programs can be served, and fewer than one in five low-income individuals gets the legal help they need.

These are the outcomes of a system in which funding for individual legal services is significantly constrained, as is the range of permissible services that programs can provide. Presently, the national Legal Services Corporation, the largest single funder and lifeblood of the civil legal aid system across the country, is one of the many programs the Trump Administration slated for complete elimination in its draft budget.

Click here to read Anne’s full piece.

Where We Went Wrong with the Racial Wealth Gap


By Anne Price, President

Originally published in Insight Center’s May 2017 Newsletter.

Before the Great Recession and the Occupy Wall Street movement, leading minds on economic issues came together from diverse communities of color to set an audacious goal: closing the racial wealth gap. It was a bold proclamation not just in its enormity, but also because an intentional focus on race and wealth inequality represented a significant departure from greater calls for class-not-race interventions at the time.

The call to close the racial wealth gap drew upon the pioneering work of numerous researchers and thought leaders. These pioneers got it right when they claimed that racial wealth inequality is not a natural occurrence or a law of nature, but a man-made choice.

From the Homestead Act to the G.I. Bill to Social Security, millions of people were locked out of opportunity due to a legacy of intentional and inadvertent policies that not only restricted communities of color from building wealth, but also facilitated the extraction of wealth from people of color to directly benefit Whites. The result has been ever-widening wealth differences between Whites and people of color that ultimately weaken democratic institutions, lower wages for all workers, undermine public health outcomes, and contribute to the disinvestment of entire communities.

To read Anne’s full piece, click here.

Opinion: Is it unfair for state to suspend licenses for unpaid tickets?

East Bay Times

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya

Close to 20 years ago, I received my first traffic ticket speeding on Interstate 5. I can still remember the sheer panic I felt when I heard the siren and saw the flashing lights. I received a reckless driving ticket for going 86 mph, 30 miles per hour above the speed limit and was mandated to appear in court.

A few weeks later in court, I plead guilty and the judge told me that I could go to traffic school to avoid impacting my record. I was relieved until they told me that my fee was $360. My only option was to use a credit card and pay over time. One year later I finally paid off the fine plus interest, totaling close to $420.

To read Jhumpa’s full op-ed, click here.

Aleah Rosario | Hidden Truths, Episode 4


Listen to Jhumpa Bhattacharya and Aleah Rosario discuss the CalSAC Leadership Development Institute and the value of diversifying leadership to support and advance communities of color.

Aleah Rosario is the Director of Capacity Building Programs at the California School-Age Consortium (CalSAC)where she supports professionals and organizations in providing quality and affordable out-of-school time programs. She has also served CalSAC as an endorsed trainer, project leader, and chapter leader, and she is a graduate of CalSAC’s Leadership Development Institute (LDI) for Emerging Leaders of Color.

The mission of LDI is to equip emerging leaders of color in the early education and out-of-school time field with the training and experience they need to advance into higher leadership positions within their organization. This field includes educational programs like expanded learning, after-school programs, child care, early learning programs, and summer programs. LDI hopes to create more responsive programs, policies, and services that reflect the racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of the young people who attend these programs.

Established in 2012, LDI specifically works to support and strengthen leadership capacity and opportunities for people of color in order to address the stark disparity in racial and ethnic representation at executive levels in their field and the greater social sector. We see, across the nonprofit field of the United States, there is a leadership gap,” shares Rosario. “I can count, often times on one hand, the number of people in these positions that are people of color. Only 16% of nonprofit executive leadership positions are held by people of color and only 14% of nonprofit boards are made up of people of color.”

Rosario and her colleagues at CalSAC know firsthand the value and benefits of diversifying leadership to better reflect, connect with, and support communities and constituencies. We know that the folks who are most likely to be recipients of these services are mostly people of color,” explained Rosario. “Here’s our huge opportunity – diversify the field and leadership within these programs. The people who are working in these programs, serving the children and families who attend these programs, often times represent the students. They all live and work in the same community.

LDI hopes to empower its graduates to diversify the broader workforce and both support and inspire younger generations with leaders who look like them and share similar backgrounds and experiences. “[As leaders] we’re making decisions that really impact the resources of their program, the policies that impact how their programs are run,” said Rosario. “If we’re not seeing the representation of the people that we’re serving in these decision-making processes…are we really serving the young people in the ways they need to be served?”

CalSAC worked closely with LeaderSpring to create the curriculum for the multifaceted program LDI provides. A key component of the program’s training helps participants understand the larger systemic forces behind the racial and economic inequities. We can’t create these trainings and opportunities in a vacuum; we need to collaborate and understand how they [power and oppression] play out in people’s lives and working experiences,” explained Rosario. “In order to combat the discrimination gap and challenge our current systems, we must understand power, privilege, and oppression. This is just as important as understanding the difficult leadership and management skills they are learning at LDI.”

As an alumna of LDI’s inaugural cohort, Rosario shared that a huge part of the program’s success is that it understands and accepts each participant’s own experiences as people of color, which in turn prove highly beneficial in their work with constituents. We were people who needed and attended these programs growing up, so we can often times have a greater effect on those were serving. We’ve been here before. We know what has held us back from reaching the higher-up leadership positions.  

Throughout the year-long fellowship, fellows are encouraged to believe in themselves and to recognize that they already have untapped skills and rich life experiences that can support their work in leadership positions. “For many it may have actually started by having a family or overcoming a challenge that came their way, and having to adapt and step up to the plate,” shared Rosario. They are trained and led through many scenarios, including the process of negotiating salary increases and their next upward career move. In these and other ways, the program allows for fellows who are feeling burnout to recommit themselves to their work in the social sector, often at a higher level that they might not have known or believed they could reach.

“A previous LDI fellow, who before starting the fellowship was on the verge of leaving the field completely, created new connections that provided a sense of re-commitment, belief, and community through networking, support, and peer-to-peer coaching,” shared Rosario. “After the fellowship, they actually applied for and earned a promotion within their organization. This promotion led to a position on the organization’s executive team and now they even sit on various larger leadership committees.”

This unique leadership development program would not be made possible without the aid of numerous supporters, many of whom are fellow LDI alumni who affirm their strong belief in the program by contributing to it and ultimately sustaining it. As funding in this and so many nonprofit areas can be difficult to secure, CalSAC appreciates any type of support and financial investment as it strives to empower people of color to advance their work and roles within their organizations and communities.

To listen to the full conversation, use the audio player above or subscribe to the Hidden Truths podcast on iTunes.

For more information and to view various professional development resources for the early education and out-of-school time field, visit the CalSAC website. For those interested in applying to join the 2018 LDI cohort, applications will be accepted starting in fall 2017 and the fellowship will begin in January 2018.

Dr. David J. Pate, Jr | Hidden Truths Podcast, Episode 2


Listen to Anne Price and David Pate discuss his research on low-income Black men, toxic stress, and the social welfare system.

David Pate, an Associate Professor at the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, is an expert on low-income Black men, fatherhood, and child support debt. David researches the challenges Black men face in the social welfare system and how they make ends meet.

Most recently, Pate is examining the impact of  “toxic stress” on Black men. This stress results from early traumatic experiences or life changing events that have a lasting, negative impact throughout adulthood. “You’re walking around with your past childhood experiences that never got attended to as an adult,” explains Pate.

As part of his research, Pate interviewed 200 Black men and examined their physical and mental health, access to health care, adverse childhood experiences, and other factors. After the interviews were conducted, he analyzed their profiles in respect to ten conventional components of adverse childhood experiences that contribute to toxic stress; five components relate to issues of child abuse and neglect and five pertain to family dysfunction.

“If a man has four or more components present, they are more at risk for incarceration, low employment, and often times have a harder time maintaining a stable life. We are also seeing a direct correlation between these ten components and stress when it comes to paying child support.”

Based on this research, Pate describes how existing public policies do not address the root challenges that these men face – the inequalities they were born into, their often traumatic experiences as children and teens, and the discrimination, oppression, and other challenges that compound these factors and greatly hinder their social and economic well-being as adults.

For example, David explained how “our current social welfare policies only support the primary caretaker of the child, which makes it difficult for the father to really support their child.”

Many of the men that were interviewed shared their desire to financially support their families and be the breadwinner. However, most are making less than $12,000 and cannot pay the monthly or weekly child support payments. The resulting fines, debt, and other sanctions they face for their inability to pay only exacerbate their problems, without actually helping the mother and child. “Often times the mother will be needed to support not only their child, but the father of her children too. Punishing the father doesn’t help the family, mother of their children, or generations to come.”

Pate also shared a story that highlights the discrimination within our current social welfare system and what he referred to as “state sanctioned violence” that can further trigger toxic stress:

“A Black man wanted to accompany the mother of his unborn child to her prenatal visit. However, due to the policies that are in currently in place, the mother’s transportation to the appointment was paid for, but not the father’s. Thus, the father had to walk to the prenatal visit… What message are we sending to fathers who are poor? We want you involved with your child, but we’re not going to support you? This doesn’t make rational sense.”

Currently, in the U.S., Black males face a disproportionately high unemployment rate. “We as a country haven’t done really well to provide a safety net for Black men and women,” explained Pate. “The U.S. tells men ‘Go out and get a job.’ But in reality, when these men do go and look for jobs in their community, they may have to compete with over 400 other men looking for that same job.”

In considering ways to address these issues, Pate stressed the need for greater investment in education, more research and understanding of how public policies interact and affect individuals and communities, and, on a fundamental level, greater compassion and appreciation of the human struggle at the root of these challenges.

“I think often we don’t give a human side to Black men who are particularly poor, who are experiencing challenges with the criminal justice system as well as with their employment opportunities, and who may be seen as someone who is just being lazy, and not working hard, and having [lots of] children, which is not the case for the majority of these men,” explained Pate. “These men start out in a space that is less than a lot of people, and until we start recognizing the humanity of all human beings, and particularly Black males…things aren’t going to change.”

As he looks to shine more light on these issues, Pate is excited to begin two upcoming research studies about violence prevention in the city of Milwaukee and the levels of toxic stress in Black men when they are given employment opportunities and benefits.

To listen to the full conversation, use the audio player above or subscribe to the Hidden Truths podcast on iTunes.

Dr. David J. Pate, Jr. is also the founder and operations manager for the Center for Family Policy and Practice, is a member of the National Advisory Board for the Responsible Father Research Network, and is an Affiliated Associate Professor of the Institute for Research on Poverty.

If you are interested in learning more about Dr. David Pate and his research, view his recent publications below and his faculty profile at the University of Milwaukee.

Adverse Childhood Experiences, Health, and Employment: A Study of Men Seeking Job Services

Journal: Child Abuse & Neglect

November 2016, Volume 61, pp 23-34

The Color of Debt: An Examination of Social Networks, Sanctions, and Child Support Enforcement Policy

Journal: Race and Social Problems

March 2016, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 116–135

#ThisIsNotNormal, it really isn’t and must be reversed

by Jhumpa Bhattacharya | January 25, 2016 – East Bay Times

This is not normal, this is not normal, #ThisIsNotNormal. I can’t even count the number of times I have read or heard this phrase since Nov. 8.

For too many of us, the election of Donald Trump and the ensuing barrage of appalling tweets, press conferences, prospective policy decisions and political appointments feel like direct attacks on our safety and who we are.

Click here to read Jhumpa’s full op-ed.

Research Brief Series: Women, Race & Wealth, Volume 1

Women, Race and Wealth is the first in a series of briefs that summarize patterns of household wealth among black and white women by college education, family structure and age using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). Researchers from Duke University and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development analyzed data on assets such as savings and checking accounts, stocks, retirement accounts, houses and vehicles. Debts included credit card debt, student loans, medical debt, mortgages and vehicle debt.

Click here to view and download Women, Race and Wealth, Volume 1.

Jahmil Lacey | Hidden Truths Podcast, Episode 1


Listen to Jhumpa Bhattacharya and Jahmil Lacey discuss TRAPMedicine, a community-driven public health initiative designed to create accessible pathways to health literacy, services, and care.

Jahmil Lacey, a public health researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, is working to address health disparities among African American men in underserved locations around the Bay Area. A team of physicians, researchers, public health advocates, and community organizations have all come together to launch a new health initiative that cares for people, not profits.

Lacey’s effort is called TRAPMedicine, which leverages the cultural capital of barbershops as an upstream strategy for addressing disparities in chronic disease and mental health among African American men and boys. Culture and trust are the two pillars of this initiative and what we need to focus on to achieve equity,” says Lacey. From his previous experiences managing school-based health centers and running high school youth programs, he has learned that in order to see sustainable improvements the community must have trust in your understanding of their culture and, most importantly, in you.

Understanding that men and their barber have a deep bond, Lacey plans to launch this initiative in barber shops across the Bay Area. If a Black man trusts you with his hair line, they will trust you with their health,” chuckles Lacey. “I’ve always found [the barber shop] to be a unique, safe space for men to talk about everything, from the Warriors to safe sex.  

TRAPMedicine was designed to close the gap between the patient and the health care provider, with the barber acting as a convenor. We’re going to focus on screening for conditions that we know are prevalent among black men – diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, and mental health. Lacey hopes to provide not only upfront care and screenings but, most importantly, follow-up care and information to those who need it most. Lacey believes that this is where you can lose trust – by not offering follow-up appointments or not providing more information later on to those in need.”

On December 31, 2016, TRAPMedicine will officially launch the pilot program at Legends Barber Shop in East Oakland. On this day, members of the community can receive free health screenings from 10am to 4pm. The barber shop will also offer free haircuts for people who participate in the screenings. Food will be provided.

The group plans to provide various support groups to Bay Area barber shops to further engage community members in nonjudgmental conversations. People are more likely to be influenced by their peers than by a doctor,” explains Lacey. By operating outside the walls of a hospital, TRAPMedicine will encourage men of color to build a community around health.

In these ways, Lacey’s initiative seeks to not only address health disparities, but the underlying economic inequities that give rise to them. It’s stressful to be poor. This disease creates disease,” says Lacey. “Broadly speaking, I hope we can create and develop safe spaces for men to support each other, to share information about employment, mental health, manhood, and to ultimately increase health literacy in these communities.”

TRAPMedicine is looking for volunteers who have experience in the medical field or public health research, and who have experience working with people of color. If you would like to learn more or get involved, email Jahmil Lacey at jahmil.lacey@gmail.com or trapmedicine@gmail.com. To stay-up-to-date about this initiative, you can follow TRAPMedicine on Facebook and Instagram.

To listen to the full conversation, use the audio player above or subscribe to the Hidden Truths podcast on iTunes.

UPDATE: On December 31, 2016, Jahmil Lacey of TRAPMedicine – in partnership with the Alameda County Public Health Department, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Roots Community Health Center – organized a Community Listening Session and Health Screening event to officially launch the pilot program at Legends Barber Shop in East Oakland.

The event was attended by over 60 people. During the listening session, healthcare providers from Roots provided on-site blood pressure and blood sugar screenings while barbers provided free haircuts to the attendees. The event was capped off by a guided community forum on the health impacts of poverty, Oakland’s housing crisis, and law enforcement interactions.

Attendees overwhelmingly supported the idea of continuing the effort, and TRAPMedicine is in the process of organizing follow-up activities in partnership with Legends Barbershop.

Jahmil Lacey is a public health researcher at the University of California, San Francisco; the manager of a housing facility for young adults with chronic mental health issues; and an Insight Center for Community Economic Development Board member.

Elinam “Eli” Dellor | In Her Own Voice

Elinam “Eli” Dellor comes from a family of strong, Black women who pushed through social and geographic boundaries to accomplish the extraordinary. Her grandmother, Irene Akosua Dei, overcame significant adversity as a young orphan in Ghana, where she survived through subsistence work and taught herself how to read and write before going on to successfully raise eight children of her own, including Eli’s mother, Pat.

Pat continued Irene’s legacy by becoming one of the first in her family to attend college and practice sports medicine in Ghana – a field where women were scarce. Facing limits to what she could accomplish in Ghana, she made the difficult choice to move her family to the U.S. in search of greater opportunity and a better life for her children. “My parents are immigrants and they came here for a very specific reason – to ensure that we don’t struggle as much as they had to struggle,” Eli explains.

Today, Eli stands on the shoulders of her mother and grandmother as a bright and ambitious Black woman and first-generation immigrant who has a Ph.D. in Public Health from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Without a doubt, Irene’s spirit and determination flows through her. “My grandma was my first teacher, my first mentor,” Eli says. “She did everything that was out of the ordinary for her time. Being a Black woman with a Ph.D., I am also out of the ordinary. I take a lot of pleasure in bucking trends, surprising people.”

The road to Eli’s accomplishment was not an easy one. Eli immigrated to the U.S. from Ghana at the tender age of 11 and has faced racism and bias throughout her life.

One of her first experiences with racial prejudice came in the 10th grade, when she sought guidance from her school counselor on taking the PSAT to prepare for college. “The counselor took one look at me and said, ‘Don’t bother. I think you should focus on looking at community colleges. No need to take the PSAT.’” Eli was an honor roll student enrolled in AP classes, so her counselor’s reaction left her feeling surprised, confused, and hurt. It was only after Eli found the courage to follow up with her counselor that he took the time to actually look at her records and see her high academic achievement. “It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life,” Eli recalls. “He looked at me and just saw a Black girl, nothing more. I had to force him to see past that, to see me.”

This was her first introduction to racism at a systemic level, and, unfortunately, it would not be her last. Throughout her academic career, Eli saw how her race, gender, and immigration history positioned her to have to work harder, face bigger obstacles, and be at a disadvantage in comparison to her white peers.  

One of the major challenges Eli now faces as a recent post-doctoral graduate is grappling with the immense debt she has acquired in taking on student loans since the start of her undergraduate work. Eli enrolled in work study programs and got whatever scholarships she could, but her family’s means were limited and student loans were a must. “It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t go to college,” says Eli. “My parents made it very clear that even if we needed to take out loans, we would do whatever it took to ensure I was educated.”

Eli’s decision to continue to graduate school was not an easy one, as she worried about taking on more debt, but she felt that it was absolutely necessary to advance her career. “I was working at the Alliance for Children’s Rights on the behalf of foster youth and saw that without an advanced degree, I would be stuck in lower-level positions, and I wouldn’t be able to ever be in charge of my own work.” She wanted to continue her work with at-risk populations and also had a dream to pursue public health work in Ghana. A Master’s in Public Health (MPH) seemed like the perfect fit.  

While in the MPH program, Eli saw white male privilege play out to its fullest. In a field of mostly women, there were only two men in her cohort who were white, and they received a disproportionate amount of financial support and teaching opportunities despite having an undistinguished reputation among peers. “It was so frustrating to all of the women… As women, we can’t afford to be mediocre. We have to work harder to get noticed all the time.”

When Eli received her MPH in 2008, the recession was in full effect. Facing a devastated job market, she, like many of her peers, decided to work toward a Ph.D., which would enable her to follow her dream of becoming a principal researcher.

As a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA, Eli learned that the National Institute of Health (NIH) offered a fellowship to those who would be willing to study the incorporation of psychology and biology into Public Health issues. Seeing an opportunity to earn financial support for her education, she came up with a proposal for the fellowship, applied, and was accepted. With this fellowship, Eli changed her career path from researching reproductive health in Ghana to focusing on the biological effect of childhood trauma on the adult body.

Eli has mixed emotions about the fellowship. She is thankful, of course, for the opportunity and support, and she is very proud of the work she accomplished. However, she also considers how the fellowship changed the trajectory of her career and forced her to make a hard choice in letting go of her original passion – something she has seen happen to many of her peers. “What happens is that everyone goes to where the money is, and your dreams, inspirations may not get funded,” she explains. “Specific communities may never get researched. Funding dictates what gets looked at.”

Now as a post-doc, Eli is faced with more difficult decisions. With over $112,000 in cumulative student debt, she has to look into options that will help alleviate her loans. Once again, the NIH can help. They offer to pay for up to 50% of her student loans in exchange for researching specific work.

While seeking guidance about the NIH program from her post-doc mentor, Eli had another eye-opening discovery: her mentor had no loans to pay for after she received her own Ph.D. How could someone not have any debt after so many years of education? Eli learned that her mentor’s parents both held Ph.D.s and had access to valuable information and networks that she did not. “They knew where to go to for money, how to ask for money, how to position yourself to be appealing to people to give you money,” she explains. “I had no idea about all that stuff. I’m a smart woman – but that only gets you so far. You need connections and that’s what my mentor had.”

Privilege and advantage are not always visible. Understanding how systems work, having connections and access to people with wealth – these are factors we may not always consider when we think about our own privilege and how we achieved our own success. Yet they play very real, important roles in our lives. “As an immigrant family, you’re not established here, you don’t know where the sources of funding are, you don’t know what the tricks are to get your kids a ‘free education,’” Eli explains. “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Without these advantages, Eli finds herself far behind peers who graduated with little or no debt and simply have more options for working in their field. With student loan payments already eating into her limited finances, Eli needs to apply for programs like what the NIH is offering, despite the fact that it may yet again derail her from her desired career path.  “What starts to happen is that the debt starts to fight with your passion,” she says. “You might end up doing something because that was where the money is.” These are difficult choices to make.

In the end, Eli is proud of her accomplishments, and she treasures her education and the access and opportunities it will eventually give her. “In academia, there are very few people who look like me,” she says. “If there aren’t people who look like me and have my background and experience, then the things that we care about will not get researched and studied.”

A person’s interests come from their own experience and knowledge base. We need diversity in academia and research to ensure that populations on the periphery can receive equal attention and opportunity. There is a tremendous need for women and people of color to be doing this work. And for that reason, Eli holds her head high and basks in the knowing that she has made her grandmother very proud as she continues to strive for the extraordinary.