Insight Welcomes Natasha Hicks

Insight Welcomes Natasha Hicks


The Insight Center is so excited to bring on Natasha Hicks to our team! Natasha will be using her housing, policy, and design expertise to work on Insight’s racial and gender wealth inequality and economic security initiatives. Get to know Natasha by reading her Q&A below:

What drew you to the Insight Center?

Throughout my career I’ve been driven by the question:  How can I use my voice and agency as a designer to address systemic injustice? What drew me to the Insight Center was a shared center of gravity of being rooted in the underlying systemic causes of racial and gender wealth inequality and being rooted in a desire to create systems change.
I was also drawn to the fact that narrative change is core to the work at Insight since addressing harmful mental models has been central to my practice as a designer. I believe that our imagination is our greatest superpower when it comes to freeing us from harmful narratives and I’m excited to bring in teachings from Black designers and the Black radical imagination to Insight’s narrative change work.

What are you excited about working on with us?

I am really excited to bring my perspective working in housing policy to Insight’s work on race and gender wealth inequality and occupational segregation. This work was always critical but is especially urgent in this moment given the disproportionate impacts the pandemic will have on Black and Brown women. I’m excited to be able to contribute to work that I know is so needed now in order to ensure that the COVID recovery efforts are grounded in creating equitable systems that are centered on the needs of Black and Brown women.

What helps you stay grounded in these truly unprecedented times?

What keeps me grounded during these unprecedented times is community and a sense of interconnectedness. I’m extremely grateful to be back home in California close to my family and chosen family and to be able to pour love into and receive love from my community during this time. In addition, I find myself grounded by seeing all the different forms of radical community that are strengthening and emerging in this moment. Community has kept me centered in an overwhelming sense of hope during this moment of terrifying instability.

Building Equity by Supporting the Whole Student: Findings from Case Studies of Two Colleges in the Working Students Success Network

The philanthropic community recognizes that postsecondary education is a critical pathway to economic mobility and stability. Therefore, philanthropy has been using its grant making and voice to build support for the growing number of students from historically underserved groups—including students experiencing poverty and students of color who face unique barriers to obtaining higher education.

In this education brief, researchers from Mathematica and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development provide key ways colleges, funders, and other stakeholders can build and apply an equity framework to ensure all students are successful in college. The recommendations are based on case studies of two community colleges in Washington State participating in the Working Students Success Network (WSSN), an innovative, comprehensive strategy for supporting working students from groups traditionally underserved in American higher education, especially students of color and those experiencing poverty.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Lumina Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Kresge Foundation, MetLife Foundation, and Bank of America started WSSN in 2014 with Achieving the Dream, a national reform network. WSSN includes a consortium of community colleges in Arkansas, California, Virginia, and Washington. WSSN provides students of color and students experiencing poverty access to integrated and holistic services that address their academic, employment, and financial needs.

To support equitable postsecondary education outcomes, research suggests that colleges, funders, and other stakeholders should:

  1. Develop a strong equity framework that includes shared definitions, assumptions, and goals.
  2. Move beyond one-size-fits all approaches and recognize that students’ academic difficulties vary widely.
  3. Support the whole student by addressing students’ basic needs, facilitating and institutionalizing personal relationships, and offering and elevating culturally relevant programming.
  4. Center on the student voice and experience by engaging with students, recognizing their unique needs, and leveraging their assets.

Click here to read and download the full brief (PDF).

It’s Time to Honor the Political Power of Women of Color Voters

By Anne Price | Medium

With less than a week until Election Day and early voting eclipsing 2016 numbers, Black, Indigenous, Asian and Pacific Islander, Latinx, and Muslim women will play a crucial role in determining our nation’s future. According to Aimee Allison of She the People, a national network elevating the political voice and power of women of color, “the only path to solutions that heal us as a people is with the enthusiastic support of women of color.”

The electoral power of the 63 million women of color in the United States is a mighty force that should not be overlooked. From 2016 to 2018, the voting share of women of color grew by 37 percent. There are 13.6 million more citizen voting-age (CVA) women of color than there were in 2000, compared to 6 million for their white counterparts, a 59 percent jump. And one out of every four voters in key states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Georgia is a woman of color. Yet, the political power of women of color is both under-researched and underinvested in by philanthropic organizations.

If the 2020 election has become a referendum on the soul of the nation, then women of color are on the frontlines. With distinct intra-racial perspectives, histories, geographies, and lived experiences, women of color are clearly not a monolith, but they are united by a set of overarching values, and they are focused on our nation’s most important issues, such as health care, the economy and jobs, immigration, public safety, and racial justice.

Read and share Anne’s full piece on Medium here.

Public Work Provides Economic Security for Black Families and Communities

By Michael Madowitz, Anne Price, and Christian E. Weller.

This material was published by the Center for American Progress.

This issue brief is a product of CAP’s National Advisory Council on Eliminating the Black-White Wealth Gap.

Public sector work has been a rare source of opportunity and security for African Americans in the U.S. economy for generations. Employment with numerous federal, state, and local government agencies throughout the 20th century not only offered a leg up to millions of Black families, but also became so identified with a path to the middle class that they hold cultural significance to many Black Americans. Government jobs alone, obviously, cannot solve structural racism. But in an economy where structural racism denies Black workers economic opportunities and economic security—which has amplified the racial wealth gap throughout U.S. history and today—public work has a long tradition of benefiting many Black families who serve their communities. Whether in the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), which has a legacy of anti-racist hiring dating back to Reconstruction; the military, which led the public and private sector in integration; the federal civil service; or state and local governments, public sector jobs have offered a refuge from employment discrimination all too common in the private sector.

Today, nearly 1 in 5 Black workers are employed in the public sector.1 At a time when the American public and policymakers, from school boards all the way to the Federal Reserve, are more engaged in addressing the legacies of structural racism, the federal government must not undermine one of the islands of economic stability Black families have built. Yet for the second time in a decade, the USPS, along with thousands of state and local governments across the country, is facing large, but mostly temporary, budget gaps due to a deep recession. Amid a lack of federal help, these public entities are all looking to reduce budgets by cutting jobs and the crucial services they provide to communities.

Threats to the future of not just the USPS and state and local governments but also to school districts, public utilities, and public transportation agencies—as well as barriers to public workers’ right to unionize—all conspire to undermine economic stability for millions of Black workers, their families, and their communities. Public sector work is especially important to Black families who lack wealth because these jobs provide decent pay, strong health care and retirement security, and job stability, which buffer against economic fragility in ways similar to the role wealth plays for Americans who have it. Moreover, public sector jobs have been disproportionately important to Black families as a means of reaching the middle class and building both wealth and economic stability. Decades of organizing by African Americans and allies in the labor movement as well as many of the more than 90,000 federal, state, and local governments in America2 have made a way for Black workers to build personal economic security while serving their communities. Sitting idly by as these jobs disappear will have negative impacts on the very same communities hit hardest by the coronavirus and the deep economic recession—not just in the near term but for years to come.

Read the full piece at Center for American Progress here and download a PDF of the brief here.

Mississippi Is America: How Racism and Sexism Sustain a Two-Tiered Labor Market in the US and Constrict the Economic Power of Workers in Mississippi and Beyond

In a new report, the Insight Center for Community Economic Development demonstrates the consequences of America’s two-tiered labor market in which Black and brown workers and women are denied access to economic security on the job. Channeling the “Black women best” framework coined by Janelle Jones, the “Mississippi Is America” report reveals the economic consequences of racism and sexism in Mississippi—trends that reflect the unequal and unjust reality of being Black, brown, and/or a womxn in the US. The report utilizes labor market data and an occupational crowding analysis to illustrate who is largely excluded from the most-desirable, best-paying jobs and who is crowded into those with the lowest wages and least stability.

Findings include:

  • White men have undue advantage in the labor market and are crowded into occupations that pay nearly three times more than what Black women earn.
  • As more women are hired within a given occupation, their pay for that job declines. 
  • In Mississippi, Black women are locked out of 62 percent of all jobs, the highest percentage among all groups.

“What is happening in Mississippi impacts and reflects America,” said Anne Price, the president of the Insight Center. “Across the country, Black workers and other marginalized groups are working day in and day out to keep a roof over their heads while hitting a ceiling when it comes to accessing financial power. This is especially troubling given the COVID-19 crisis, which is disproportionately hurting the livelihoods of people of color and pushing women out of the workforce.”

“The ‘Mississippi Is America’ framework is a call to action,” said Jhumpa Bhattacharya, Insight’s vice president of programs and strategy. “Mississippi is one of the most disregarded states in the US, and it is almost 40 percent Black. Until we empower all of its people and prioritize their economic security, our nation will never achieve true equality. If the COVID-19 recovery—and our government’s inept response—continues as is, the state’s Black workers will be further left behind, and that’s bad for America.”

Click here to read and download the full brief (PDF).

Click here to read and download the accompanying supplemental data report (PDF).

Amicus Brief: CARES Act Funds for the Incarcerated

The Insight Center is part of a historic advocacy effort to unlock pandemic relief for incarcerated people in state and federal prison desperately in need of economic assistance. At the center of the nationwide effort is a lawsuit, Scholl v. Mnuchin, brought by plaintiffs, persons in the United States denied CARES Act funds solely due to their incarcerated status, against defendants including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the United States of America.

In support of the plaintiffs in Scholl, the Insight Center helped research and draft an amicus brief co-authored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and East Bay Community Law Center. The amici, interested parties in the amicus brief, include Insight and organizations representing or providing services to incarcerated persons and their families in California and across the nation. The brief details the cascading economic harms of incarceration, particularly for Black and Brown people and their families, who bear the brunt of systemic overpolicing, structural racism, and harsh criminal fines and fees. Even as prisons remain among the country’s worst hotspots for coronavirus, incarcerated people must often pay the costs of their own imprisonment, including necessities like soap that are especially invaluable during the pandemic. With no end in sight to COVID-19 and its economic downturn, CARES Act relief funds are critical to support justice-impacted people and their loved ones in navigating reentry, finding work and housing, and making ends meet during the unprecedented fallout.

On September 24, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an Order granting the plaintiffs in Scholl a preliminary injunction to halt the Trump administration’s denial of CARES Act funds to incarcerated persons. 

“The order is a substantial step in the right direction to make sure that the people most in need of CARES relief can access it, regardless of their race, gender, or incarcerated status,” said Aisa Villarosa, Insight’s Associate Director of Policy and Advocacy. 

Debt Free Justice is Alive and Kicking in California

Earlier this month, Governor Newsom signed the Families Over Fees Act eliminating 23 unjust, racist administrative fees within our legal system, and expunging $16 billion of fee debt held by mostly Black and brown Californians. An extraordinary win, the new legislation makes California the first state in the nation to enact sweeping reforms of this kind.

We at the Insight Center are proud to have played a critical role as co-sponsors of the bill and Steering Committee members of Debt Free Justice California, the coalition that led this advocacy and organizing effort in partnership with State Senator Holly Mitchell.

As an economic and racial justice organization that was one of the pioneers in bringing racial and gender wealth inequality to the forefront of the national discourse, it was imperative to us at the Insight Center to make the connection between mass incarceration and racial and gender wealth inequality. Through our work, we see how fines and fees within the criminal legal system extract wealth from Black and brown communities, and we have researched and written about how they serve as a driver of racial and gender wealth inequality.

When the opportunity arose to work on this issue in California a year and half ago, we jumped in with no hesitation. We saw this as an incredible opportunity to movement-build and connect lived experiences to the work in addressing racial and gender wealth inequality — a much needed strategy to build the political and public will to address racial and gender inequity effectively.

Without question, what has made this work so successful and special is the community we created in our coalition. A band of researchers, advocates, legal aid professionals, grassroots organizers, government officials and impacted people, we each brought our unique and important perspectives to the table, and honored each other. We unapologetically centered race in our messaging and advocacy, and held fast to our principles of addressing problems at the root. Our one-pager clarifying the ineffectiveness of Ability-to-Pay measures is a prime example of that approach. It is an absolute pleasure to work with such dedicated, funny, passionate, smart people, full of integrity and spirit.

We are honored to have been a part of this coalition, and look forward to the work ahead in implementing this legislation, telling our story with our lessons learned so it can be replicated nationally, and coming up with new advocacy efforts in California on this issue. These 23 fees were just the first layer of the onion. Much more work lies ahead to ensure that California remains on the forefront of progressive, transformational change in our criminal legal system.

We invite you to read the coalition’s letter to Governor Newsom asking for his signature. It is an excellent primer to understand the issue more clearly.

To my fellow Debt Free Justice California compadres, thank you so much for your tireless work. I look forward to continuing this fight with you all!

Read the full letter from the coalition on Medium here.

Episode 31: Resisting COVID Capitalism with Ursula Price and LaToya Johnson

Listen to Ursula Price and LaToya Johnson of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice discuss advocacy, organizing, and community-led policy change for Black and Brown workers bearing the brunt of COVID-19 impacts in the Deep South.

“People are starting to see that we can’t entrust our lives and well-being to governmental actors unless we’re sitting at the table with them helping them to make decisions.”

New Orleans’ Black and Brown hourly and low-wage workers have kept the city afloat for decades, including fueling its recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Yet they are again fighting for survival and safety amid the coronavirus and its economic fallout.

In conjunction with our latest COVID-19 fact sheet on Black and Brown workers in New Orleans, Ursula Price and LaToya Johnson of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice joined Insight’s Aisa Villarosa on the podcast for a frank discussion on what Black and Brown workers and communities are facing in New Orleans – and how they are fighting for a seat at the table to inform policy and practice.

Ursula is the Executive Director of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ), and is an accomplished criminal justice reform champion with deep roots in community organizing, including a focus on police accountability.

LaToya is Coordinator at the Workers’ Center, where her work includes addressing policies that affect Black and Brown workers throughout the state of Louisiana.

Touching on the rich but deeply inequitable history of “the Big Easy,” Ursula, LaToya, and Aisa discuss Hurricane Katrina, “COVID capitalism,” and Black and Brown-led policy reform as communities face deep-rooted structural health and economic challenges exacerbated by the current crisis.

They also discuss Insight’s partnership with NOWCRJ to survey New Orleans’ Black and Brown workers to support visibility and advocacy around workers’ rights, health, and economic well-being. Black and Latinx workers in the greater New Orleans area are invited to take the survey in English or Spanish to help inform this effort.

To listen to the full discussion, use the audio player above or subscribe to the Hidden Truths podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or Android. And if you like what you hear, leave a review for Hidden Truths on your favorite podcast platform.

Read the transcript here or download as a PDF.

To learn more about Ursula Price and LaToya Johnson’s work with the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, visit

COVID-19 Fact Sheet: Black Workers in New Orleans Face Higher Obstacles Than White Workers

A new brief released by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development looks into the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on workers in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana.

As a majority-Black city that was already grappling with deep-seated racial inequality, the global pandemic is dramatically impacting the backbone and soul of New Orleans: Black people.

Not only have Black people in New Orleans accounted for two-thirds of the residents who have died from the coronavirus, but, as workers, they also comprise the lion’s share of the occupations most impacted by COVID-19. Since the pandemic struck, Black people across the US have either lost their jobs or have been classified as essential workers; the latter group has been forced to make decisions between protecting their health or receiving a paycheck.

Policymakers in Louisiana have long ignored the economic security and well-being of the population in its largest city and have now left its residents to work in occupations most at risk of exposure to COVID-19. Black people constitute 79% of all cooks, 87% of all hairdressers, and 84% of home health aides in Orleans Parish, but they only comprise 60% of the population. Women of all races are disproportionately represented in employment as childcare workers, home health aides, and maids and housekeepers. Most working people in these occupations lack paid sick leave or health insurance.

Since the onset of COVID-19, hospitality jobs have declined by nearly 50%, about double the decline of the next closest industry. Cities like New Orleans that rely on tourism and hospitality are likely to experience deeper economic slowdowns, but there is also a growing concern that New Orleans will experience permanent job loss and that Black and Brown people and women will be disproportionately affected.

Click here to read and download the full brief (PDF).

To learn more, listen to our Hidden Truths podcast episode with Ursula Price and LaToya Johnson of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice for an in-depth conversation on “COVID capitalism” and how New Orleans’ Black and Brown workers are fighting for a seat at the table to inform policy and practice.

To Protect Black Joy We Must Re-Imagine Safety

By Anne Price | Medium

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has consistently been rated as one of the most segregated cities in America and one of the worst places for Black people to live. Wisconsin imprisons Black men at the highest rate in the nation; many of them come from Milwaukee. I was raised in an overwhelmingly white suburb just a few miles away.

Living in an all-white suburb doesn’t automatically make you feel safe and certainly does not protect you from unprovoked interactions with police, but I grew up unencumbered by police presence. I never had to think about the police. In fact, I cannot recall even seeing police officers at the mall, at school, or driving by my house. Looking back now, I can see that growing up without visible police presence allowed me the freedom to express myself, find joy, and to make mistakes without traumatic or possibly deadly consequences.

Black people often don’t have the luxury of making silly mistakes as a child or young adult without dire consequences. My lack of contact with police as a child means I can think back now with joy on all of the childhood mistakes I made because, well, I was a child. I have always felt a deep connection to water and unbeknownst to my mom, I would often ride my bike to a beautiful Lake Michigan overlook that was nestled in one of the wealthier neighborhoods in the city, a bit too far from home for a child of my age. I remember the peace and joy it brought me that I would carry into adulthood. One reason I am able to carry that joy into adulthood is that I was never confronted by the police for being in the “wrong place.”

Read and share Anne’s full piece on Medium.