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).

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).

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. 

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.

Black and Brown Owned Businesses Hit Hardest by COVID-19 Pandemic

This fact sheet based on data by Robert Fairlie and released by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development shows that across the United States, businesses owned by Black, Latinx, and Asian people have closed down at an alarming rate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent estimates, for example, show that 40 percent of the revenues of Black-owned businesses are more likely to be in sectors most impacted by the pandemic including leisure, hospitality and retail. Between February and April of 2020, more than 3 million small businesses closed dow n across the county. Businesses owned by people of color, women, and immigrants were most severely harmed, closing down faster than the national average. White owned businesses have closed down at a much slower rate, the only group to see a smaller share of businesses close than the national average.

Small businesses serve vital roles in our economy, particularly for people who are denied opportunities by employers and the job market. For Black and Brown people, small businesses are often the only pathway to economic security and/or a job where their dignity stays intact. As federal and state governments work to address the economic fallout of the pandemic, they must center businesses owned by people of color and women to ensure they are able to survive during and after the pandemic.

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

Rules of Our Economy Are Harming People of Color, Women, and Immigrants During COVID-19

This fact sheet released by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development provides an analysis of a selection of jobs most likely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in California.

The jobs most at risk are overwhelmingly low-wage jobs, held primarily by people of color, women, and immigrants. With a median annual income of just $22,900 a year, these jobs pay poorly and have little to no benefits, making it so workers are unlikely to have savings to fall back on while weathering the effects of the pandemic. As California grapples with the necessary disruption to everyday life, communities with the least amount of power are dealing with the worst economic consequences.

Without meaningful interventions from state and federal governments, workers of color and women will be left struggling with the fallout from COVID-19 for decades to come.

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

Spell It with a Capital “B”

By Anne Price, President

“When a copyeditor deletes the capital “B,” they are in effect deleting the history and contributions of my people.” – Lori L. Thompson

Last week, in a step to modernize and commit to greater inclusion, The Brookings Institution, a well-established Washington D.C. think tank, announced that it would update its writing style guide to capitalize “Black” when referencing Black or African American people. For Brookings, this is not merely a typographical change but, rather, an intentional effort to recognize how people’s experiences are represented.

While there’s no standard rule on whether references to race should be lowercase or capitalized, most media outlets and publications that rely on the AP Stylebook refer to Black people in the lowercase. The APA style calls for capitalized Black and White, and The Chicago Manual of Style allows the authors to capitalize Black based on their preference. Major news outlets like The New York Times and the Associated Press both use lowercase black and white.

The question of how to properly refer to Black people in print has deep historical roots. In an 1878 editorial entitled “Spell it with a Capital,” Ferdinand Lee Barnett, husband of Ida B. Wells and founder of a Black weekly newspaper, asserted that the failure of white people to capitalize Negro was to show disrespect to, stigmatize, and “fasten a badge of inferiority” on Black people. In 1898, sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois proclaimed, “I believe that eight million Americans deserve a capital letter.”

This is precisely why capitalizing Black also matters…

Read Anne’s full piece here >>

Old Ways Wont Open New Doors sign

Remaking America’s Promise for the Next Generation

Anne Price | Medium

Last week, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren unveiled a sweeping plan to tackle a $1.5 trillion student debt crisis to address our higher education system that is holding back generations of Americans. Her proposal calls for wiping out student debt of up to $50,000 for 42 million working and middle class Americans. Moreover, 90 percent of those who are burdened with student debt but dropped out of college would also benefit. The proposal makes all public colleges’ tuition and fees free, adds $100 billion in Pell grants over ten years, and creates a $50 billion fund for HBCUs (historically black colleges) and other minority-serving institutions. Senator Warren plans to pay for it with an annual 2 percent tax on families with $50 million or more in wealth.

Warren’s plan is sparking a debate about the scale of federal support needed to address the student loan crisis and surfacing narratives about fairness and deservedness. It also provides us the opportunity to examine how corporate power and anti-Black racism is depriving an entire generation of young people from getting ahead, whether that’s buying a home, saving for retirement, starting a family, or launching a business. Student debt ultimately serves as a multigenerational debt anchor that causes unrelenting stress, financial strain, and a spiraling cycle of debt.

Who carries debt and who defaults on their loans is racialized and gendered. About 11.5 percent of student loans are in default. According to the New York Federal Reserve, borrowers between the ages of 40 to 49 have the worst delinquency rates. It is estimated that in the next five years, 40 percent of borrowers are likely to default.

Last month we released a report about millennial women — defined as those born between 1980 and 1997— showing that two-thirds of student debt ($900 billion) is owed by women. And roughly $700 billion of outstanding loan balances are held by Americans under 40.

Click here to read the full piece on Medium.