500 Black State Legislators Address Voting Rights and Other Issues in Atlanta

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A panel comprised civic and social justice leaders discussed "Charting the Course for Our Communities" at NBCSL's Annual Legislative Conference. Pictured from left to right: Cheryl Pryor, Indiana State Representative; Janice L. Mathis, Executive Director National Council of Negro Women; Carlos Moore, Judge and National Bar Association President; Shavon Arline-Bradley, Principal R.E.A.C.H. Beyond and President, Delta 4 Women in Action; Derrick Johnson, President of the NAACP; Melanie Campbell, President, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; and Marc Morial, President, National Urban League.

Over 500 Black State Legislators from across the United States left the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) Annual Legislative Conference last weekend recommitted to addressing voting rights, health care, education, and other important issues that are impacting African American communities. Presently, more than 20 states have passed laws that will make it harder for millions of Americans to vote.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris prepared recorded remarks that were shown during the Annual Awards Ceremony for the conference attendees. “We have a White House that looks like America,’ said President Biden. In her remarks, Vice President Harris said, “We must have a national baseline for voting rights.”

“Georgia is ground zero for voter suppression,” said NBCSL President Billy Mitchell (GA). “One of NBCSL’s goals is to ensure that we support and provide the framework needed for Black Legislators to better represent their communities, which is a major reason why we’re creating a Public Policy Research Institute (PPRI),” he said.

The Institute will represent the nation’s only nonpartisan think tank dedicated to providing evidenced-based public policy research to state legislators with a focus on issues concerning the Black community. “In addition, PPRI will provide leadership development and training for legislators to assist them in constructing and analyzing new public policy,” said President Mitchell.

Vice President Harris was presented with the David P. Richardson Jr. National Nation Builder Award for her significant contributions and for laying the foundation for political progress of African Americans. The inaugural 2021 International Nation Builder Award was presented to Nana Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana.

“President Akufo-Addo’s leadership demonstrates his commitment to public service, the Republic of Ghana, and the global African community,” said Mitchell. “He advocates guaranteeing the rights of Ghanian citizens and is a champion for justice, freedom, and democracy.”

Darnella Frazier, the Minneapolis, Minnesota teenager who recorded the video of George Floyd’s arrest and death in 2020, received the Senator Regis F. Groff Youth Award for her courage and being the catalyst for demonstrations and a worldwide movement to admonish racial and social injustice.

Darnella Frazier, the teenager who used her mobile phone to video tape George Floyd’s arrest and death in Minneapolis in May 2020, stands holding NBCSL’s Youth Award that she received for her courage and motivating millions of people worldwide to demonstrate for racial and social justice.

The late Congressman John Lewis was posthumously honored with NBCSL’s Nation Award for his years of service as a civil rights leader and politician, while 92 year-old recently elected Tennessee State Representative Barbara Ward Cooper received the Living Legend Award for her decades – long dedication to youth and the Black community in Memphis. The CROWN Coalition also was a National Nation Builder Award recipient for the group’s efforts that resulted in the 2019 passage of the CROWN Act in California, legislation that was written to end hair discrimination and expand legal protections for people of color who choose to wear natural hair in the workplace and in public and charter schools. The CROWN Coalition is a national alliance founded by Dove, the National Urban League, Color of Change, and Western Center on Law & Poverty. To date, 14 states and 29 municipalities have enactedThe CROWN Act, or laws inspired by the CROWN Act.

Tennessee State Representative Barbara Ward Cooper, who is 92 years old, stands next to NBCSL President Billy Mitchell after she received NBCSL’s Living Legend Award. Also pictured are members of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators.
Co-creators of the CROWN Act Coalition received NBCSL’s Nation Builder Award. Pictured left to right are CROWN Act co-creator Kelli Richardson Lawson; NBCSL President Billy Mitchell; and Crown Act co-creators Adjoa B. Asamoah and Orlena Nwokah Blanchard.

Renee Montgomery, a former WNBA player All-star, was the Georgia State Recipient of the Nation Builder Award. She is presently one of the owners and Vice President of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream and operates The Renee Montgomery Foundation which serves the Atlanta community and focuses on voter registration and educating the community on local, state-wide, and national election processes.

In addition, Texas State Representative Senfronia Thompson received the Legislator of the Year Award while State Representative Jasmine Crockett, also from Texas, was the recipient of the Freshman Legislator of the Year Award. Steve Hightower, President and CEO of Hightower’s Petroleum Company, was given the Corporate Achievement & Image Award.

NBCSL’s Annual Legislative Conference distinguished guest speakers provided input on a wide range of issues that impact black and brown communities from Covid-19 to criminal justice reform, voting rights, health care, the upcoming 2022 mid-terms elections, increasing home ownership opportunities, and social justice.

Speakers included civil rights icon Andrew Young; Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Marcia Fudge; National Urban League President, Marc Morial; NAACP President, Derrick Johnson; National Council of Negro Women Executive Director, Janice Mathis; and National Bar Association President, Judge Carlos Moore.

The 2022 NBCSL Annual Legislative Conference will be held in Las Vegas.

To learn more about NBCSL, visit www.nbcsl.org


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