“Something’s in the Wind”
John E. Harmon, Sr. | 3/13/2018, 6:49 a.m.
For several months now I have been working with a number of representatives from groups that advocate on behalf of New Jersey’s 1.1 million African American residents. The sole purpose of these meetings is to discuss the host of challenges within the African American demographic: Poverty, unemployment, K-12 public education, housing, criminal justice, contract opportunities, and cannabis legalization to name a few, and then prioritize an agenda to engage elected officials. Contrary to the myth that African Americans cannot work together, I must say that the discussions have been very productive. Below is a list of some of the points of discussion:
Restoration, funding and staffing for the office of the Public Advocate, Division of Equal Employment and Affirmative Action and the Division of Civil Rights.
Full Support and implementation of the current Mt. Laurel Housing Decision Process.
Reinstate New Jersey’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise program utilizing the Essex County model. In addition, we ask for a disparity study and a cabinet level position focused on management and enforcement. This initiative requires additional state support for entrepreneurs and small businesses in New Jersey’s urban communities.
Full and fair funding for public schools and an aggressive effort towards successful integration of public schools.
Careful consideration before marijuana legalization to ensure revenue is directed to communities impacted by the war on drugs, immediate expungement, and access to the market place for African Americans.
Require Racial Impact Statements for all legislation and regulations to evaluate the consequences new and existing laws have on black communities.
Ensure access to the Public Bank and various financial resources (e.g. EDA, HMFA, etc.) by providing incentives, goals, and training for African American communities.
Eliminate youth prisons and prioritize funding for community-based alternatives to incarceration with treatment and wrap-around services. Codify and enforce the Attorney General’s stationhouse adjustments directive.
Adopt automatic voter registration (AVR), a reform that would modernize the state’s election system and dramatically increase the number of voters who participate in our elections. Under AVR, eligible citizens who interact with participating government agencies—such as the Motor Vehicle Commission—are automatically registered to vote unless they opt-out. In addition, end New Jersey’s practice of denying the right to vote to people with criminal convictions, and restore voting rights for all people in prison, on parole, or on probation.
In addition to these priorities we would like to see robust African American inclusion on boards, commissions, management of state pension funds, the judiciary and tasks forces, in order to ensure that representative government is representative of our constituency. In order to facilitate ongoing communication, our goal is a standing quarterly meeting to evaluate priorities, issues and opportunities for New Jersey’s African Americans. We are confident that we will see a just and equitable New Jersey for every citizen regardless of race and socio-economic status and look forward to establishing and working with the requisite representatives in government. Our engagement with elected officials to date has been primarily at the state level; with both Democrats and Republicans, as well as with the Murphy Administration. We have a targeted list of people that we plan to meet with and engage in dialogue on these critical issues. To date, we have only met with a handful of these important decision makers but the discussions have been encouraging.