The first National Action Network’s (NAN) “Policy Forum and Hill Day” was held July 8 and 9 at the Cannon Office and Dirksen Office Buildings in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill. Reverend Al Sharpton, President and Founder of NAN and host of the MSNBC weekday program “PoliticsNation,” created the event to “bring together National Action Network Chapter Leaders and members as well as our partners and leaders in the civil rights community to focus on pressing issues, policies, and legislation to work on concrete ways to achieve Dr. King’s dream.” The forum was free but registration was required.
July 8 topics covered Voting Rights, Immigration Reform, Criminal Justice and Technology. Day two topics were Jobs and the Economy and Education.
Janaye Ingram, Acting Director of NAN, greeted the audience, gave the purpose and overview of the forum, and introduced panels in each of the subject matters. Sharpton also appeared and made his introductions.
The forum was a great opportunity to meet and hear those who continually work in a progressive format in their profession of expertise on each topic. They were the people you sometimes see on television, in your constituency, or working behind closed doors to make America a better and more democratic place to live. The panels consisted of top attorneys, civic and civil rights leaders, and senior management from various organizations.
Congressional attendees who participated were Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Ranking Member, Science, Space and Technology Committee; Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD); Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN); Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC). Clyburn’s daughter Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), was also present at the forum.
Other connoisseurs included Pratt Wiley, National Director, Voter Protection, Democratic National Committee (DNC); Gina McCarthy, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Nicole C. Lee, Esq. Immediate Past President, TransAfrica; Angela Rye, Principal, Impact Strategy; Yohance Maqubela, Executive Director, Howard University Middle School, STEM Program and David Johns, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence; among others.
All topics discussed were vital for dialogue however the issue of voting rights was brought up throughout the forum. Due to the case of Shelby County v. Holder, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was fundamentally destroyed by the Supreme Court in June 2013.
The forum brought out in the Voting Rights segment that advocates are needed to emphasize the importance of blacks going to the polls, the low turnout which occurred recently in many districts, voter identification laws, how emphasis will be highlighted in the month of August and whether the casting of votes could be done online. The panel under the Voting Rights topic was moderator Gregory T. Moore, Democracy Initiative; Tanya Clay House, Director of Public Policy, Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights; Albert Sanders Jr., Counsel, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee; Lisa Bornstein. Legal Director and Senior Legal Advisor, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; and Melanie Campbell, President and CEO, National Black Civic Participation.
Material was passed around to the audience on voting information. An important piece of literature was from Penda D. Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project. Her article can be viewed below.
A worthwhile, meaningful and valuable two-day forum, hopefully this initiative will continue for years to come.