Ferguson Top of Mind but Congressional Black Caucus Talks Up Its New Website

Rep. Chaka Fattah
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Some reporters ask Congressional leaders to address tough issue of police/community relations
by Burney Simpson 
Staff Reporter
The NorthStar News & Analysis

A press conference on Wednesday at the Congressional Black Caucus44th Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, announcing a communications project instead raised issues that face the organization as the nation continues to react  to this summer’s police killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, in Ferguson, Mo.
Rep. Chaka Fattah ( D., Pa.) president of the Congressional Black Caucus’s Foundation and chairman of its board of directors, launched thePermanence Project, which when up and running will provide information, opinion, data, and research on issues central to African Americans. “We want to be the authentic link” to policy information, and create “a discussion based on facts so citizens can be empowered and their voices heard,” Fattah said.

The Permanence Project is is built on a cloud-based  web platform. Technical development of the site was led by Matchbook Learning and designed by Philadelphia-based Defined Clarity. 

The initial partner on the project is the Young Invincibles, a national organization representing Americans between 18 and 34 that focuses on higher education, health care and jobs. The organization released in June the Closing the Race Gap study that found that African American millennials (18-to-34 years old) had an unemployment rate of 16.6 percent, more than twice the national unemployment rate for the same age group.

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the Washington, D. C.-based nonprofit arm of the 42-member CBC, is seeking 1,000 beta testers of the website, and plans call for the site to launch in the first quarter of 2015. People can register for beta project online at Permanence Project Beta.

Some reporters, however, were less interested in the website and instead asked about events in Ferguson, where demonstrations following the shooting were met by local police with military-style armored vehicles and other equipment supplied under the Defense Department’s 1033 program.  

U.S. Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., of  Georgia, however, defended the program.
In addition to military equipment, Sanford explained that the 1033  program also provides medical and disaster-related equipment that many communities can’t afford.

Bishop, the ranking minority member of the House Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, however, noted that there is a need for more community-oriented policing programs designed to defuse tensions with local police. 

The issue of African-American relations with the police will be an important topic of discussion at the conference.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan will hold a caucus session on “The Cost of Policing and Incarceration: Reflections on Ferguson”  today. The conference is hosting more than 70 scheduled policy sessions including many that focus on relations between the police and black community.

The theme of the conference, which ends Saturday, is “It Starts With You.”

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