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Blueprint CEO Jacob Walthour Jr. Honored by NJBIZ and ROI NJ

For Immediate Release

March 11, 2021

Blueprint CEO Jacob Walthour Jr.  Honored by NJBIZ and ROI NJ

Newark, NJ – Jacob Walthour Jr., the founder of New Jersey’s first and largest Black asset management firm, Blueprint Capital Advisors, is garnering widespread attention for the work his firm is doing for clients and New Jersey’s Black community. He was recently recognized as part of the NJBIZ ‘Leaders in Finance Awards’ and the ROI Influencers ‘Power List 2021.’ He is no stranger to recognition having been named by Black Enterprise Magazine as one of the Most Influential Blacks on Wall Street.

“I am the son of two parents who never graduated high school yet went on to run a successful, community-based business for over 30 years,” Walthour said. “While they did not achieve educational accolades, they inspired in me a passion for education, entrepreneurship and service. Everything that I do is about providing a return on their investment and showing young people that it doesn’t matter where you start, it only matters what you do with that which you have been given. I am humbled to accept these awards in my parents’ honor.”

According to its website, ROI Influencers’ ‘Power List’ rankings include the 30 most influential people in the state, as well as the most influential people in 14 individual sectors or categories. Walthour was recognized in the Banking & Finance sector. The publication specifically mentioned his advocacy for racial justice: “Co-founded what has grown into one of the nation’s largest Black-managed financial advisory firms and is tireless in promoting the need for more diversity in finance — including suing Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration for not opening the state’s investment arm to more firms of color.”

In 2020, Blueprint Capital sued Murphy, Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio, Division of Investments Director Corey Amon, Larry Fink’s BlackRock, OwlRock Capital, Cliffwater LLC and others for fraud, discrimination, and retaliation.

Walthour is an accomplished financial executive with over 30 years’ experience in capital markets, investment banking, traditional and alternative asset management. Prior to founding Blueprint Capital Advisors, he served as Vice Chairman of Product and Business Development in the investment management division of Cowen & Company. He previously served as Managing Director of Cliffwater LLC and was also a Partner and Managing Director at Citadel Investment Group.

He serves on several corporate boards including Parkview Capital Credit, Inc., Transportation Demand Management LLC. and chaired Ebony Media Holdings through its recently sale.  He has also served on the boards of several non-profit and philanthropic organizations. He currently serves on the Investment Committee for $7 billion Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropy.  He has served the Investment Subcommittee of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America and was a Director of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human, Trustee for the New York Foundation for the Arts, Director of New York Cares and Trustee of the ECLC School for children and adults with learning disabilities.

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Contact: Jennifer R. Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org

Inc. Magazine Awards Figgers Communication “Gold Medal” in the Telecommunications Industry for Its 2020 Best in Business List

For Immediate Release

Dec. 4, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – His story of origin has long left audiences inspired and awestruck. But long after his unlikely start of being abandoned as an infant, Freddie Figgers continues to wow. An engineer, inventor, small-business owner and philanthropist extraordinaire, Figgers is gaining nationwide recognition.

On Dec. 3, Inc. Magazine awarded his company, Figgers Communication, the Gold medal in the telecommunications industry as part of its 2020 Best in Business list. The Best in Business list celebrates companies making an outsized impact on their communities, industries and the broader society.

“While it is never my intention to collect awards, it is flattering to be recognized by Inc. Magazine, a preeminent business publication,” said Freddie Figgers, CEO of Figgers Communication. “Our primary objective has always been to offer superior products coupled with superb service. This award is affirmation that we are delivering on that promise.”

With customized products such as a glucose monitor, F bud earphones, a cellphone, smart wireless charger and more, Figgers Communication is a leader in the telecommunications space. The company, under Figgers’ leadership, developed more than 700 programs and other inventions that are used by prominent brands all around the country. In addition to their for-profit operation, Figgers is also a philanthropist. His foundation has awarded more than 500 scholarships, feed individuals and families in need, and supported children in foster care.

For more information or to speak with Mr. Figgers, please contact Jennifer R. Farmer at jenniferr@spotlightpr.org.

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Prepared Statement of Jacob Walthour Jr. to the New Jersey State Senate

New Jersey State Senate

Prepared Statement

December 3, 2020

 

I am Jacob Walthour, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Blueprint. On behalf of the employees and partners of Blueprint Capital Advisors, I want to thank you for the invitation to address the esteemed co-chairs and members of the Joint Committee on Economic Justice and Equal Opportunity.

Blueprint is the only known African American asset manager domiciled in the State of New Jersey and one of few woman or minority-owned firms to ever have the privilege of managing a portion of the State’s pension fund. I assume that our presence was requested today because of our well-publicized federal lawsuit filed against Governor Murphy and his Division of Investment.  I believe it is the largest discrimination case ever filed in the state of New Jersey and one that I filed after tremendous pain and suffering by members of the Division of Investment and the Department of Treasury who have attempted to shut me up through economic retaliation and humiliation and now they are attempting to cover up their quid pro quo system of operating and the racial animus that underlies their treatment of Blueprint.

I want to be clear that I am not talking about the past.  The current administration is acutely aware of the treatment that we have suffered and in fact members of the Murphy administration have at various times traded turns putting their knee on the back of our economic necks in attempt to squeeze the life out of my firm.  Senator Ron Rice called this an “economic lynching” that has left a stain on the eye of the State of New Jersey.  As a man of faith, I can say that only by the grace of God and the strength of my partners have we survived.

Finally, after years of suffering, begging for justice and pleading for fairness we filed.  We filed and it felt good.  It felt good to tell our story the way a runaway slave felt when he left the boundaries of a plantation and tasted freedom.  Sadly, it felt like slavery.  Having someone intentionally inflict pain on you and continue and continue hoping that they can break your spirit or crush the life out of you is exactly how I felt three years ago.  I decided to write a letter to the Division and express how I felt.  My co-founder Carrie Pickett expressed fear that even my sensitively worded emails might prompt serious retaliation. I wrote the following:

Carrie,

I understand your concern. I need to make sure that WE are heard. If my relationship with Chris ends then it ends. I have been fair and supportive. We just delivered a good idea. In the end, I’m trying to save our firm and not protect the irrational people. Even slaves stood up for themselves. Why are we so scared?”

Unfortunately, my partner was correct and the maltreatment continued.  And despite, the national heads of the big three – the NAACP, The Urban League and the National Action Network contacting Governor Murphy and demanding an investigation into the facts of our complains of blatant discrimination and retaliation, there has never been a sentence written about what happened to Blueprint.  Despite prominent clergy and senior elected officials demanding investigations, Governor Murphy has turned his head.  Meanwhile, his orbit of political appointees have tried to slander Blueprint and myself and convince our supporters and clients to abandon us.  In fact, Corey Amon, the Director of the Division of Investment was caught trying to contact Blueprint’s clients to sabotage our relationships and cause economic harm to our firm.

 

When I testified before you in January, I said that there is a rhetoric and a reality to Phil Murphy.  He claims to be about fairness.  He claims that Black Lives Matter.  He claims to support women’s causes. He claims to be about transparency.  That my distinguished committee members is the rhetoric of Phil Murphy.  The reality of Phil Murphy is that despite discussing disparity studies as a precursor to policy changes – he has yet to commission a disparity study in his first three years.  The reality of Phil Murphy is that his 13 person front office staff had no blacks when I brought it to the attention of Black leaders six months ago.  The reality of Phil Murphy is that he refuses to release statistics on how much business is going to women and minority-owned businesses before and after his administration started.  The reality is that when we uncovered a drinking water crisis in our largest city he boarded a plane to India and abandoned the Newark water crisis.  However, he came back to steal credit shamefully from people who worked hard to fix the problem.

When I testified in January, pre-COVID 19, I talked about the sad reality that while most of New Jerseyans enjoy an economic boom our cities and neighborhoods inhabited by ethnic minorities are suffering from economic depression.  10 months into the pandemic its gotten even worse.    I talked about how the disparities between Blacks and other ethnic groups are embarrassingly wide.  I told you that in New Jersey, the median net worth for white families is $270k while that of black and Latino families is $6k and $7k, respectively.   I told you that while NJ is number 2 or number 3 in terms of per capital income and wealth, that income and wealth is not evenly distributed. And in effect, we have two New Jerseys.  To my surprise Governor Murphy heard me!  And, in his upcoming State of the state address a few weeks later he announced a task force to address economic disparities.  That was in January 2020.  Ladies and gentlemen that was 11 months ago.  I have a question for you…where is the task force?

 

I live in Essex County. Home to both Millburn, which has one of the state’s highest median household incomes at $190k and Newark, which has one of the state’s lowest at $19k. Yes.  The income of a Millburn family 13 miles away from a Newark family is 10x that of the Newark family.  Wouldn’t it be great if a Black person could hop onto Route 78, drive 13 miles and multiply their income by 10 times.  Unfortunately, its not that easy.  Last year, U.S. Census Bureau statistics reveal there are 79,243 people living in poverty in the city of Newark. The population is 280k. That means almost 1/3 of the population is living in poverty. Only 22% of property is owneroccupied. 15% have college degrees. Per capita Income $19k. The unemployment rate is 130% of the national average.  I am a huge fan of Mayor Baraka and County Executive Joe Divincenzo – just like they worked tirelessly at fixing the water crisis they do so solving the everyday problems of Newark.  But where is the state leadership.  Governor Murphy received 94% of the black vote in NJ and has no plan for the state’s largest city and largest Black population where 1/3 (pre-pandemic) of the population is in poverty.  Meanwhile his Republican opponent, Jack Ciataerelli, has developed an extensive plan for Newark that will address decades of economic injustice that has left Newark still with vestiges of the 1960’s riots.  Now, I am not here to campaign for or against Governor Murphy.  However, I think it is telling that a Republican candidate recognizes the plight of New Jersey’s largest city while the Democratic Governor who constantly talks about diversity and fairness ignores it.

Which brings me to my point – if this administration is not willing to address the state’s Black population with honesty and integrity and provide resources and solutions to address the imbalances and disparities, why should I think that he would ever bring himself to help Blueprint or any other Black owned firm.  He hasn’t hired one black to work in the division of investment and it hasn’t had a black investment officer in over 10 years.  Despite legislation, signed into law by him that mandates the DOI to invest with minority owned firms, he has hired one black-owned firm in three years.  We have now issued over 30 OPRA requests to prove the extent of the racism that exists in his administration and the DOI and we have yet to receive one requested email.

There is a quote in the black community that comes from Maya Angelou.  She said that when someone tells you who they are…you have to believe them.  And to quote Former first Lady Michelle Obama, “Being a leader doesn’t change who you are…it reveals who you are.” Governor Murphy has shown us who he is and he certainly has shown me who he is.

“In response to the early data suggesting that the COVID-19 outbreak pandemic is hitting Black communities particularly hard, we are writing to request that the silence on the racial impact of COVID-19 end.” Association of Black Women Attorneys

“What happened to Blueprint (Black-owned business) and its founder, appears to be a modern day lynching and is a stain and a black eye on the state of New Jersey.” Senator Ron Rice, Chair of Caucus of Black Legislators

“Unfortunately, it appears these words of support are just as hollow as ever, failing to translate into real change. While many elected officials are guilty of this disappointing turn, the disappointment is most profoundly with Governor Phil Murphy.”

Brandon McKoy is the president of New Jersey Policy Perspective.

Elise Boddie is the founder and director of The Inclusion Project.

Richard Smith is president of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference

Eric Dobson is the deputy director of the Fair Share Housing Center

Charles Boyer is the founding director of Salvation and Social Justice New Jersey

 

“This is a binding moment for those who say they represent our interests to demonstrate it in a way that is impacting inequities: the high impact of poverty, high unemployment, lack of public contracts, lack of a disparity study being completed.”

John Harmon, AAChamber of Commerce

 

So, when we moved to Newark not only did, we have a Blueprint for Blueprint we had a Blueprint for Newark. We met with the mayor and county executive and received a tremendous response to our plan to employ Newark public school children and Rutgers and Essex County College students with paid internships. We were bringing higher wage jobs typically seen in New York City where you have thriving banking and asset management industries. We would fund local charities and other community programs and bring expertise that could help other minorities start and scale businesses. And, I am proud to say we were currently working with McKinsey, the global consulting firm, on a business accelerator for Newark that can be a model for inner-city, minority communities across the country.

 

Sadly, I must report that we have done all of this not with the state support but in spite of the state. We have run headfirst into the “The Uncomfortable Truth” and we can now support what that report says about New Jersey. As Renee Koubiadis, executive director of the Anti- Poverty Network of New Jersey has said that racism “operates as a perpetuating force and serves as a resistance to change in the historic distribution of wealth.” Her report further said that “Structural racism inhibits the opportunities available to people of color to be productively employed, accumulate wealth and achieve financial stability.”

When we look at the Division of Investment, I see it the way the governor says he sees it – things should be fair.

New Jersey’s population is 50% female. 13.5% black and 13% Latino. However, less than 5% of external assets are managed by MWBE firms. Relative to other states that care about diversity in the execution of their pension New Jersey is 25-30 years behind its peers. Our neighbor right across the Hudson River has over $20 billion invested with MWBE firms or 10% of its total assets. In contrast approximately 5% of New Jersey’s fund is invested with MWBE firms? The New Jersey Fund has hired three MWBE managers in 10 years. There are 14 SIC members and not one female appointee. There has not been one African American or Latino investment officer in over 10 years. According the Derek Greene, the staff threatened to quit if one were hired.  In the last three years, I do not believe that even one new MWBE firm has been approved for direct investment. I don’t have to tell you that we have a problem.

We have a problem. But even worse we don’t have a solution. The disparity here is telling and if we don’t hire more women and minority investment officers’ things will not change. If we don’t appoint more women and minorities to the SIC things will not change. And, I am afraid that unless there is a legislative imperative expressed in terms of goals and timelines, things will not change. Further, if we do not have change the state will suffer in two ways. First, its pension plan will underperform. The truth is that woman and minority managers have strong performance and when they are overlooked and not allocated to the state misses an opportunity to perform at higher levels. And, when the state’s pension doesn’t perform we know who makes up the difference – employees and taxpayers. Second, our communities suffer. Asset management businesses are very profitable enterprises and they have the ability to put minority communities on more solid economic footing as their profits are distributed to churches, non-profits, internships, jobs and business investment.

We are in effect standing in our own way in the quest to right the economic injustices of the past and level the playing field for all in NJ. And, as African American money managers and residents we are not asking for preferential treatment. We are asking for fairness and equity and an opportunity the very promises made by Governor Murphy. I will share with you that as a company our experience with the State has been far short of fair and lacking in equity. And, I often ask myself why is Blueprint being treated this way? The answer gets back to the uncomfortable truth. This state has a race issue. The question is are we going to keep accepting it or are we going to bring about real change? I hope this committee brings about change.

Thank you for the invitation to appear today and I am happy to answer any questions.

Jacob Walthour, Jr.

Chief Executive Officer

Blueprint Capital Advisors

 

Hearings on Economic Justice and Equal Opportunity Will Highlight African American-Owned Businesses Being Disadvantaged in New Jersey

For Immediate Release

Dec. 3, 2020

NEWARK, NJ – With national attention focused on racial justice in the aftermath of the high-profile killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, leaders in New Jersey are focused on the impact of economic injustice on women, African Americans and other people of color in the state. Prodded by Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., Senator Ronald Rice, Senator Chris Brown and Assemblyman Jamel Holley the  reconstituted New Jersey’s Joint Committee on Economic Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity will host a public hearing on economic justice today December 3rd at 11:00 a.m. ET. You may watch here https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/ by following these instructions:

1.Click the button Live Proceedings Red button

2.You will see Unavailable, Pending, Listen, Or View

3. Once you see Listen or View you click on it and it will take you to the video.  If the meeting has not started it will say unavailable or pending.

Today’s hearing comes as countless people of color voice concerns over New Jersey’s entrenched political and economic structure which lacks inclusion and has produced embarrassingly wide economic disparities. The most pronounced example is the racial discrimination, racketeering and fraud lawsuit brought by Blueprint Capital Advisors, a Black-owned firm, against Governor Phil Murphy and the State of New Jersey Division of Investment, BlackRock Alternative Advisors, Owl Rock Capital Corp. and Cliffwater LLC. The suit alleges that Murphy and his aides ran a quid pro quo system and systematically discriminated against Blueprint, the only Black-owned asset management company in the state.  While the Blueprint lawsuit is damning, it is symbolic of the broader challenges facing Black business owners in New Jersey.

“New Jersey provides too few opportunities for minority-owned businesses,” said Attorney and Pastor David Jefferson Sr. “Rather than clearing pathways to economic fairness, this administration unfairly erects them. I applaud Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin who understand the challenges and are creating an avenue for disrupting the status quo.”

The hearing occurs against a backdrop of skyrocketing unemployment and rising poverty levels in New Jersey, a state that has some of the widest income and wealth disparities in the nation despite being among the nation’s highest per capita income states.

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Contact: Jennifer R. Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org

Figgers Foundation to Distribute Food & Hope in Quincy, Jacksonville and Bradenton, Florida; Aims to Serves Close to 3,000 Families for Thanksgiving 

 

For Immediate Release

Nov. 20, 2020

Figgers Foundation to Distribute Food & Hope in Quincy, Jacksonville and Bradenton, Florida; Aims to Serves Close to 3,000 Families for Thanksgiving 

Quincy, Fla. – Freddie Figgers is an inventor, engineer and business owner. But he is also a philanthropist with a heart for persons in need. An inspiring hero who rose from humble beginnings, Figgers, through his Figgers Foundation, is doing his part to serve the Florida community by providing funds, food, food assistance and other services to families in need. Figgers and his foundation are also working to ensure people experiencing homelessness in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties have a safe holiday dinner.

“When our neighbors are in need of love and a helping hand, we willingly rise to the occasion,” said Figgers. “We want to show people who may have lost hope that they are important and deserve a dignified life. With care and understanding, we do our part during the Thanksgiving holiday to maybe help someone forget, for just a moment, life’s trials and tribulations.”

Figgers is one of the youngest African Americans to own and operate an independent, U.S.-based telecommunications company, Figgers Communications. Abandoned at birth and raised by his adoptive parents in Quincy, Florida, Figgers has long lived by the mantra, “we rise by lifting others.”

His foundation issued several grants this holiday season to the following organizations and communities:

Camillus House. On Nov. 19, the Figgers Foundation provided a grant to serve up to 800 homeless individuals and families. Camillus House had 100 volunteers on hand and hosted a feast for 800 individuals. To ensure the safety of clients throughout the pandemic, mealtimes were staggered, allowing no more than 48 clients in the dining hall at any given time. In keeping with tradition, and to serve as many people as possible, both the Figgers Foundation and Camillus have planned to make use of Camillus’ large outdoor courtyard space. On Thanksgiving, the Camillus courtyard will be transformed into an outdoor dining area – replete with tables, chairs, tablecloths, and centerpieces to create the warm feeling of home.

Broward Partnership for the Homeless. The Figgers Foundation provided a grant so the Broward Partnership for the Homeless’ Supportive Housing and Rapid Re-Housing Programs so it can offer wholesome Thanksgiving meals and care packages (consisting of hygiene essentials, personal protective equipment and goodies for the kids). The grant will enable the organization to provide services to approximately 265 men, women and children daily living in 117 households. Of the 265 individuals, 66 are children living with a parent. 

The Faith and Figgers Foundation Initiative. On Nov. 20, the Figgers Foundation distributed 1,000 turkeys as part of its Faith and Figgers Foundation Initiative. The effort served individuals and families in Gadsden and Leon Counties. “Our mission was to ensure men, women and children of Gadsden and Leon Counties had a turkey for their Thanksgiving table,” said Carolyn Newman, executive director of the Figgers Foundation.

Bradenton Turkey Distribution. On Nov. 21, the Figgers Foundation will distribute 300 turkeys to individuals and families in need in Bradenton, Florida. Using space from MCR Health, the foundation will distribute turkeys at Southeast Health Center located at 919 53rd Ave. E, Bradenton, FL 34209 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. This will be a drive-through event, where individuals will be served in their vehicles to ameliorate COVID-19 concerns.

Jacksonville. The Figgers Foundation will partner with Pastor Arthur Jackson to distribute turkeys and supplies at the Sunlife Stadium in Miami. Details are forthcoming.

CONTACT:

For more information, contact Jennifer R. Farmer at jenniferr@spotlightpr.org.

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Black Church PAC Endorses Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris for President and Vice President

For Immediate Release

Black Church PAC Endorses Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris for President and Vice President

Announces Local Endorsements in Georgia and South Carolina as Well 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Black Church PAC today announced its first round of endorsements for the 2020 election cycle. The PAC endorsed:

  • Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris for President/Vice President.
  • Raphael Warnock for U.S. Senate (GA)
  • Jaime Harrison for U.S. Senate (SC)
  • Lucy McBath for U.S. Congress (GA-06)
  • Cori Bush for U.S. Congress (MO-01)

The Black Church PAC was founded in 2017 by Pastor Mike McBride, Bishop Leah Daughtry, the Rev. Dr. Jamal Bryant, Pastor Traci Blackmon, Bishop Frank Reid, Erica and Warryn Campbell, Dr. Iva Carruthers and other leading clergy from across the country. The Black Church PAC is a strategic initiative which engages in selected federal, state and local races deemed consequential to addressing urban gun violence, mass incarceration, voter suppression and economic justice. It aims to elect leaders committed to changing these conditions and championing the equitable treatment of Black communities.

The group will engage and activate one million Black church voters in support of the Biden/Harris ticket, and other endorsed candidates. Through virtual Souls to the Polls events, text-a-thons and phone banks, voter registration drives, and digital organizing workshops, the Black Church PAC will leave no stones unturned to ensure Black voters vote in historic numbers. Details for these activities is outlined here:

Weekly Virtual Text-a-thons and Phone Banking

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET

Black Church PAC Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BlackChurchPAC

 

Voter Readiness Virtual Trainings with Pastor Traci Blackmon

Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m. ET

Black Church PAC Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BlackChurchPAC

 

Digital Organizing Trainings with Rahiel Tesfamariam

Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. ET

Black Church PAC Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BlackChurchPAC

 

Souls to the Polls with Rev. Dr. Jamal Bryant

Thursdays at 7:00 p.m. ET

All events will be streamed from the Black Church PAC Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BlackChurchPAC and the PAC’s YouTube Page: bit.ly/bcpyoutube

Visit BlackChurchPAC.org for more information.

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Contact: Jennifer R. Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org

 

Noted Human Rights Attorney and Black Power Scholar Nkechi Taifa Releases Debut Book

For Immediate Release

Aug. 25, 2020

WASHINGTON – Human rights advocate Nkechi Taifa today announced the publication of her debut book, “Black Power, Black Lawyer: My Audacious Quest for Justice.” The work is a nod to the Black Power movement she grew up in, and chronicles how the leaders of that era influenced her thinking, advocacy and life’s work. The tome teaches, preaches, rhapsodizes and tantalizes. In documenting her story, Taifa pauses to highlight the figures that inspired her and that laid the groundwork for today’s Black Lives Matter movement.

“The period that influenced me most was the Black Power era,” said Nkechi Taifa, a human rights advocate, convener of the Justice Roundtable and reparations expert. “But this period of our history has been swept under the rug, and in most cases, outright erased. You do not hear about Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Chokwe Lumumba and others. You don’t hear about the Black Liberation Movement of yesterday or the COINTELPRO that led to a number of political prisoners, some of them are still incarcerated today. But the groundwork these freedom-seekers laid impacts us today. The progress we witness today had its roots in the Black Power movement. We would not be where we are today were it not for those early freedom fighters.”

Black Power, Black Lawyer threads critical periods, connecting the dots of the continuum for justice from yesteryear’s freedom fighters to today’s liberationists. The book is a watershed intellectual autobiography and should be required reading for students of history, African American history, law and feminism.

Of “Black Power, Black Lawyer,” noted historian Greg Carr, Phd, said: “One of the many gifts of Black Power/Black Lawyer is that Nkechi sets a roadmap for searching out the lives and memories of the ancestors who trained her. Queen Mother Audley Moore transitioned before she could leave a memoir. She is in these pages, as are Baba Imari Abubakari Obadele, Baba Chokwe Lumumba and Mama Frances Cress Welsing, among so many others. In gifting us with this text, Nkechi brings them and many others along with her, and sparks our memories of each person, demanding that we join her in an exercise of requiem, remembrance and recommitment to principled struggle.”

Taifa’s powerful, passionate and personal memoir adds to the repertoire of civil rights books, but focuses extensively on Black liberation, a critical theme for today’s challenging times. Kirkus Reviews had this to say about the book, “… this is … a powerful, important book.  An engaging memoir of not just a fascinating woman, but a history of a movement.”

 

 

 

Grassroots Law Project Joins Councilwoman Anita Springsteen in Urging Democratic Gov. Jared Polis to Ban Use of Ketamine in Colorado

For Immediate Release

Grassroots Law Project Joins Councilwoman Anita Springsteen in Urging Democratic Gov. Jared Polis to Ban Use of Ketamine in Colorado

SAN FRANCISCO – Following the 2019 death of Elijah McClain, the Grassroots Law Project (GLP) today joined Councilwoman Anita Springsteen in urging Democratic Gov. Jared Polis to bar law enforcement from using Ketamine to subdue and restrain citizens. This comes after Lakewood City Councilwoman Anita Springsteen sent a letter to Gov. Polis on July 29, urging him to block usage of the analgesic. Similarly, Black Lives Matter activists have also questioned use of the substance.

“Although I am a Councilwoman, I have been unsuccessful in garnering clear support of this issue from other city leadership,” said Lakewood City Councilwoman Anita Springsteen in her letter to the governor. “In fact, there are continuing efforts to silence and intimidate me, but I am committed to saving lives and doing my part to prevent the grief that Elijah McClain’s mother experiences each day.”

In 2.5 years, medics in Colorado administered ketamine to 902 people, according to KUNC. Relatedly, they found that 17% of Ketamine injections result in complication and that 1 in 5 victims must be intubated. The substance is so harmful that the American Society of Anesthesiologists and its vice president, Dr. Randall Clark, warned on July 15, 2020 that they “firmly opposes the use of ketamine or any other sedative/hypnotic agent to chemically incapacitate someone for a law enforcement purpose and not for a legitimate medical reason.” More than 2 million people signed a petition urging law enforcement to cease using the fatal substance.

On July 21, KUNC reported that “The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has issued waivers allowing doctors to oversee 101 agencies that are approved to use ketamine for excited delirium.”

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Contact: Jennifer R. Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org

Councilwoman Springsteen Letter to Gov. Jared Polis re Use of Ketamine by Law Enforcement

Anita Springsteen, Esq.

P.O. Box 19700

Denver, CO 80219

 

Governor Jared Polis

Office of the Governor

State of Colorado

136 State Capitol Building

Denver, CO 80203

 

July 29, 2020

RE: REQUEST FOR BAN ON THE USE OF KETAMINE/CHEMICAL RESTRAINT ON CIVILIANS

Dear Governor Polis:

I am writing to ask you stop another death like Elijah McClain’s by issuing an executive order to stop the use of Ketamine/chemical restraint, which is improperly being used for law enforcement purposes.  Not another day can go by with a state policy that allows this abuse of power and denial of civil liberties.  Protestors will boil over if Colorado leaders turn a blind eye after being put on notice if this tragedy happens again.

It is clear Ketamine injection caused the death of Elijah McClain, and also caused the need for Advanced Life Support for Elijah McKnight and Jeremiah Axtell.  KUNC reported that Ketamine has been used in Colorado at least 902 times in the past two years.  They found that 17% of Ketamine injections result in complication and that 1 in 5 victims must be intubated.  Fox 31 has reported on the serious consequences of this policy for nearly a year, which prompted a national petition signed by millions.  How many deaths or serious injuries have there been?  How many must there be to investigate?

West Metro Fire District records show that since 2016, its first responders have used Ketamine on average every 4 days.  Alarmingly, the use is rapidly increasing in frequency.  West Metro has used Ketamine every 1.4 days since the George Floyd protests began.  This begs the question, is Ketamine the new “knee in the neck”?  And what is the relationship with law enforcement?

The American Society of Anesthesiologists and its vice president, Dr. Randall Clark, issued a statement on July 15, 2020 warning: “The American Society of Anesthesiologists firmly opposes the use of ketamine or any other sedative/hypnotic agent to chemically incapacitate someone for a law enforcement purpose and not for a legitimate medical reason.”  The ASA does not endorse the use of Ketamine outside of a hospital setting and careful monitoring, as it is a potent analgesic.

Potential Vice-Presidential candidate, Congresswoman Karen Bass, questioned U.S. Attorney General Barr about the McClain case and the use of Ketamine to subdue civilians, and especially people of color, during Barr’s testimony before the House Judicial Committee yesterday.  The Attorney General was unaware of this practice.  But the nation is finally waking up to this dirty little secret and shocking civil rights abuse.

Dr. Kimberly Portzline, PharmD, MBA, (who endorses this letter) has done extensive research on Ketamine policy and medicine.  She discovered that the originating 2009 study that is used as justification has been disavowed by its original publishers, the American College of Emergency Physicians.  “Excited delirium”, used to justify sedation, is not a medically accepted term and not part of the DSM V.  Please find attached the 2009 White Paper and the 2016 ACEP disavowal.

Even so, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, who issues the waivers, is not acting to stop this.  This power to suspend a citizen’s right to informed medical consent should not rest with the CDPHE.

I video recorded and witnessed the use of Ketamine on a civilian who was compliant, calm, and cooperative in January 2020 – so I have first-hand experience with the problem.  Most people who are victims of this policy are not fortunate enough to have video proof of misuse, so this must serve as a wake-up call.  We have a duty to protect those people who have no way to protect themselves.

Although I am a City Councilwoman in Lakewood, I have been unsuccessful in garnering clear support of this issue from other city leadership.  In fact, there are continuing efforts to silence and intimidate me.  However, I will not remain silent with this knowledge that can save lives and prevent the grief that Elijah McClain’s mother experiences each day.

Please help me to prevent the next Elijah and issue an executive order stopping this alarming policy.  Please also launch an investigation into the cases in which civilians have been injected with Ketamine thus far.  We must get to the bottom of this.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best Regards,

 

 

Anita Springsteen, Esq.

 

Endorsement: Dr. Kimberly Portzline, PharmD, MBA

 

Cc: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

       American Civil Liberties Union

       Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser

 

 

Racial Justice Activist and Social Media Influencer Shaun King to Kickoff Multi-City Virtual Book Tour For ‘Make Change’

For Immediate Release

Aug. 3, 2020

Racial Justice Activist and Social Media Influencer Shaun King to Kickoff Multi-City Virtual Book Tour For ‘Make Change’

WASHINGTON – Noted racial justice activist and social media influencer Shaun King today announced a book tour for his sophomore project “Make Change.” A former pastor, unrelenting fighter for police accountability, and advocate for families whose loved ones have been killed by police, King brings his decades’ long experience working for change onto the pages of this book. He details how the death of Eric Garner at the hands of police, and subsequent police killings of John Crawford, Ezell Ford and others, ignited in him an unquenchable drive to hold police accountable and to challenge injustice. The book is a clarion call inviting others to continue fighting for justice and to believe in the possibility of change.

Beginning August 4, the multi-city virtual tour will make stops in Atlanta, Baltimore, Brooklyn, Chicago, Los Angeles, Louisville, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Tampa, Washington, D.C. and more than 50 other cities. The first event is on Tuesday, August 4 at 2:00 p.m. ET and is a live online book signing. For a complete list of tour events, see: https://www.makechangebook.com/.

“From Emmett Till to Amadou Diallo to Sandra Bland to Trayvon Martin, there is a history in this country of unarmed, nonviolent Black men and women meeting brazen killers who refuse to value Black lives,” said Shaun King, activist, podcaster, social media influencer and an co-founder of the social justice enterprises, Grassroots Law Project and Real Justice PAC. “I will spend the rest of my life fighting to end this cycle of violence and to bring purveyors of race-based harm to justice.”

The widely anticipated publication enjoys the support of progressive leaders, celebrities and national and local change agents. The book’s foreword was written by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and was endorsed by professor and National Book Award Winner Ibram X. Kendi, rapper Cardi B, music mogul Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, professional soccer player and activist Megan Rapinoe, San Francisco reform District Attorney Chesa Boudin, and progressive champion Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The audiobook’s chapters have introductory remarks by famed leaders including Ilyasah Shabazz, S. Lee Merritt, Ady Barkan, Tamika Mallory, Busta Rhymes, Tan France, the family of Breonna Taylor, Carmen Perez, Cedric the Entertainer, Charlamagne tha God, Lecrae, and Rev. Polk. The 272-page non-fiction work is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Publishers Weekly said King’s “…fervent exhortation succeeds in making the case that the time for progressives to act is now.” Book critic Grace Jackson-Brown characterized King as a magnet for many seeking a way forward to a more equitable America,” in a review she wrote for Booklist.

In promoting the book, King made an intentional decision to engage Black-owned bookstores by hosting his talks collaboratively with these staples of the community.

To schedule an interview with King, or learn more about the book and tour, contact Jennifer Farmer at jenniferr@spotlightpr.org.

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