Reports of the demise of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies have been greatly exaggerated.
Well, not exactly. But, the Northwest D.C.-based think tank for African-American elected officials is back, and according to the organization’s president, it’s as vibrant as ever.
In a news release, Spencer Overton, one of the nation’s leading election scholars, who heads the Joint Center, said it’s in better shape financially than it was two years ago when most expected the organization to fold.
“Two years ago, the Joint Center faced significant challenges that threatened the future of the organization,” Overton said. “Today, due to hard work, patience and support of many, I am happy to announce that we confronted and completely absolved these challenges. The Joint Center now has a stable foundation, a growing and committed team and a bright future.”
The organization has been busy.
In August, Overton spoke on a panel at the White House on the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the Voting Rights Act. The organization also released the report “50 Years of Voting Rights Act: The State of Race in Politics,” which was the leading report surrounding the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
The report received national news coverage.
Earlier this year, officials from the Joint Center traveled to Selma, Alabama, and Overton marched with President Barack Obama, Congressman John Lewis, and hundreds of others across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
In 2014, Hazel Trice Edney, founder and editor of Trice Edney Newswire, reported the Joint Center was barely scraping by and that many of its staff had been either laid off or had left the organization. The Joint Center published annual reports to encourage political participation among blacks.
And, at one time, according to North Star News Today, which reports on issues affecting men in the Black community, the Joint Center published a book that included the names of all of the Black-elected officials in each of 50 states.
Overton, who was on sabbatical from his job as a law professor at The George Washington University Law School when he became interim president and CEO of the Joint Center, did not provide any details about the organization’s financial status. He replaced Ralph Everett, who left the Joint Center in February 2014 after serving as president for eight years.
Brian D. Smedley, director of the center’s Health Policy Institute, replaced Everett on an interim basis until Overton took the job without pay. He is now listed as president, not interim president.
“Moving forward, the Joint Center will use roundtables, research reports and social media to provide elected officials with ideas, solutions and best practices that have a positive impact on communities of color,” Overton said.
Last summer, the Joint Center hosted a roundtable with 25 top-elected officials in which they discussed criminal justice, technology, financial services and the energy workforce. Kentucky’s Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Democratic Sen. Corey Booker attended some or all the sessions ,as did many members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The Joint Center also hosted a one-day roundtable on race, gun violence, mass incarnation and policing at George Washington’s law school. Some 40 national leaders attended the conference.
The Joint Center is now scheduled to release a report that examines racial diversity among top U.S. Senate staffs. The report analyzes top Senate staff racial diversity by personnel offices, committees, political party, gender, and states with large populations of color and makes key recommendations for increasing racial diversity.
“Racial diversity in the congressional workforce is important, and the Joint Center looks forward to serving as a resource on this,” Center officials said in a news release.
“The Joint Center has been busy advancing conversations on voting rights, civil rights, race, gun violence, and more,” the release went on to say.