By Frederick H. Lowe
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank for black-elected officials, is in better shape financially than it was two years ago when it was on life support, Spencer Overton, the organization’s president, wrote in the Joint Center’s most-recent newsletter.
“Two years ago, the Joint Center faced significant challenges that threatened the future of the organization,” Overton wrote. “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.”
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, the organization 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 Law School when he became interim president and CEO of the Joint Center, did not provide any details about the organization’s financial status. Overton replaced Ralph Everett who left the Joint Center in February 2014 after serving as president eight years.
Dr. 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 wrote.
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. U.S. Senators Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Corey Booker, D-N.J., 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 Law School. Some 40 national leaders attended the conference.
The Joint Center next week is scheduled to release a report that examines racial diversity among top U.S. Senate staffs.