Monday, October 15, 2012

7 Tips for Volunteer Coordinators

1. Have specific duties for your Volunteers  
Door Knocking, Stuffing Envelopes or other specific duties. Volunteers like to know and feel they are accomplishing a task. Have one designated for them so they feel their time is being valued.

2. Have the work prepared when your Volunteers arrive
People in general do not operate well in confusion. Nothing is more confusing than a volunteer watching a supervisor putting their work together at the last minute. Have things planned in advance as much as possible. It will help things go smoother and cut down on confusion. Furthermore, volunteers came ready to work, so utilize that time for that purpose. 

3. Tell them how their task contributes to the overall mission
Their work helps the organization. But volunteers NEED to know HOW. People need to feel connected to their work and the overall mission. This relationship further enhances performance and morale. Stress to volunteers how their role plays an integral part of the overall mission.

4. Give them tokens
Something about free thank you gifts resonate with individuals. Gifts not only demonstrate appreciation and compassion, but they make volunteers feel valued.

5. Provide healthy snacks and water
You can't expect your volunteers to work hard with nourishing items throughout the day. Items such as water, fruit, and nuts are helpful for volunteers both mentally and physically. Volunteers are able to remain engaged and focus if snacks are available to them.

6. Give your Volunteers titles
Titles often allow for ownership of a project. Volunteers enjoying fulfilling a role and that fulfillment will carry over into a position that has an official title. They will appreciate them.

7. Always Say Thank YOU!
Say Thank YOU to each Volunteer for their time. Instead of dedicating their time for your organization, they could be doing a number of things.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The GOP's Undeclared Privilege Argument for Voter ID

On Saturday, August 18th, the Melissa Harris Perry show dedicated an entire segment to voter identification laws and restrictions that have recently occurred across the country. On the show, she presented the 41 states that have introduced a combined 180 pieces of legislation on voting. With a left-leaning panel and one and a half conservatives (not sure about Challean, DC Bureau Chief of Yahoo News), a member of the Republican Party subtly stated the GOP's case for voter laws.

Yes, there are the obvious cases.  It has been proven that voter restriction laws mirror poll taxes and literacy tests of the late 1800s and early 1900s. There is also the "show me your papers" law that although now has been directed towards Hispanic and Latino communities, used to heavily apply to African Americans as a means for them to also prove that they too belong in this country. But there is one other piece of voter restriction laws that Katon Dawson, a Republican consultant from South Carolina tacitly stated, "Voting is a right not an entitlement, but you have to exercise that right." Here I take a deep sigh as  I write these words: Good ol' South Carolina. Leave it to the South to address voting.

Just before that in an separate panel earlier on the Melissa Harris Perry show, Nicole Austin-Hillery of the Brennan Center emphatically stated, "Voting is a right. It is not a privilege." When Dawson stated his above statement, he did so in a patent attempt to agree with Hillery....except he did not. Instead, he actually did the opposite of stating that voting is a right with his independent clause of, "...but you have to exercise that right." In doing so, he pivoted from voting being a right to a privilege.

While the current voter restriction laws do in fact resemble earlier periods in our nation's history on limiting and deterring African Americans from voting, the first and primary limitation was the right to own property. Property ownership was a privilege exercised by few. In the 1800s,  wealthy, white men were the only people allowed to vote because they owned property. Property at this time consisted of physical land as well as slaves.

As time progressed, that standard changed. The nation's qualifications for voting evolved to a lowered voting age, and eventually included poor white Southern males, white women, black men, and finally black women. Thus for over 140 years, the only requirement to be able to vote was citizenship--until now. Due to small government intervention and lack of  regulation in 2008, economic challenges unraveled this country. The various sectors of the economy essentially "bottomed-out," leaving the economy in a free-fall. The results of the poor economy among many things were record poverty numbers.

Minorities were hit the hardest. According to the Kaiser Foundation, the poverty rate for minorities soared to 35%, more than double the rate of non-minorities and has since leveled at 27% for African Americans and 25% for Hispanics. Economic mobility for minorities, particularly African Americans have stalled. The rate of foreclosures disproportionately affected minorities.  The study by the Center for Responsible Lending found that whites made up the majority of the 2.5 million foreclosures completed between 2007 and 2009 -- about 56 percent -- but that minority communities had significantly higher foreclosure rates. While about 4.5 percent of white borrowers lost their homes to foreclosure during that period, black and Latino borrowers had 7.9 and 7.7 percent foreclosure rates, respectively. That means that blacks and Latinos were more than 70 percent more likely to lose their homes to foreclosure during that period, the study found. Overall, blacks lost about 240,020 homes to foreclosure, while Latinos lost about 335,950 in 2009-2010.

Those unaffected by the 2008 economy still reap the benefits.  1--5% of the nation's wealthy avoided the severe impact of the failed economy. With record-breaking wealth and low tax rates, I would argue the nation's wealth has been redistributed upwards in a manner that created a small elite that is socially and economically secure. The same type of elite that resembles the elite of the past...those deemed eligible to vote--wealthy, white men. In today's terms, wealthy just simply means not poor. And although older and college-aged white men will be impacted by voter identification laws, the classifications of those who were disproportionately affected by the economic crises are the same classification of people who will be disproportionately impacted by voter restriction laws. 

The downward trend of economic mobility or economic immobility of minorities has left a significant number of minorities without "property." In fact, minorities have been endowed with decreased proprietorship and resources, the equivalent of what would constitute in the 1800s as privilege--the necessary item as a right to vote.

Those without that right, both in past and present forms, will face greater hurdles at the voting booth this both piercing and calculating ways because there are those who still perceive voting as an exclusive privilege in which one should be economically astute to cast a vote. These individuals will constantly seep the reminder that voting at one period in time only pertained to that of an elite class.

I raise this analysis because as Ta-niesi Coates of the Atlantic writes,"It's critically important that we not think of these new laws as anything particularly "new." They are but restatements of our oldest pathologies. A deep-seated fear of bestowing full American citizenship on non-whites, and particularly on blacks, has a long and ugly history in this country."

What we're witnessing  are extant methods of voter infringement and the recurrence of what constitutes voting as a privilege. It is a privilege to own property in the United States. It is a privilege to acquire economic mobility. It is a privilege to have resources. It is not however a privilege to vote. It is a right owed to all who are citizens of this country, and those who've demanded that it be so. The right to vote is not obliged to those who continue to socially construct a notion of privilege. The idea of privilege supports everything the GOP stands for. These laws continue to single out those who aren't fortunate enough to vote off privilege alone. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

My Two Cents on Leadership


As some of you may know, I recently just graduated from an Organizational Leadership and Change Program at Columbia College. The program was only a year long, but I do believe I learned more about my leadership and management style, as well as the management style of others during that one year period than throughout my entire professional career.

I’m going to share with you some of the things I’ve realized about leadership from the courses I took and the various roles I've had either as a volunteer, consultant, or an employee. I do believe they apply at all levels and in any agency or organization.

A clear set of qualities can be found across most those who we look up to as leaders or enjoy working with. Some of which are the following:

Vision: A leader without a vision is like a captain sailing a ship into oblivion. Without a clear direction, a goal or even a dream…that person is not leading but merely managing the work being done without giving much value to why is it being done, how and what for.

Trust: This has proved to be so essential for anyone to be a leader, he/she needs to be trusted and to be able to know how trust others. Without that sense of trust, the leader will quickly loose ground and wont have a team to work with.

Transparency: If the leader is not clear with those he’s working with then they will lose interest, have distorted ideas of what needs to be done, and they most probably will not have a shared common goal.

Stability: A leader needs to be to stable and strong to be able to support his/her team. Without that stability, both he/she and his/her team will crumble sooner or later. Stability comes from several factors…from within, from the society, from family, from work, finances…etc. Thus it is tricky to strike a balance between it all and manage to be as strong and stable as a mountain.

Competence: Any leader who is not found to be competent and able to implement work properly, he/she will not be able to lead a team. Being able to lead others by example proved to be one of the most effective ways. Thus sharing the successes and achievements he/she has done and can do in the future will raise the moral of his/her team and provide guidance.

Humbleness: A leader’s ego can lead to his/her downfall if it is not checked and trimmed often. The leader needs to keep his/her feet on the ground, always treat others as equals and make sure that how he/she acts/talks does not reflect any bossy-attitude, arrogance or a sense of superiority. Everyone on the team is equally important, respectful and worth giving the attention of the leader to develop and grow.

I know those aren’t much, but after my personal reflections those seemed to be the most obvious and note-worthy qualities that a person needs to have to be able to lead. Feel free to let me know if you have others in mind.

Lets Talk Black Unemployment

With much of the recent unemployment rhetoric, significant reference (and rightfully so) is given to the unemployment rate of the African American community. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the black unemployment rate is at 14.1%--higher than that of White and Hispanic Americans. The national unemployment rate has dropped by 1.1% this year to 8.1%, bringing black unemployment to its current rate. In 2011, the unemployment rate for the black community was 16.1%.  The highest since the mid-1980s. Since the earlier half of this year, the unemployment rate for the black community has been hovering at 14%, begging the question as to why.  Dating back to the 1950s (the first year the employment rate was documented), the combined unemployment rate for blacks and other minorities has been below 9% in the periods of 1951-1953 and 1955-1970. Data compiled specifically for African Americans began in 1972. Thus for 45 out of the 62 years employment statistics have been documented, the black unemployment rate has been above 9%--averaging since 1972 11%--double that of the national employment at any given time period before the 2008 recession.

What does this tell us? The black unemployment rate has always been higher than that of their counterparts. From my research, there has never been a time frame in which the unemployment rate of the African American community has been within a percentage point or two of the national unemployment rate in the same manner as White Americans. Delving deeper into these numbers, the unemployment rate of black men tends to be about 4%-5% higher than that of black women. The same holds true today. In a 2011 CNN Money report, the unemployment rate of black men was 19%, and 14% for black women.  Due to the sluggish economy, the report went on to predict these numbers are expected to stay the same for the next four years. Since1950, the unemployment rate of the black community has been at nearly double the national unemployment rate. Given that the current unemployment rate is 8%, it seems fairly accurate to presume that prediction to hold true.

However, as of late, the black unemployment rate has been cited and tossed around as a evidence of the Obama's administration "failed" economic policy. Critics and particularly the Republican Party have on momentous occasions cited the unemployment rate of the black community as a means to indicate the economy is not recovering. I want to stress the unemployment rate for the black community is particularly disturbing, and hopefully more credible and noteworthy solutions can address the seriousness of this issue. My problem however is the convenience of pundits and such to actually highlight the economic hardship of the black community. 

First, it's upsetting that before this point in time, the only people to address black unemployment have been the Congressional Black Caucus--not Republicans. Secondly, the attention suddenly given to the unemployment rates of this community further demonstrates the ongoing apathy that affects this community. Those who are truly committed to serving and finding solutions for all, do so on a routinely basis, not when there is an opportune moment to simply bring it up.  The President does need to address the unemployment rate of the African American community with measures to reduce that number; however, it is annoying that only now the economic hardship of this community has been cited as an accountability on behalf of the Presidency. This Presidency.

The truth is the unemployment debate isn't about the black community at all. The strategically mentioned sound-bites of the words "blacks" and "unemployment" are being used to spell  OVERSIGHT on the part of the President. What better way to chip away at the President than to target what appears to be his most loyal and excited base? The pundits' rhetoric has in time proven to hold no substance other than a divisive campaign strategy.

The black community is not the football in this political arena. Real solutions are needed to relieve the dire straights 0f real people. It is my hope to bring awareness to this inconsistent rhetoric among a consistent unemployment reality for the black community.  The current national dialogue is shallow and vain. There needs to be a substantive conversation 0n how we can create an economy that can produce full employment for the African American community. For everyone.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


It has been a while since this blog has been updated, but over the past few days, I have given this site a facelift. There are a few noticeable changes, such as a different photo, the background, and new colors. I said goodbye to my precious pink :(, and welcomed a turquoise blue :). On an old episode of Scrubs (I Love Scrubs), it was stated by Dr. Kelso, the chief of medicine, that colors are linked to moods. This is certainly not a new phenomenon, but it got me thinking about what mood I want you all to take away from these posts. Thus, the new shade for this site is a turquoise blue--a color of inspiration, spirituality, and hope.  The former are all the things I hope you gain from this blog. Past blogs sporadically focused on personal happenings, current affairs, and whatever else I wanted to share. While all of that will remain, it is my hope henceforward, this blog, On the Brink, encourages us to leap off the brink...with involvement, concern, and ultimately action.
                As we transition, blogs can be found categorically in the following tabs: “Current Conversations,” which will center on current (and likely political affairs); “Peace Corps;” and “Windows,” personal thoughts or as the quote goes, “Eyes are Windows to the Soul.” Categories are still unfolding, but will focus on leadership, activism, foreign policy, and nonprofit & NGO systems. On the Brink will continue to share personal experiences while honing in on areas of passion, in hopes of strengthening insight and becoming more knowledgeable. It is my sincere hope that each of these items resonates with you and encourages you to dig deeper. It is also my hope that this will be a dialogue of exchange among us. I look forward to any feedback, thoughts, or comments you might have.  Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why I respectfully disagree…

Last week I learned of Al Sharpton’s and Robert Johnson’s statement on the matter involving soon to be former House Majority Whip Congressman Clyburn in regards to his run for House Minority Whip. Sharpton stated,

For there to be a debate, therefore, that Jim Clyburn, the majority whip who will be running for minority whip should not be given that position by the Democrats in Congress to me is offensive,” … “Everyone around the country should call their congressman and say we want to make sure Jim Clyburn remains as whip of the Democrats as minority whip,” Johnson added in a written statement, “To diminish his (Clyburn’s) leadership role in Congress would run the risk of losing a significant part of the Black vote, a decision the Democratic Party cannot afford at this most critical time in history,”.
Sharpton continued, “Black voters are the strongest voting bloc and have continuously shown their dedication to the Democratic Party. As a constituency, African-Americans are engaged in our country’s political process now more than ever, and Congressman Clyburn is the voice and face that we need to lead the Democratic Party in Congress.”

I wonder if Reverend Al Sharpton, Robert Johnson, and the Congressman have looked at the percentage of African American voters that voted in this year’s most recent mid-term elections. 34% of African Americans voted in this year’s mid-term election, about 4-5 percentage points lower than the national average. That number has been hovering around the African American community for a while. Some have regarded the turnout as apathetic. African Americans can be very influential in the voting process, but a sad truth is the community does not fully exercise that right to maneuver much on the national scene.
With that, I respectfully disagree the Congressman’s role could be charactized on behalf of African American voter participation.

The reference to race, to incite a base that is not as active as it could be, along with drawing on faulty reasoning to support a presence in leadership roles, disappoints me. The Congressman feels his face represents a vital base of the Democratic Party—understood, but how far should one go with that ratio? Ranking members of the Democratic Party also have their qualms about Nancy Pelosi remaining as speaker. Should all women of the Democratic base too feel they’re not being represented if she isn’t reappointed to a leadership role? NO! Why? Because some feel that Nancy Pelosi’s leadership was adequate for the first term, and perhaps not for a second. The same could be true of Clyburn, but that argument is not permitted a due process to be made. And never mind the fact that we have an African American President…needless to say, doesn’t he too reflect an aspect of the base?

It’s my understanding, Congressman Clyburn is strategic, serves his district well (my representative is that guy that yelled at the President), and focuses on the issues and the community. Why wasn’t that argument made for his continuing a leadership role? The Congressman and others drew that heavily-dreaded ‘race’ card to grapple onto power. And yes, I feel that is what this is about. The Congressman can’t represent a base that is not fully there, or hasn’t been there for years. Trends of African American participation are not striking in correlation to having a minority for a majority whip. If the Congressman was not re-elected into a leadership role, past voter participation among minorities would likely remain the same.

What is the effect of all this? Dissent and what now appears to be a slightly uncertain Democratic party. The Congressman has been offered an assistant leadership role and has urged others to accept it. The Congressional Black Caucus has given him his support without fully understanding what his new role will be and have publicly stated they will not support Nancy Pelosi. That too is a mistake. Many accredited the Democratic Party’s discipline to her leadership and Congressman Clyburn has stated himself this Congress has been the most productive since possibly the New Deal.

When it’s all said and done, the Democratic Party is now a minority in the House for a reason. And instead of focusing on being the ‘representation of the base’, the Party should aim to energize the base and remind them to why this is what we DID NOT want…Republicans to have control in some form because the entire Democratic base will soon enough be left behind. There is far too much out there for us to organize and unite around, and at the end of the day, most Democrats don’t care about the face of their leadership. 2008 proved that. We do care about having a Party that will not mirror the Republican Party and forget about who ‘we’ the base really are: struggling, hard-working folks who can’t seem to shake the true effects of the Republican-controlled era.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Here goes…

It was not my intention to make this blog overly-political, but given the recent election results, I can't shy away from what I feel to be a threatening political environment coming in the not so far off future. So after 1 1/2 days of remaining in the fetal position and avoiding any form of media (I haven't watched television in weeks), I am ready to reflect on the mid-term elections. With all of that stated, here goes….

There is no way to miss the point of yesterday's midterm elections. People are deeply frustrated with how they are being governed. For the sake of this entry, we'll look past the 'why' with respect to the governance. The political debate is at an all-time partisan low and the public over the last couple of election cycles are calling for something, almost anything, to change that. We can certainly link elected officials' rhetoric as likely reasons as to why this has occurred, but one thing is for certain, the public does not want to spend the next two years talking about the last [2 years]. They want to see progress on the economy, job creation, the federal budget deficit, and immigration. Regardless of how people voted, these are the issues that voters want their representatives in Congress to address.

Each party is faced with an overarching voter mandate. Republicans will be expected to govern and get out of this stump of a 'party of no.' They must craft serious legislative proposals to match the serious problems our country faces today and in the future. Democrats will be expected to work with Republicans in search of meaningful compromises to ensure the economy remains away from oblivion and on a path to steady job-creation.

We have seen the President be willing to compromise and hold strong to reaching across the aisle, however he will likely have to abandon some of his ideas and explore new ones. Below are a few ideas that will need to be explored.

First, The President will be forced to revisit ineffective and failed tax cuts of the Bush administration. I am no fan of all the tax cuts, but if the President wants to lead in fiscal responsibility, he could steer Congress to give a look at the military budget. One of the reasons the Bush era of economic policies were so deplorable was because he supported all the tax cuts as well as nearly tripled the defense budget. If we can revisit that short-lived window of Clinton's economic success, perhaps the President could reel back some of the shortly-followed faulty economic logic that was in play until he took office.

Second, the President and Democrats must stand firm against the Republican pledge to repeal their singular achievement of the past two years—providing quality, affordable health care to everyone. Implementation must proceed not just for the fiscal gains to be had over the next several decades but also for the critical health and social benefits it will deliver to the vast majority of Americans as different aspects of the law come into force. The new law deserves the time needed to make it work.

Finally, the President must not be fearful to take a thoughtful, substantive approach on immigration. I say this because, recent actions have paired the President's handling of the matter identical to the way Republicans would tackle the matter if given the opportunity—that opportunity being of course, the White House. The President must learn from the past and finally be truthful with both governing parties and the public that law-enforcement is NEVER the only way to approach any issue, and certainly not an issue that is so heavily bogged down in economic ties.

In searching for optimism, I do believe all is not lost with this slight shift in our national government. With Republicans controlling the House, there is a real opportunity to construct reasonable foreign policy. But the President still controls the direction of this administration. He holds the last stroke with his pen to either VETO or sign. Given that, I'm sure Republicans will turn down the noise and get on with what people want to see happen. This means looking after the future of our country, not trying to tear down the president.

I'm optimistic this will happen because some of us are already eyeing 2012.