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It appears that many prominent African American Civil Rights and business leaders are joining forces to encourage President Obama to speak out against issues that are specifically affecting the black community. Russell Simmons has joined that league of individuals urging the President to discuss mass incarceration, education, and poverty.
In an open letter to President Obama, Simmons expressed that he is “deeply concerned about the future of urban America, specifically the plight of people of color.” He also let the President know that he’s aware that there are underlying factors to why he can’t address issues that specifically affect the black community, and he understands that President Obama has to be the president not “just to black America, but to all America.” Simmons then continued saying, “but they [black America] need to hear your loud voice, as only a President like you can have this critical conversation with our community.”
He then outlined a list of three agenda items that the President should focus on:
1. End the “War on Drugs.” For the past forty years, we have unsuccessfully waged a war against our own people, creating a “baby to prison” pipeline that has annihilated the working population of young black and brown men. Through the use of archaic and unjust laws, we have been able to warehouse millions of prisoners, many of whom were first-time, non-violent offenders. The solution to our drug problem is not imprisoning more people, it is rehabilitation, fair laws and drug courts.
2. Continue the viscous assault on the eradication of poverty. Levels of poverty have hit an all-time high during this recession, however we have solutions that can bring these numbers down. We should continue to innovate programs for the most vulnerable, including job-training (technical skills), fatherhood classes, healthcare prevention, teen-pregnancy prevention, after-school activities (including arts and sports) and more access to healthier foods.
3. Build the best and affordable education system in the world. Your understanding of education as a path out of poverty has resonated with millions of families in this country. Your protection of Pell grants, promotion of community colleges and the “race to the top” initiative have been some of your greatest accomplishments in your first term. The 2020 goal of America having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world is attainable and we should keep fighting to reach it.
He also said destitution in the black community has become a “status-quo” and it would be declared a national emergency in White neighborhoods. Simmons concluded by challenging President Obama to seal his legacy by tackling the three agenda items of his constituency that has had unwavering support for him since 2004.