Change the Currency to Reflect All of Us in America
Every day I wear a pair of medallions around my neck with portraits of two of my role models: Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. As a child I read books about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. She and the indomitable and eloquent Sojourner Truth represent countless anonymous slave women whose bodies and minds were abused and whose voices were muted by slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and sexism throughout our nation’s history. Although Harriet Tubman could not read books, she could read the stars to find her way north to freedom. And she freed not only herself from slavery but returned to slave country again and again across forests, streams and mountains to lead other slaves to freedom at great personal danger. She was tough. She was determined. She was fearless. She was shrewd and she trusted God completely to deliver her and other fleeing slaves from pursuing captors who had placed a bounty on her life.
“’Twa’nt me. ’Twas the Lord. I always told Him, I trust You. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect You to lead me. And He always did…On my underground railroad, I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger,” she was quoted as saying. No train, bus or airline company can match this former slave woman’s safety record. And few of us could match her faithful partnership with God, determination to be free and willingness to help others become free without thought about self-sacrifice.
In April 2016, the Obama Administration Treasury Department under then-Secretary Jacob Lew announced that Harriet Tubman’s face would grace the front of the redesigned $20 bill, making her the first woman in more than a century and first African American ever to be represented on the face of an American paper note. But President Trump said he was opposed to the idea of honoring Harriet Tubman that way before he even took office, and three years after the initial announcement, current Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has since said that under the Trump Administration the Treasury Department is unsure when or whether that change will still happen. Now a bipartisan pair of House members, Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and John Katko (R-NY), has reintroduced the Harriet Tubman Tribute Act of 2019 (H.R. 1083) to require the Treasury Department to put Tubman on the $20 bill. We must follow through and insist that as our nation prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in 2020 we will be able to celebrate with redesigned American currency that reflects all of us.
When Secretary Lew originally announced this bill honoring Harriet Tubman I celebrated with deep joy and noted that she would not be alone. The Treasury Department also announced that Sojourner Truth and women suffragette activists and leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott would be featured on the back of the $10 bill. It also said great contralto and opera singer Marian Anderson, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would be featured on the back of the $5 bill, honoring Marian Anderson’s concert and Dr. King’s March on Washington as groundbreaking events at the Lincoln Memorial that helped shape our democracy. It was eighty years ago this week on Easter Sunday 1939 that Eleanor Roosevelt arranged for Marian Anderson, for whom I am named and about whom great conductor Arturo Toscanini said “yours is a voice such as one hears once in a hundred years,” to perform at the Lincoln Memorial before a crowd of 75,000 after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let her sing at Constitution Hall because she was Black. These additions would round out the inspiring group of determined moral warriors who expanded the civil and human rights of women, people of color and all of us, and would now be featured on the bills we use every day.
Former Secretary Lew said he had an ‘aha’ moment about how important these changes were after recognizing the groundswell of public response to his announcement that the Treasury Department was considering changing the design of the currency. To so many people these new bills will be much more than pieces of paper. For too long and for too many money has been the most powerful symbol of what we value as a nation. Making these leaders and s/heroes among the faces of America by placing them on our currency will send powerful messages about what—and who—we Americans are, value, and strive to become. The new bills also will teach our children and grandchildren and remind all Americans that Black history and women’s history are American history. It is so important to make sure all of our children can see themselves and their ancestors pictured on something as basic as the money used every day by millions and this will deepen the meaning of how we define success in America.
Now it’s time for the Treasury Department to finish the job of paying tribute and public homage to Harriet Tubman and honoring these other great women and Dr. King who died seeking to redeem the soul of America. They never stopped demanding that we live up to our declared creeds of freedom, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and equality for all. Please tell your Members of Congress today that you support the bipartisan efforts to insist that this change happens right now!
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The Prince George’s County Council extends its sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of the Honorable Michael E. Busch, Maryland’s Speaker of the House of Delegates, upon his unexpected passing.
This is a sad time in our state of Maryland. We also offer our thoughts and prayers to the entire Maryland Legislature, especially to the members of the House of Delegates, who are mourning the loss of the longest-serving Speaker in the state’s history.
While Speaker Busch served as an Anne Arundel County Delegate, he labored toward the best possible outcomes for the whole of Maryland. His hard and determined work helped to achieve our shared priorities, especially in the areas of education, healthcare and economic development.
As part of a remarkable legislative legacy, Speaker Busch contributed to the delivery of much-needed State aid to develop important projects in Prince George’s County communities; supported legislation to improve the quality of life for Prince Georgians; and always found time to mentor those of us called to serve.
Reflecting upon his legacy of leadership, tireless advocacy and unwavering commitment to public service, Speaker Busch made an enduring difference in the lives of his beloved Marylanders, including those of us in Prince George’s County.
The Presiding Officer, affectionately known as the “Coach,” will be truly missed, and always remembered as a true statesman, who was kind, decent and fair.
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To Be Equal:
Find Out How Your State Was Graded on the National Urban League Report Cards For Education Equity Plans
“This bill upholds the core value that animated the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act signed by President Lyndon Johnson—the value that says education, the key to economic opportunity, is a civil right. With this bill, we reaffirm that fundamental American ideal that every child, regardless of race, income, background, the zip code where they live, deserves the chance to make out of their lives what they will.”
—President Barack Obama, upon signing the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the 2015 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, establishes civil rights standards for educating students from historically underserved populations— like children of color, students with disabilities and those learning English as a second language—receive the resources they need
Not every state is meeting its obligations, however.
The National Urban League reviewed the plans states are required to submit to the federal government, outlining how they will meet their commitments to ensure equity and excellence to every student and every community. We found that only nine state plans qualified as “Excellent.”
We reviewed plans in the 36 states and the District of Columbia where Urban League affiliates are located.
The review comes at an important time in our history. The landmark 2016 election marked a shift in conversations about race, socioeconomic status, and the systemic impact of these social markers on the experiences of people across the nation. With Education at the forefront, advocates and stakeholders are looking critically at what states have committed to do for students and how they are going to do it.
The nine state plans identified as “Excellent” are Colorado, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kentucky, Illinois and Rhode Island. These states are off to a strong start making the most of opportunities to further advance equity with some areas for improvement and a small number of areas deserving urgent attention.
The eight state plans identified as “Poor” are Virginia, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, Kansas, Michigan and California. These states missed opportunities to further advance equity in a majority of areas with several areas needing urgent attention.
The other 20 states, rated “Sufficient,” were adequately attentive to opportunities to further advance equity while missing several opportunities, all of which having a few areas deserving urgent attention.
The report cards are not meant as an or analysis of a state’s school system on the whole. Rather, they identify the extent to which states have addressed specific equity concerns, such as breaking the school-to-prison pipeline, expanding access to early childhood education, cultural competence training for staff and disparate per-pupil spending in their state plans.
For example, California— one of the states ranked “Poor”—makes little mention in its plan of out-of-school time learning. It sets the number of students of students needed to form a student subgroup for federal reporting and accountability purposes unreasonably high. The definition it uses for “consistently underperforming schools” is not specific enough to identify any schools for additional support under the law.
On the other hand, Louisiana —one of the states ranked “Excellent”—has set a goal of 63.5% of students proficient in reading and 56.5% of students proficient in math by 2025. That’s double the current rates, and it has set the same long-term goals for each “subgroup” of underserved students. Louisiana is also tackling the school-to-prison pipeline, targeting schools with unusually high suspension rates for support and improvement.
These are just a few examples of what went into our evaluation of the plans. You can check out each state’s detailed report card along with our policy recommendations for improving education equity at www.naturbanleague.org.
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Hoyer Remarks at Press Conference with Adams, Underwood, House Democrats, Advocates to Launch Black Maternal Health Caucus
WASHINGTON, DC (April 9, 2019)—Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) joined Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12), Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14), House Democrats, and advocates for a press conference this morning to launch the Black Maternal Health Caucus. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I want to thank Rep. Alma Adams and Rep. Lauren Underwood for launching this caucus.
“I’m proud to stand here with you today to make clear that the House ought to approach issues of health care access with a recognition of the unacceptable and tragic disparities for women of color and their children.
“In America today, African-American women are nearly four times more likely than white women—and more than twice as likely as women of other races—to die from preventable, pregnancy-related complications. We cannot and must not accept this.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Prince George’s County Health Department, over the last decade the maternal mortality rate for African-American women in Prince Georges County, Maryland, was higher than the average rate across Maryland.
“That’s my district, right outside our nation’s capital. We need to do more at every level—federal, state, local—to ensure that such disparities in maternal health are eliminated.
“This new caucus will advocate for effective, evidence-based policies and best practices for African-American mothers. Addressing this challenge will require a common effort to ensure that every mother has access to the best pre-natal, delivery, and post-natal care available.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues here today to make progress on bringing an end to these shameful disparities.”
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