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Washington, D.C. — As the population of the United States becomes increasingly racially and ethnically diverse, it is imperative that the administration in Washington, policymaking entities, and people of color themselves take a more proactive approach to ensuring the diversity trends of the country are reflected in all tiers of policymaking.
This is the central argument made by Dennis Vega, a graduating Fellow from the current class of the Center for American Progress Leadership Institute, who in his column released on May 21, 2013, titled “Race and Beyond: We Need to Increase Diversity in Policymaking,” urges policymakers to seek out innovative ways to engage constituents and draw a diversity of perspectives and facilitate nuanced approaches to challenges.
“It is critically important that the people who develop public policies come from all of the diverse communities that those policies will affect,” says Sam Fulwood III, a Senior Fellow and Director of the CAP Leadership Institute. “That is why the Leadership Institute is important. We are helping a new generation of people of color find their way in a professional environment that has been either closed or mysterious to them.”
In an effort to explore the subject further, the Center for American Progress hosted Sen. William “Mo” Cowan (D-MA) and Laura Murphy, Washington legislative office director of the American Civil Liberties Union, on Wednesday, May 22, for a discussion titled “The Case for Diverse Voices in Public Policy.” The event, which took place at the Center for American Progress was livestreamed and also featured CAP Leadership Fellows Patricia Campos-Medina, founder and president of Campos Strategies Group; Kumar Rao, attorney at The Bronx Defenders office; Christine Soyong Harley, policy analyst at the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations; and Ramatu Bangura, program director of the Sauti Yetu Center for African Women. It was moderated by Faith Leach, fiscal policy manager at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, or OSSE, in Washington.
The keynote speakers and panelists explored topics brought up in Vega’s column and addressed realistic and active ways in which the communities of color affected by the development and implementation of progressive public policy can demand inclusion in the policy machinery in a formal way. The panel also discussed Vega’s argument that organizations must play a key role in engaging with and introducing younger generations of people of color to policymaking whenever possible.
“So many of the people who do policy work have found their way through networks, and the Leadership Institute is trying to broaden those networks to include people of color,” says Fulwood.