Raphael Bostic Named First Black President Of A Fed Regional Bank


The USC professor called the appointment “a tremendous privilege.”

University of Southern California professor Raphael Bostic just made history by becoming the first African American to be named president of a Federal Reserve regional bank in the system’s nearly 104-year existence.

The 50-year-old was named head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta on Monday. Bostic, director of the Bedrosian Center on Governance at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, said in a video statement that his appointment is “a very big deal,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“It’s not lost on me that I … am the first African American to lead a Federal Reserve institution,” he said. “It’s kind of daunting. It’s an overwhelming thought. It’s a tremendous privilege.”

Prior to Bostic’s appointment, politicians and advocacy groups had spoken out about the lack of diversity at the Fed’s 12 regional banks. In September, four black members of Congress, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), sent a letter to Chairwoman Janet L. Yellen urging her to appoint a black or Hispanic person to the Atlanta seat.

Waters, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, described Bostic as an “outstanding choice” and applauded the Fed’s steps toward diversifying their leadership, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Given the disparate economic experiences faced by key demographic groups, it is crucial that a broader cross-section of groups have a seat at the decision-making table,” Waters said.

Continue onto the Huffington Post to read the complete article.

‘One Of The Guys’: Alachua County Welcomes First Black Female Firefighter


Alexandria Rolle-Polk is the first black American woman hired as a firefighter by Alachua County Fire Rescue.

The 28-year-old Tallahassee native went to Florida A&M University, completed fire school at Tallahassee Community College and started orientation with Alachua County on Feb. 6.

She’s set to finish training on March 31.

In a video call with WUFT News, Rolle-Polk talked about how she came into the job and what it’s like to be the only woman in a training class of 19.

WUFT: What made you want to become a firefighter?

Rolle-Polk: [I] always wanted to help people. I’m very pro-making someone happy, making someone feel like they deserve another chance at life.

So if I can be that person that saves their lives or gives them a chance of hope, then that’s what I look forward to.

Can you tell me a little bit about your journey to becoming a firefighter?

At first, I was sitting at a desk. I worked for the state, for the Florida Retirement System — just was not enjoying myself anymore. It was just 8 to 5, sitting at a desk — just wasn’t fun anymore.

I sat down and talked with one of my friends who I work out with, and she was a firefighter in Tallahassee. And she just kind of was like, “You should [become a firefighter]. It’s a great career.”

You work 24 hours on, 48 off. That’s a great career. So I just decided to take a leap of faith and went with it.

I found an article online about your CrossFit accomplishments back in Tallahassee. Do you still do CrossFit?

Not as much as I want to, just because of all the training that we’re doing. Once orientation and everything settles down, I definitely plan on getting back into it because I love it. It’s a hard workout, but very, how do I say it — it feels good after.

Do you think that doing CrossFit helped you in your fire-rescue career?

Oh, for sure. It made me a lot stronger, a lot mentally stronger, as well, because sometimes I would walk into a CrossFit workout and be like, “I can’t do this.” And the coach would be like, “Yes, you can.” And I might have moved as slow as a snail, but I made it happen and got through it.

So that definitely helped me. I would say definitely mentally more than physically.

I also read that you’re 5 feet 1 inch. Do you think that has hindered you on the job at all?

In some aspects, like pulling a hose off of a truck. I definitely find myself having to crawl up and put my whole body into it trying to get it down.

But I make it work. There’s steps of how I can make it work for how short I am.

Have you ever experienced discrimination in the workplace due to your gender and/or race?

Not really, not here at least. They’re all sweet guys at [Alachua County Fire Rescue], treat me just like one of the guys.

Sometimes when I’m struggling, they won’t help me. They’re like, “You’re going to have to do this in real life, and you’ve got to figure out how to do it.” And then in some aspects, they will help me. This will be a team thing, so someone will usually be here to help you. So they’ll help me out.

They don’t treat me any different. So I wouldn’t say there’s been any discrimination.

Where do you draw inspiration to accomplish your goals?

I would probably say my grandfather. He’s no longer with us, but he would always have a smile on his face. Even if it was something terrible, he would be like, “It could be worse.”

So I draw my inspiration a lot from him. I have things that remind me of him that I wear, like a necklace. I have a tattoo on me. It just kind of keeps me grounded.

It’s funny because my sister will get pissed, and I’m like, “Dude, it’s no biggie.” Watching some of the comments on Facebook about my article, and she’s like, “Oh, I’m about to go off.”

And it’s like, don’t let that man bother you. It’s not worth it. He’s not worth your time whatsoever. I think he’s my inspiration for most of it.

Continue onto WUFT News to read the complete interview.

African Americans are Important to the Survival of National Parks


By Rosario B. Diaz

The beauty of Yosemite’s trails and wilderness is what first drew hiking enthusiast Teresa Baker into frequenting more national parks. Like the hundreds of other visitors to the parks, Baker’s attention was turned to the natural landscape, but when the young African American decided to engage in a little people-watching, she noticed something striking. “On one of my Yosemite visits in 2012,” she tells High Country News, “I started to take notice of how many African Americans I encountered. At the end of my second day in the park, I had not seen one other African American.”

This promptly spurred Baker to research people of color and their participation in national parks, and she found that the numbers were not only lacking in visitation, but in the entire makeup of its workforce. In fact, according to PBS News, commissioned studies have found that of the 4 million visitors that parks like Yosemite receive each year, about three quarters are white. Their workforce, meanwhile, doesn’t fare any better, with people of color making up only 27 percent of its workforce.

So where does this gap stem from exactly? Why is it that we see such low turnouts for people in the African American community and in other minority communities? The National Park Service Agency, along with other individuals like Teresa Baker, is tackling those questions and more.

Myron F. Floyd, a scholar at North Carolina State University, has studied ethnicity and race in outdoor recreation and suggests that the issue might stem from two particular reasons. The first explanation suggests that as African Americans and people of color have historically been excluded from such locations and activities, the concept of visiting these parks has never developed in these communities, and thus have never been passed down in generations, like they have with white families.

Floyd’s second explanation points to the same barriers that have consistently barred people of color from entering into higher institutions—not being able to afford to go, no transportation, and not knowing enough about them.

What’s more, African Americans and people of color may not perceive these environments as inviting or welcoming, especially when advertisements marketing such recreational activities fail to display any minorities.

Though it’ll take some time to get these numbers to increase, the National Parks Agency have already begun making efforts to reach out to ethnic communities and make these locations more inviting for them. Bringing on interns from diverse communities and making informational brochures more accessible for visitors who don’t speak English are just some examples of these measures to reach out, but perhaps one of their most substantial efforts is their acknowledging and highlighting of the people of color who have contributed to the development of these parks.

This history is certainly something that Teresa Baker appreciates. In an interview with High Country News, she discusses the Buffalo Soldiers, an African American regiment who were the first regiments to garrison Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Parks, and Yosemite. “Here I am, in love with Yosemite and concerned with the lack of African Americans in our national parks, then one day I find out the very first rangers in our national parks were African Americans. I was beside myself with pride and curiosity.” Moved by this relevancy, Teresa has since gone on to organize events like the Buffalo Soldiers Trail Retracing, and African American National Parks events in order to encourage others in her community to engage more with national parks.

The need for more diversity in the country’s national parks is an important one that both Teresa and the National Park Agency fully appreciate, but the need stems from more than just including communities of color in enriching experiences. Their very presence is crucial to the survival and preservation of these great parks and to the wildlife that inhabits them. It’s estimated that people of color will outnumber Caucasians in the United States before 2050, which means that the inclusion of minorities now into national parks will better serve to aid the continuation of these parks for years to come.

The first African-American US senator


To celebrate Black History Month, our #TBT series will highlight several African-American politicians who made history. Mississippi’s Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first African-American to serve in the Senate when he arrived in Washington in 1870.

Revels was born free in North Carolina in 1827. Before becoming a Republican senator, he became an African Methodist Episcopal preacher renowned for his oratory throughout the Midwest — sounds like another African-American from the Midwest who made some history of his own.

Revels eventually moved to Maryland and served as an Army chaplain during the Civil War.

After the war, Revels continued to serve in the church before moving to Mississippi, where he became a state senator in 1869. The Civil War came to play a major role in Revels’ appointment to the US Senate. The legislature chose him to fill one of the seats vacated when the state seceded from the Union.

Southern Democrats met his appointment with resistance. Some tried arguing that Revels hadn’t been a citizen long enough to serve in the Senate. You see, because of the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision in 1857, African-Americans — even those born free and in the United States — were not considered citizens until the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Senators need to be citizens for nine years. You do the math.

Continue onto CNN to read the complete article.

The Coin? Gold. Its ‘Real Value’? Lady Liberty Is Black.


The United States Mint will release a commemorative gold coin in April that will feature Lady Liberty as a black woman, marking the first time that she has been depicted as anything other than white on the nation’s currency.

The coin, with a $100 face value, will commemorate the 225th anniversary of the Mint’s coin production, the Mint and the Treasury Department announced on Thursday. Going on sale April 6, it will be 24 karats and weigh about an ounce.

It is part of a series of commemorative coins that will be released every two years. Future ones will show Lady Liberty as Asian, Hispanic and Indian “to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States,” the Mint said in a statement.

The announcement comes at a pivotal cultural moment for the United States, a week away from a transfer of power, following a bruising election dominated by debates about immigration, race and political correctness.

And Lady Liberty is among the most potent of American symbols. Her best-known depiction, a gift from France in 1886, stands in New York Harbor, a giant statue of a woman with white European features beckoning with a lamp to the refugees of the world.

“Part of our intent was to honor our tradition and heritage,” Rhett Jeppson, the principal deputy director of the Mint, said in a phone interview on Friday. “But we also think it’s always worthwhile to have a conversation about liberty, and we certainly have started that conversation.”

Continue onto The New York Times to read the complete article.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Reminds Us All That Service Is What Makes America Great


Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a time to reflect on a visionary leader for social justice, the progress our country has made, and the work we still have to do. It is also a “day on” that inspires service across the nation, for as Dr. King said, “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.” This year, we have the unique opportunity to approach service with fresh eyes, and the ability to move toward making a Service Year — in which young adults ages 18 to 28 from all backgrounds, commit to a year of full-time service — a common expectation across our country.

A Service Year can solve pressing social issues: educating our children, reclaiming the environment, responding to natural disasters, and fighting poverty, to name a few. Service can also unite the country by bringing people together from diverse backgrounds — rich and poor, African American, Asian, Caucasian, and Latino, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, inner city and suburban, rural and urban.

In addition, service can help bridge the civilian military divide and instill a larger sense of civic duty. Leaders like General Stanley McChrystal, who chairs Service Year Alliance, are working towards a time when “every year, one million young Americans are engaged in a Service Year, solving important problems while transforming their own lives.”

We should soon get to a day when military service and civilian service are seen as two sides of the same coin, and when veterans and civilians unite in service to our country. We envision a day when all young people seek to join the Army or AmeriCorps, the Navy or the Peace Corps, the Marines or YouthBuild, the Air Force or Teach For America, the Coast Guard or City Year. Ultimately, a Service Year should be a rite of passage, allowing every young American the opportunity to be part of a greatest generation that confronts the most pressing social issues of their day.

Service also helps to facilitate a smooth transition for veterans coming home from war, empowering them to be leaders to strengthen our civil society. Our Got Your 6 campaign, along with nonprofits like The Mission Continues, Team Rubicon, and Team RWB, are showing that civilian service by veterans both helps smooth their return home, and provides them with meaningful ways to continue to contribute to the nation. All of us benefit from their leadership.

What’s more, as Green City Force and The Corps Network have shown, service is a way to engage hundreds of thousands of opportunity youth and young adults in their first job, unleashing their energy and idealism, and providing them with a pathway to greater opportunity. Service can be a passageway to the American Dream, because those who serve can receive vital skills for the workplace, and earn a post-service higher education benefit, such as the Segal Award.
A study by Teachers College, Columbia University demonstrates that service is a great investment. Every $1 invested in national service programs returns $4 to society. Service is a critical component in the overall health of our nation and economy, and leaders from other industries are beginning to take note.

For example, Service Year Alliance teamed up with technology companies, like Cisco Systems, to establish ServiceYear.org – a state-of-the-art online marketplace and resource hub – with the goal of growing full-time service year opportunities from the current 65,000 each year to 100,000 in 2019, thus improving conditions for large-scale, long-term growth. And we should challenge all companies to join Employers of National Service, an initiative that connects Service Year alumni with meaningful employment. More than 400 companies have joined the effort thus far.

The new energy and commitments around service build off a fine American tradition led by Presidents from both sides of the aisle. President Kennedy founded the Peace Corps, President Johnson created VISTA, and President Nixon laid the foundation for the Senior Corps.

President Reagan said, “Let us pledge to restore, in our time, the American spirit of voluntary service…a spirit that flows like a deep and mighty river through the history of our nation.” President George H. W. Bush created the first Office of National Service and established Points of Light and The Commission on National and Community Service.

President Clinton created the Corporation for National and Community Service and founded AmeriCorps. President George W. Bush founded the USA Freedom Corps and grew both AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps. President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act reauthorizing and expanding national service programs.

Continue on to Huffington Post to read the complete article.

A Letter from Curtis L. Coy, Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity for the Veterans Benefits Administration


Colleagues and Fellow Veterans,

I’ve sent this note out every year for the past 15+ years and do so again because it is timeless.  Perhaps it is my advanced years (sic) but every year I am struck by the fact that many folks may not appreciate the significance of this particular holiday – or perhaps are not old enough to have lived through these times.  Please take a minute to read this over and pass it on if you like.  I’m sending it out today as many folks may be taking tomorrow off.

As we prepare to take off for a long weekend, it might be appropriate to take just a moment to think about why we aren’t coming to work Monday … Martin Luther King Day – for his commitment to equal rights, non-violence, and social change.  The inspiration of Dr. King and the civil rights movement led our nation and the Federal government to a new standard of equality and inclusion, which was Dr. King’s purpose.  He wanted to challenge our country to be a better place, where every person is valued and respected.

Dr. King challenged us to overcome oppression and violence.  He urged us to reject revenge, aggression, and retaliation.  His vision that “no individual be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” set in motion changes that led to the passage of civil rights and voting laws.  In honor and respect for his contribution to the improvement of our national attitudes, policies, and laws, the Federal government celebrates Dr. King.

Over the years, there has been some speculation on what Dr. King could have accomplished if his life had not been so tragically cut short.  He was only 28 years old when he was elected the first President of the Southern Christian Leadership Council.  He had already graduated from college at 19 and graduated from Divinity school at 22.  By the time Dr. King was 29, he had published his first book, “Stride Toward Freedom.” In 1964, he gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech to 250,000 people who marched on Washington in support of pending civil rights legislation.  In the same year, he was successful in getting the legislation passed and he won the Nobel Peace Prize.  A lot of accomplishments for a man who was only 35 years old.

Dr. Martin Luther King believed in our country and its potential for greatness.  He also believed that each one of us is essential to achieving its full potential.  Although Dr. King’s primary efforts focused on equality for African-Americans, his ultimate goal was the equality and inclusion of every individual.  As Dr. King said “There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society, with a large segment of people in that society who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that they have nothing to lose.  People who have a stake in their society protect that society.  But when they don’t have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it.”

This weekend gives us all another opportunity to reaffirm and reflect on our appreciation for the uniqueness that each individual brings to the work place.  Have a good and safe long weekend with friends and family.  It is my honor to work with all of you.


Kamala Harris Sworn in as California’s First African American Senator


Kamala Harris was sworn in as California’s newest U.S. senator on Tuesday, becoming the first African-American senator in the state’s history.

Harris, who was the state’s attorney general, is the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica. In addition to becoming California’s first African-American senator, she is also the first Indian-American, the first biracial woman and the second African-American to serve in the U.S. Senate.

She beat out fellow Democrat Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez by a wide margin on Election Day.

Continue onto ABC7 to read the complete article.

Viola Desmond, Canada’s Civil Rights Pioneer, To Appear On $10 Bill


She’ll be the first Canadian woman to ever feature on a banknote.

Canada has named the trailblazing black rights activist Viola Desmond as the face of its new $10 bill, making her the first Canadian woman in history to be featured on a banknote.

Nine years before police arrested African-American civil rights activist Rosa Parks for refusing to relinquish her seat to a white person on a segregated bus, Desmond made history in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, for a similar act of courageous defiance.

Desmond, a beautician and businesswoman, is best remembered for a prominent incident in 1946 that helped shape Canada’s modern civil rights movement. The 32-year-old was ejected from a movie theater and unjustly accused of minor tax evasion after refusing to leave the cinema’s whites-only seating area. She spent the night in jail and was later fined after a heated trial that drew angry protests from Nova Scotia’s black community.

It was not until decades after Desmond’s death in 1965 that the injustice she endured received official recognition. The province apologized and granted her a free pardon in 2010, acknowledging the case as an act of racial discrimination.

This is a historic day for the province of Nova Scotia and a chance for us to finally right the wrong done to Mrs. Desmond and her family, said Darrell Dexter, who was premier of Nova Scotia at the time.This is also an opportunity for us to acknowledge the incredibly brave actions of a woman who took a stand against racism and segregation.

Continue onto The HuffingtonPost to read the complete article.

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