Jul 24, 2018

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This Price is Right: Closing the Racial and Economic Divide

by | Jul 24, 2018

CCLP is honored to welcome Anne E. Price of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development in Oakland, Calif. as our keynote speaker at our Sept. 28 Pathways from Poverty Breakfast

Regarded as a leading expert engaged in examining the intersection of race, gender, and wealth, Anne E. Price has long viewed the world around her with a racial and social justice lens and now applies that perspective in her work as President of the Insight Center for Community and Economic Development in Oakland, Calif. Insight is a national research and economic justice organization that exposes hidden truths in an effort to unearth and address the root causes of economic exclusion and racial inequity.

Based in a state known for innovation and progressive thinking, this small-but-mighty nonprofit’s ambitious projects include strengthening local workforce funding and implementing new policies and practices to better respond to the needs of people with arrests and convictions. The Insight Center is also conducting original research and collecting data outlining the current economic reality of millennial women, thereby exploring the primary drivers of millennial women’s wealth inequities, and offering promising strategies and best practices for philanthropic investments to address these issues.

Today, Anne advances that holistic perspective in her organization. “I was thrilled we were able to work with an outstanding Bay Area coalition that advocated and succeeded in getting the city and county of San Francisco to eliminate $15 million in criminal justice fees for incarceration, probation, and other assessments. That effort brought attention to the intersection of unemployment and wealth stripping.” She is also working to find immediate solutions for individuals who have been pushed out of the labor market. “We work with both the practical, immediate, and the over-the-horizon policies on wealth building and income-supporting strategies like monthly grants to help meet basic needs and government-funded programs that help increase employment by providing more federal jobs. We address what these programs would actually look like and mean for the most marginalized.” In her view, the policy world of economic security needs to be bolder, challenging and reimagining the way state and federal institutions are organized.

Some of the most exciting parts of her work include framing experimental solutions. “California (her current home) has the 5th largest economy in the world. We have to stop talking about silver bullets and policy solutions and dream a little bigger than we have been for the past 30 or 40 years.” One of the ideas that has been circulating in some wealth-building discussions is a young adult trust fund that can be accessed when children reach a certain age. “This issue particularly interests me because it addresses both race and class. Communities of color generally have very little to pass on and the ability to pass on wealth from one generation to the next is the best measure of economic security. The proposal for a young adult trust or ‘baby bonds’ is a fiscally viable approach that can help us seed the next generation.”

Insight believes a seismic shift in thinking is needed if we are to adequately address poverty and wealth inequities. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that promoting financial protections and addressing wealth extraction and new forms of indebtedness must be part of the equation,” Price states.

Prior to leading Insight, Anne spent several years at Seattle’s Human Services Department, where she served as the Community Development Block Grant Administrator and Strategic Advisor to the Director. In her role she was responsible for the overall grant administration and day-to-day operations of the City of Seattle’s $16 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and a further $19 million in federal loans.

Her dedication to supporting social change has taken her throughout the country, and has required that she improve systems, practices and policies for struggling families and neglected communities of color. “Social and racial economic justice has always been a part of my life,” says Anne. “It was simply what I was exposed to from early childhood.”  Anne grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a city not only known for its breweries, lake views and ethnic festivals, but also for being one of the nation’s most segregated cities. This reality profoundly shaped her future. “Back then, Milwaukee was racially and ethnically divided and racial barriers still persist. Wisconsin currently has the highest incarceration rate of black men in the country,” says Anne.

As she navigated this complex social space, Anne had an inside look at specific issues of education, housing and social justice. Starting at the age of eight, she would tag along with her parents to work. Her mother was an elementary school teacher and her father, was an attorney representing public housing tenants that lived across the street from her mother’s school. Price would listen as her mother’s coworkers talked about an unjust education system and how they could help their students excel against these odds.

Sometimes, her mother would ask her to help look over papers. She quickly became aware of stark differences between the central city school where her mother taught and her own suburban, predominantly white school.

“My mom taught in buildings with gated windows and no natural light coming in,” she said. “At one point, she went through a union strike. I was always aware of how passionate my mother was about education.”

The connection between education and housing was cemented in Anne’s perception of the world from a very young age. “I got to see the landscape of what it meant to be Black,” she says. “I was often the only black person in my class. I developed a keen interest in how people’s lives were shaped and how race and class was a large part of that.”

Being raised in a family of change-makers inspired Anne to pursue a career in social justice. With an economics degree in hand, Anne moved to New York to earn a graduate degree in public policy. “I started my career at a time of unprecedented social and economic issues. The late 1980’s was the beginning of the crack epidemic and the AIDS crisis. There was so much that communities were dealing with: the resurgence of hunger, an exploding foster care system, deinstitutionalization and disinvestment in black and brown neighborhoods.”

Anne had to grapple with the sheer magnitude of these problems, and through experience, learned even more about how they were inextricably connected. “All of these issues illustrate how social justice efforts are related. It is very easy to artificially silo issues of economic security.”

In a line of work that demands constant change and flexibility, Anne has learned that well-being and justice are fundamental to her core being. “My grandmother always taught me to keep my eyes on the prize, and when I’m working, I constantly think about that. I ask myself, ‘What am I working towards right now?’ and try to minimize distractions that take me away from what is important.”

Moving forward, Anne stresses that creating change in the world of racial inequity demands a constant application of both a racial and a wealth lens. “Examining the intersection of race, gender and age is essential in this work” says Price. “We must also understand how historical policies continue to manifest. Focusing on the impact of these policies and how they shape the current lives of all Americans is vital,” she stresses. “We must recognize that this cycle of oppression continues to hold back these communities of color from accumulating and holding on to wealth.”

Anne also insists that we must counter longstanding poverty narratives. “The dominant narrative around laziness, bad parenting and poor personal choices impacts all communities” she says. Centralizing language around poverty and shifting it away from deservedness leads people to a different place in their thinking about policy decisions and greater inclusion.

On a personal level, Anne believes in the importance of inspiring others in the same line of advocacy and research. “My legacy is really important to me. I want to know that what I’m doing right now means something. When I lift up and support people around me it gives my life meaning.” Whether this plays out in helping her coworkers or facilitating support systems for professionals to carry out groundbreaking work, Anne is committed to building lasting networks within the nonprofit world.

“Talking about race was so taboo early in my career, but even now it’s a challenge sometimes. However, I’ve realized that I don’t have to buy into the status quo to make people feel comfortable,” says Anne. “People still assume that if we get to class we will get to race, but that’s a flawed approach. Working with an awareness of racial equity forces you to look at things more structurally, flipping the focus on individualism and effort-based responsibilities on its head.”

The Pathways from Poverty Breakfast will be held September 28. Space is limited and spots are filling up quickly. Please click here to RVSP and get your tickets while they last.

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