The Truth Shall Set You Free

I hope many of you had an opportunity to catch either the “Data Infrastructure for the 21st Century: A Focus on Racial Equity” webinar or “Democracy, Race, and Justice: The Speeches and Writing of Sadie T.M. Alexander” book launch webinar.  But if you missed it, allow me to do a quick recap.
My conversation with Tracey Ross, Director, Federal Policy and Narrative Change, Policy Link, had a few key points.

  1. Equity is not about inputs but outcomes.  Tracey stressed the importance of measuring outcomes to determine if we have an equitable society.   In this moment, the focus has been on who is at the table making decisions, which is essential.  However, we must make sure that greater inclusion of who is at the table translates into more equitable outcomes.
  2. Data do not tell the story – researchers and policymakers use the data to tell “a story.” We must make sure that the narratives are representative of the lived experience(s) of the marginalized.
  3. We must be critical of narratives and work to democratize data, both of which empower communities to advocate for change.

The webinar for the book launch of Democracy, Race, and Justice: The Speeches and Writing of Sadie T.M. Alexander had a recording of Dr. Alexander’s voice.  Her granddaughter, Virginia Brown, said it was the first time she had heard her grandmother’s voice in nearly 30 years and how Alzheimer’s had taken her voice.   Raymond Brown, Dr. Alexander’s grandson, said his grandparents had made arrangements for their papers, photos, and videos to be donated to the University of Pennsylvania’s archives.

How many of you are thinking about how to preserve your legacy?

Mary Cannaday, Dr. Alexander’s oldest daughter,  said diligence was important to her mother and that Nina’s efforts to recover and restore Dr. Alexander’s intellectual contributions to the economics profession embodied her mother’s view of diligence.

For me, the highlight was hearing Nina read selections from the following three of Dr. Alexander’s speeches.

  1. “Address on Negro Achievement,” 1936
  2. “Coming Events Cast Their Shadow/Address in Detroit,” 1939
  3. “On the Status of the Philadelphia Negro,” 1942

Dr. Julianne Malveaux wrote the first paper about Dr. Alexander and her economic training titled, “Missed Opportunity: Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander and the Economics Profession.”  While Julianne introduced Dr. Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander to the economics profession,  Dr. Nina Banks has corrected the narratives about the following:

  1. Who was the first Black to complete the doctorate in economics? It was Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, not George Edmond Haynes.
  2. Dr. Alexander always practiced economics, which is woven into all her speeches.
  3. Dr. Alexander’s worked focused on African American men and women in the economy, not just Black women.
  4. Hyman Minsky was not the first American economist to advocate for a federal jobs guarantee.  It was Dr. Alexander. Click to read Nina’s op-ed in the Washington Post.

Julianne’s and Nina’s scholarship show the importance of who is framing the questions and writing the narratives.

Another example is Juneteenth, which will now be a federal holiday.

This Juneteenth, I ask that you take a moment to reflect on how knowledge about the law influences freedom, access, and privileges.

Happy Juneteenth!