Vernon Jordan, Civil Rights Leader and D.C. Power Broker, Dies at 85

Mr. Jordan, who was selected to head the National Urban League while still in his 30s, counseled presidents and business leaders.

The New York Times

Vernon E. Jordan Jr., the civil rights leader and Washington power broker whose private counsel was sought in the highest echelons of government and the corporate world, died on March 2 at his home in Washington. He was 85.

His death was confirmed in a statement by Vickee Jordan, his daughter. She did not state the cause.

Mr. Jordan, who was raised in segregation-era Atlanta, got his first inkling of the world of power and influence that had largely been denied Black Americans like him while waiting tables at one of the city’s private clubs, where his mother catered dinners, and as a driver for a wealthy white banker, who was startled to discover that the tall Black youth at the wheel could read.

He went on to a dazzlingly successful career as a civil-rights leader and then as a high-powered Washington lawyer in the mold of past capital insiders like Clark M. Clifford, Robert S. Strauss and Lloyd M. Cutler.

Along the way he cultivated a who’s who of younger Black leaders, inviting them to monthly one-on-one lunches, dispensing advice on everything from what to read to what to wear, and using his unmatched influence to promote their careers in business, politics and the nonprofit world.

Mr. Jordan began his civil rights career after graduating from Howard University School of Law in 1960. He was in his 30s when he was selected to head the National Urban League, an embodiment of the Black establishment, and held that post when he survived an assassination attempt in 1980.

While leading the organization, he began to provide advice to leading political figures and socialize with them, often inviting them to join him on Martha’s Vineyard, where he had a summer home and was a longtime member of the seasonal community of the wealthy and powerful who frequent the island.

His closest relationship was with Bill Clinton, whom he had befriended years before Mr. Clinton was elected president in 1992. Mr. Jordan was named co-chairman of the Clinton transition effort and became a confidant and golfing buddy of the president’s.

Illinois City Becomes First in Nation to Offer Reparations to Black Americans

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Evanston, Illinois, has become the first city in the country to fund reparations in an effort to compensate Black Americans for the loss of generational wealth due to inequality and systemically racist policies that emerged after the era of slavery.

The 158-year-old city, located in Chicagoland along the north shore of Lake Michigan, plans to distribute $10 million in tax dollars to the cause over the next decade, with $25,000 payments to eligible residents beginning this spring, according to ABC News.

The dispersals will be focused toward housing and will seek to remedy “a lack of affordability, lack of access to living wage careers here in the city, and a lack of sense of place,” said 5th Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, who has spearheaded the reparations effort since 2019, when Evanston first approved a resolution on the matter.

“It’s the most appropriate use for that sales tax,” Simmons told ABC. “In our city, 70% of the marijuana arrests were in the Black community. And we are 16% of the community. All studies show that Blacks and white [people] consume cannabis at the same rate.”

Simmons built a convincing case for reparations with the help of local historian Dino Robinson, who produced a 70-page report documenting racist and discriminatory practices dating to the late 1800s.

“We anticipate litigation to tie things up with the premise that ‘You cannot use tax money that’s from the public to benefit a particular group of people,’” Robinson said about opposition to the plan. But, “the entire Black community historically has paid taxes but were not guaranteed the same benefits,” he said.

Meet Gladys West ꟷ Black Woman Who Invented GPS

CBC Radio

Gladys West (1930 – present) is a mathematician whose extremely detailed model of the Earth became the foundation of Global Positioning System (GPS) that is used today in countless applications, including navigation and communication.

Born in 1930 in a small community in Virginia, West fantasized about escaping rural life, and felt that education was her only way out. She earned top grades to win a full scholarship to Virginia State College, and took on babysitting and teaching jobs to support herself.

In 1956, shortly after graduating with a master’s in mathematics, she was hired by the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center, at the time becoming only the second Black woman ever to be hired at the facility.

The very first computers arrived during that time, so she quickly learned how to program to analyze satellite data. 

After showcasing her skills working on award-winning studies looking at Pluto’s motion relative to Neptune, she was named project manager for the Seasat Radar Altimetry Project, the first satellite that could monitor the oceans.

It was here that she created the detailed mathematical model of the shape of the Earth, which accounted for things like gravitational and tidal forces that change the Earth’s shape. 

After retiring in 1998, and recovering from a stroke, she went back to school to earn her PhD at the age of 70. It was only in 2017, after the release of the movie Hidden Figures, that she started to receive recognition for her role in revolutionizing navigation.

ACLU, For First Time, Elects Black Person as its President

The Associate Press

Deborah Archer, a professor at New York University School of Law with expertise in civil rights and racial justice, has become the first Black person in the 101-year history of the American Civil Liberties Union to be elected its president.

The ACLU announced on Feb. 1 that Archer was elected over the weekend in a virtual meeting of the organization’s 69-member board of directors. She succeeds Susan Herman, a professor at Brooklyn Law School who had served as president since 2008.

As the ACLU’s eighth president since 1920, Archer will act as chair of its board of the directors, overseeing organizational matters and the setting of civil liberties policies. The fight against racial injustice is expected to be a top priority.

The ACLU’s day-to-day operations are managed by its executive director — a post currently held by Anthony Romero.

During former President Donald Trump’s four years in office, the ACLU filed an unprecedented 413 lawsuits and other legal actions against his administration, challenging policies related to immigrant rights, voting rights, LGBT rights, racial justice and other issues.

Early in her career, after graduating from Yale Law School, she was a legal fellow at the ACLU in 1997-98. She has been a member of the ACLU’s board since 2009, and a general counsel and member of the board’s executive committee since 2017.

At NYU Law School, Archer is a professor of clinical law and director of its Civil Rights Clinic. She has served as chair of the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates alleged police misconduct, and also was assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The House Passes a Policing Overhaul Bill Named for George Floyd, Whose Death Spurred Nationwide Protests.

The New York Times

House Democrats passed a sweeping federal policing overhaul that would combat racial discrimination and excessive use of force in law enforcement, as lawmakers seek to rekindle bipartisan negotiations on the issue.

The House first passed the legislation last summer, in an effort to respond to an outpouring of demands for racial justice after the killings of Black Americans across the country, including George Floyd, for whom the bill was named. But in the months since, Republican opposition in the House and Senate has only hardened, making its passage through the Senate exceedingly unlikely for now.

The House vote was 220 to 212, with two Democrats joining Republicans to vote no. One Republican voted to pass the overhaul, but quickly said it had been a mistake.

Progressives are plotting to use the opposition as an example of Republican obstruction as they build their case for Senate Democrats to jettison the legislative filibuster, to lower the threshold for Senate passage from 60 to just a simple majority. But Representative Karen Bass, Democrat of California and the bill’s principal author, said in an interview this week that she held out hope she could reach common ground with a cadre of Senate Republicans, led by Tim Scott of South Carolina, who had put together their own more modest proposal last summer.

The House bill would amount to the most significant federal intervention into law enforcement in years. It would change legal protections that shield police officers from lawsuits, known as qualified immunity, and make it easier to prosecute them for wrongdoing. It would also impose a new set of restrictions on the use of deadly force, and effectively ban the use of chokeholds.

Law enforcement organizations and police unions have forcefully opposed the measure, and the Trump administration had threatened a veto, arguing it would weaken law enforcement agencies. President Biden supports the bill.