The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Please Register for Nov. 18-19 Delta Conference by Zoom--Agenda and Key Issues, Oct. 12, 2021

Posted on October 12, 2021 at 11:03 AM

Please RSVP and pay registration fees for the Nov. 18-19, 2021 Greater Delta Region Conference on community and economic development issues for the 8-state region from southern Missouri and Illinois to New Orleans and eastward to the Alabama Black Belt.

You register by paying the registration fees, and registration information is below in this message.

Caucus Director Lee Powell contact information is: Phone: (202) 360-6347 E-mail: LeePowell@delta.comcastbiz.net

This is primarily by Zoom due to the pandemic. We remain concerned, of course, about the Coronavirus situation, and for those attending in person both the Delta Caucus and the Clinton Library require wearing masks, being vaccinated with proof of vaccination, and social distancing.

OPENING SESSION: Thursday evening, Nov. 18 from 4:50 p.m. to about 6:50 p.m., strictly by Zoom

FRIDAY SESSION: Friday morning and lunch, Nov. 19, from 9 a.m. to about 1 p.m., by Zoom (with also a small group in-person broadcasting by Zoom from the Clinton Library Great Hall)

Due to concerns about the pandemic, there will NOT be any in-person gathering at the Arkansas Capitol Rotunda on Thursday evening Nov. 18.

(INVITED) We are inviting former President Bill Clinton, US Sen. John Boozman, Rep. French Hill, former US Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater (originally from Marianna), and a high-level Arkansas state economic development official.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. KEY ISSUES

II. REGISTRATION

III. DRAFT OF AGENDA

IV. This is mostly by Zoom, but for a small group who are traveling, we have a group hotel

The Friday morning and lunch session on Nov. 19 will also be primarily by Zoom, although again there will be a small group gathered at the Clinton Library wearing masks, vaccinated, and practicing social distancing

We have nonprofits, community-minded business leaders, universities and colleges, grassroots groups and other concerned citizens for the annual Little Rock Conference. We plan a Washington, DC conference for the late spring of 2022.

I. Key issues will include maintaining community and economic progress during the pandemic;

–increasing vaccination levels and other health care concern for underserved populations during the pandemic;

–supporting strong funding for USDA nutrition, rural development and other programs;

–strong funding for the Delta Regional Authority;

–fair, equitable concerns for redistricting across the region so that the Delta will have districts concentrated into similar areas with traditional regional characteristics such as high levels of diversity, lower-income populations, more small-town and rural areas, and in many cases strong agricultural production.

REGISTRATION FEES

Registration fees have been cut in half from $100 to $50 due to stresses caused by the pandemic.

You register by paying the $50 registration fees.

The fastest and easiest way to register is to go on the website and go to the PayPal link at the top of the site that says “Donate.”

If you prefer to pay by check, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to our office in the Washington, DC area:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, Maryland 20601

ROUGH PRELIMINARY DRAFT OF AGENDA

OPENING SESSION, NOV. 18:

Thursday evening, Nov. 18, 2021, 4:50 p.m. to about 6:50 p.m., by Zoom

“Education and Workforce Development”

4:50 p.m.–Introduction—Lee Powell, Delta Caucus Director

5 to 5:15 p.m.–Professor Charity Smith, Philander Smith College (PSC), introduced by Philander Smith Vice President Charles King

5:15 to 5:22 p.m.–Philander Smith student leader and 2021 Carol Willis Scholar (TBD)

5:22 to 5:30 p.m.—Callie Dunavin, Arkansas State University—Mid-South, Associate Vice Chancellor for Workforce and Strategic Initiatives

5:30 to 5:38 p.m.—Lynn Anderson Lindberg, Southern Illinois University, Interim Executive Director, Office of Innovation and Economic Development

5:38—5:48 p.m.—Al Cross, Director, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky

5;50 P.M. to 6 P.M.—Alan Gumbel, veteran Delta regional advocate and community leader based in Memphis, Tennessee

6 p.m. to 6:10 p.m.—Millie Atkins, veteran Delta regional advocate based in Monroe, Louisiana

FRIDAY NOV. 19 SESSION:

Friday morning and lunch, Nov. 19, 2021, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., primarily by Zoom with a small group at the Clinton Library Great Hall

9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.–Hunger and Economic Inequality Issues in the Delta during the Pandemic

Kathy Webb, Executive Director, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance

Rev. Preston Clegg, Pastor of Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, on the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s philanthropic work in Helena/Phillips County Arkansas

Keith Fulcher, President, Community Foundation for Northwest Mississippi

Dorothy Grady-Scarbrough, Executive Director, Mississippians Engaged in Agriculture (MEGA

Joel Berg, CEO, Hunger Free America

TBD Invitations for PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON, CONGRESSMAN FRENCH HILL SENATOR JOHN BOOZMAN HON. RODNEY SLATER, former US Secretary of Transportation, Partner, Patton Boggs firm Senior economic development official from Arkansas state government (invited)

At whatever points on the program they can work this into their unusually busy schedules.

10:30 a.m.—10:50 a.m. Best Practices in Community and Economic Development

10:30 to 10:38 a.m.—Nonprofit speaker TBD

10:38 to 10:50—Sheila Smith and Billy McFarland, nonprofit TS Police Support League based in Eutaw, Alabama in the Alabama Black Belt

10:50 to 1:15 p.m.—Big Picture Speakers on Delta’s Community and Economic Progress

Mike Marshall, CEO, Sikeston, Missouri Regional Chamber and Economic Development Corp., former Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority

Wilson Golden, former executive at Xerox corp. and distinguished attorney, Clinton administration appointee at US Dept. of Transportation and one of the four senior managers of President Clinton’s Delta Regional Initiative

Lee Powell, Delta Caucus Executive Director, Clinton administration appointee at USDA and one of senior managers of the Delta Regional Initiative (along with Wilson Golden, Harold Gist, and the late Al Eisenberg)

Harvey Joe Sanner, long-time Delta regional advocate, President, American Ag Movement of Arkansas

Joel Berg, Hunger Free America

Rex Nelson, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette senior editor, former Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority

Annette Dove, Executive Director, TOPPS nonprofit in Pine Bluff, Arkansas area Two young social workers who work with Annette Dove for TOPPS in Pine Bluff

Noon to 12:45.

GROUP HOTEL

To get the group hotel discount rate of $99 for the night of Nov. 18 please call the Holiday Inn Presidential at (501) 375-2100 and tell them you are with the Delta Caucus group.

Memo to Gov. Hutchinson--The "Pulaski Blue-Bird" Gerrymander Dilutes Minority Votes and Should Be Rejected

Posted on October 07, 2021 at 12:50 PM

Delta Caucus

October 7, 2021

Memo to Gov. Asa Hutchinson regarding legality of splitting Pulaski County into three parts:

The Delta Caucus partners in Little Rock and the eastern half of Arkansas would like to point out that the legislature’s redistricting plan splitting Pulaski County into three districts flies in the face of legal precedents.

The Eastern District of Arkansas cited many precedents in Conway v, Wilhoit (854 F.Supp. 1430) in 1994 stating that voting plans that “minimize or cancel out the voting strength of racial minorities in the voting population” are illegal.

Pulaski Blue-Bird plan has strange shape due to being drawn for a racial and partisan impact: The legislature’s plan clearly minimizes the voting strength of racial minorities by taking sections of Pulaski County and moving those parts of it in the east and south that have large African American populations out of the Second Congressional District.

The Pulaski County section moved into the First District has a Blue-Bird beak facing west from the eastern boundary of the county, with another sliver going up the southeast side, and another sliver from the largest Pulaski County section jutting in between the Blue-Bird and the Fourth District sliver. Courts have warned against odd-looking “Rohrschach ink-blot shaped districts” drawn in such a way as to minimize the voting power of racial minorities, Thornburg v. Gingles, 106 S. Ct. at 2765, n. 13, as is the case with the Pulaski County part of the map.

It should be noted that it is not just Democrats who have objected to this strange plan: Sen. Mat Pitsch of Fort Smith and Sen. Mark Johnson of Ferndale object to their counties being split.

Attorney Clarke Tucker has analyzed the law correctly. It is absolutely on point to cite the figures of the areas that are being moved:

–the Pulaski County parts going to the First District are 58% African American and 4% Hispanic

–Pulaski County part going to the 4th are 49% African American and 27% Hispanic

–Pulaski County parts remaining in the 2nd are majority white at 52%, with African Americans at 34% and Hispanics at 7%. In another patently partisan move, the heavily white Cleburne County (96.5%) was moved from the First District into the Second District to allow for a section of Pulaski County to be moved into the First.

The impact of this plan is that all four Congressional Districts will be virtually guaranteed to have white, conservative Republican majorities. Pulaski County has a population that is 37.9% African American, as well as heavily Democratic.

The First District has always been the predominantly “Delta district” with largely rural and agricultural characteristics, whereas the Second District has traditionally contained all of Pulaski County at its heart. This plan contradicts those valid, longstanding traditions. The Members of Congress can more effectively represent their constituents’ community and economic development interests if similar areas and populations are together, rather than splitting up jurisdictions that have longstanding validity.

This gerrymander is popularly being called the Pulaski Blue-Bird plan due to the shape of the part that is being moved from Pulaski to the First District, and it hopefully has about as much chance of survival as the Fayetteville finger plan did a decade ago.

We are just weighing in as concerned citizens and hope Gov. Hutchinson you will agree that this is an illegal plan. thank you. Lee Powell, Executive Director, for Delta Caucus (202) 360-6347

Redistricting Plans in Arkansas Like Senate Bill 721 Are Travesties of Sound Redistricting Principles

Posted on September 24, 2021 at 11:10 AM

“Senate Bill 721 Is a Travesty and Violates Traditional Principles of Redistricting”

Redistricting plans such as Senate Bill 721 by Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) are travesties of sound, traditional principles for establishing Congressional districts and should quickly be thrown into the dustbin of history where they belong.

“Bill 721 not only splits Pulaski County into three parts, but moves a large part of the current Second District in Perry, Conway, Van Buren and Faulkner counties out of the Second, while adding a huge area in southeast Arkansas that has traditionally been an integral part of the First or Fourth District,” said Caucus Director Lee Powell said.

The Delta Caucus partners believe that a wise and fair alternative plan has been presented by Rep. Reginald Murdock (D-Marianna), which does not split up Pulaski County and gives an adequate voice and opportunity for minorities as well as other groups to elect a Member of Congress. Rep. Murdock said his plan is “an opportunity for a person of color, or a woman, or a Democrat, or a Republican to be elected in the Second District.”

Arkansas’ population is about three quarters white and almost a quarter of the population are minorities of various kinds, so it is fair and democratic to have at least one district represented by a member of a minority. The Pulaski County percentage of Blacks at about 36% is much higher than the state-wide average.

The Hester plan and similar plans are clearly designed primarily for the partisan result of having four Republicans elected to all the Congressional districts in Arkansas.

Pulaski County is heavily populated and is more diverse than Arkansas as a whole, with state-wide figures indicating about 70% of the population being white, whereas in Pulaski County only 49.9% of the people are white and 36% describe themselves as African American alone. “This is a clear effort to dilute minority voting power by breaking up the heavily populated, diverse jurisdiction of Pulaski County,” Powell said.

“There has always been one Congressional district that is predominantly a Delta district, with characteristics like being more agricultural and rural, and being fairly diverse, but this plan would chop up the Delta into three districts and thus dilute our voting power,” said Harvey Joe Sanner, Delta Caucus senior adviser and president of the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas.

This plan is similarly inappropriate in moving largely agricultural, small-town counties in southeast Arkansas out of the First District where they have been for many years. Where possible, sound redistricting principles require that generally similar areas be placed together.

The Hester plan moves the traditionally more urban Second District into the southeastern rural Arkansas Delta.

Powell recalls that he was among those who testified to the legislature after the 2010 Census, and “far from gamesmanship, the lines were then drawn on traditional principles of not diluting minority voters, placing similar demographic areas together where possible, and avoiding making wholesale gerrymander changes to the districting map.”

The Delta Caucus defines the “Greater Delta Region” as including Little Rock–especially the diverse and lower-income neighborhoods in the city–and extending eastward to the Mississippi River.

Arkansas Food Security Somewhat Improved; Delta Still Ranks Near the Bottom in Overall Food Security--Sept. 23, 2021

Posted on September 23, 2021 at 12:44 PM

The latest food security developments showed mixed results for the Delta, with Arkansas in the middle of the pack nationally in USDA overall “low food security” rankings, and increases in SNAP funding a step forward in the fight against hunger.

But Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi were still at the bottom in the category of “very low food security.”

Delta still has three worst levels for “very low food security”: “The bad news is that Arkansas was tied with Mississippi at 5.9% for the second worst level of “very low food security,” with only Louisiana at 6.5% ranking lower.” said Lee Powell, Delta Caucus Director.

There were other more positive developments: for the category of “low food security” Arkansas’ 12.6% level was in the middle of the pack nationally (10.7%) and did show some improvement.

Increases in SNAP funding: Permanent increases in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called Food Stamps) from $121 to $169 per person per month are positive developments for nutrition in the region and nationally.

America ranks among the lowest of higher income countries in food security: In assessing this data it should be emphasized that the USA ranks near the bottom of higher income countries–10th out of the 11 higher income countries–in food security so not being too far below the national USA average is not a positive indication.

The disturbing result was in “very low food security,” where Arkansas and Mississippi were tied for the second worst in the country at 5.9%, below Louisiana’s highest rate of 6.5%.

“Very low food security” is defined as reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake. In plain terms, these people frequently experience real hunger.

The Delta had five of the eight states with “very low food security”–Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas were the three worst, with Tennessee at sixth and Alabama at eighth. The other three were West Virginia, Maine and New Mexico.

Arkansas fared somewhat better in the category of “low food security,” with its 12.6% level ranking similar to many other states in the middle of the pack, and not at the bottom with Mississippi at 15.3%, West Virginia at 15.1%, and Louisiana at 14.8%.

Arkansas’ 12.6% level of low food security was similar to many other states at that level so it was not far below the national average of 10.7%, although again that is not much of an achievement because the USA lags well behind most other higher income nations.

Low food security is defined as “reduced quality, variability, or desirability of diet.” People in this category usually don’t actually go hungry, but they have to buy cheaper, fatty foods with poor nutritional levels. This leads to obesity, diabetes, higher levels of heart disease and other nutrition-related health problems.

The USA national average ranks 10th out of the 11 higher income countries in food security, according to World Economic Forum.

In another key economic indicator, US poverty levels also rank near the bottom of higher income countries, with one survey showing the US second worst after Israel and lagging behind Spain, Greece and Italy. Other surveys similarly show the USA lagging behind most of the “richest” nations.

The one positive sign–Arkansas’ food security did improve significantly in 2018-2020 over 2015-2017: Arkansas’ food security did improve somewhat in longer-term measurements, with the average of food insecurity in 2015-17 of 17.4% decreasing to an average of 12.6% in 2018-2020.

Improvement is always a positive sign and this trend must continue if Arkansas is to arrive at a level that will not be harmful to the state’s health.

Graphs below–thanks. Lee Powell, Delta Caucus (202) 360-6347

VERY LOW FOOD SECURITY

Louisiana 6.5%

Arkansas–tied for second 5.9%

Mississippi–tied for second 5.9%

West Virginia 5.7%

Maine 5.5%

Tennessee 5.3%

New Mexico 5.3%

Alabama 5.2%

LOW FOOD SECURITY

Mississippi 15.3%

West Virginia 15.1%

Louisiana 14.8%

Alabama 14.0%

Kentucky 13.8%

In a range similar to 26 states– Arkansas 12.6%

USA national average 10.7%

Strong Line-up for Nov. 18-19 Delta Conference; Please Send Registration Fees to Participate

Posted on September 07, 2021 at 12:37 PM

Preliminary List of Speakers and Need for Registration Fees ASAP

We are recruiting a strong line-up of participants for the Nov. 18-19 conference in Little Rock, but we have not received hardly any contributions in recent months and we have bills coming due. Please contribute ASAP.

As often happens, our contributions are late in coming in except when a conference is coming up soon, and that time frame is getting nearer. We have bills coming due and need to ask people to send in registration fees (and or larger sponsorship contributions in the $200 or larger range if you are so inclined).

Prelmininary list of key speakers: We have lined up a preliminary list of key confirmed participants and are working on getting many other confirmations. The event is now about two months away so we are getting recruiting into high gear for the next several weeks.

We are only asking for $50 in early registration fees before Oct. 15. If you would like to send in more please do so.

Some have generously contributed $100 or $75 in registration fees and that is greatly appreciated.

The easiest and fastest way to contribute is to go to the website at mdgc.us and go to the PayPal link at the top of the site that says “Donate.”

If you prefer to pay by check, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

We have received a few contributions in the past few months from Billy McFarland of TS Police Support League in Alabama, long-time Delta advocate Wilson Golden, and Harvey Joe Sanner, so thanks to them and we hope others follow suit now.

We are all moving forward in spite of the pandemic and will keep encouraging the remaining people who have not been vaccinated to do so for the general welfare.

PLEASE GET VACCINATED AND ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO DO SO–the Delta region ranks at the bottom in vaccination rates: This is a highly contagious disease and people do not have the right to get others sick by going unvaccinated.

This is not a political issue but rather one of science and self-preservation for vaccination and ignorance on the side of currently healthy people who refuse to get vaccinated. Those who claimed not to be concerned about getting sick themselves have taken a different view in cases where they did get the virus, and even if they get a mild case they have no “freedom” to get others sick with a serious or even fatal disease.

Thanks so much. Lee Powell, Executive Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus (202) 360-6347

Preliminary List of some key Participants and Speakers for Nov. 18-19, 2021 Delta Conference in Little Rock

As of Sept. 6, 2021

EAST CENTRAL ARKANSAS

Harvey Joe Sanner, Des Arc, Arkansas, president of American Ag Movement of Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK AND CENTRAL ARKANSAS

Ray Higgins, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Preston Clegg, (SPEAKER) Pastor, Second Baptist Church- Little Rock, AR, on Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s anti-poverty work

Rex Nelson, (SPEAKER) senior editor, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, former Federal Alternate Co-Chairman, Delta Regional Authority

Lee Powell, Executive Director, Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus

EAST CENTRAL ARKANSAS

East Central Enterprise Community, Forrest City and adjacent areas—Robert Cole, Mildred Barnes Griggs and others. (SPEAKER)

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, ARKANSAS

Randy Henderson, Nucor Yamato Steel

Priscilla Johnson, Mississippi County Economic Opportunity Commission, Blytheville

Cecil McDonald, MissCo EOC, Mississippi County Quorum Court

(INVITED) President James Shemwell, Vice Presidents Blanche Hunt and Pacey Bowens, Arkansas Northeastern College based in Blytheville–invited

Rep. Monte Hodges, Blytheville,

PHILLIPS COUNTY ARKANSAS

Beatrice Shelby, BGACDC nonprofit in Phillips County confirmed.

Anita Harrison, BGACDC

Kenneth Cox, BGACDC

Netasha Brown, BGACDC

Latina Taylor, BGACDC

KaChasity White, BGACDC

Several others from Phillips County invited, including Keith Pinchback, Phillips Community College of U of A

LOUISIANA

Millie Atkins, (SPEAKER) Delta Caucus board member, Monroe, Louisiana, veteran Delta regional advocate and formerly executive at CenturyTel working on broadband access expansion and many other initiatives;

MISSOURI

Mike Marshall, (SPEAKER) CEO, Sikeston, Missouri Regional Chamber and Economic Development Corp., former Federal Alternate Co-Chair of the Delta Regional Authority

ALABAMA

Billy McFarland, (SPEAKER) TS Police Support League, Eutaw, Greene County, Alabama

Sheila Smith, (SPEAKER) TS Police Support League, Eutaw, Greene County, Alabama

MISSISSIPPI

Wilson Golden, (SPEAKER) Georgia resident, Mississippi native;

Keith Fulcher (SPEAKER), President, Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi

. Dorothy Grady-Scarbrough, (SPEAKER), Executive Director, Mississippians Engaged in Greener Agriculture (MEGA)

KENTUCKY

Al Cross, (SPEAKER) Director, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky,

ILLINOIS

LYNN ANDERSEN LINDBERG, (SPEAKER) Interim Executive Director, OFFICE OF INNOVATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY, CARBONDALE, ILLINOIS

Last but not least, we have one of the foremost experts on hunger and poverty in America, Joel Berg, CEO, Hunger Free America (SPEAKER)

MANY OTHERS HAVE BEEN INVITED FROM ACROSS THE REGION

US. Sen. John Boozman, Gov. Asa Hutchinson were invited and other federal and state officials are invited