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.

Delta Caucus Praises Selection of Corey Wiggins as Federal Co-Chair of Delta Regional Authority

Posted on January 11, 2022 at 12:47 PM

The Delta Caucus endorses President Biden’s choice of Corey Wiggins as Federal Co-Chair of the Delta Regional Authority.

Wiggins is an African American leader who has many years of distinguished service in federal, state, nonprofit and educational activities. He currently serves as Executive Director of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP.

This nomination requires confirmation by the US Senate. We urge senators to approve this wise choice.

“The Delta Caucus praises the selection of Corey Wiggins as Federal Co-Chair of the DRA. Wiggins has great credentials in a wide variety of key regional issues. He is the first African American to serve in one of the Presidential appointees for the DRA and we are always glad to support diversity and excellence in our region,” said Caucus Director Lee Powell.

Corey Wiggins grew up in rural Mississippi and has demonstrated a deep commitment to public service throughout his distinguished career. He is Executive Director of the Mississippi State Conference NAACP and previously served as Senior Vice President of Policy at Hope Enterprise Corporation and Hope Credit Union. He also served as Director of the Hope Policy Institute, where he focused on strengthening communities, building assets, and improving lives in economically distressed parts of the Mid-South.

Wiggins served as a public policy professional as a Barbara Jordan Health Policy Fellow in the United States Senate, and as a policy analyst for the Mississippi State Legislature. He was also Visiting Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management at Jackson State University.

Wiggins completed his undergraduate studies at Alcorn State University. He received a Master of Science in Public Health with an emphasis in Health Policy and a Ph.D. from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Additionally, he has a certificate of nonprofit leadership from Boston College and held fellowships with the Kaiser Family Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Dates of June 2-3, 2020 Set for Delta Grassroots Caucus Conference at Clinton Center in Little Rock

Posted on January 06, 2022 at 02:32 PM

Dates of June 2-3, 2022 Set for Delta Caucus Conference in Little Rock; Please Save the Dates

June 2-3, 2022 Dates Set for Delta Grassroots Caucus Conference in Little Rock

Please save the dates for the June 2-3, 2022 Delta Caucus regional conference at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock. Please save the dates.

The basic schedule is:

OPENING SESSION:

Thursday evening, June 2, 2022, 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Clinton School of Public Service building, at the Choctaw Commons meeting space

FRIDAY SESSION:

Friday, June 3, 2022 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Library

We will be inviting federal, state and local officials and advocates from the 8-state Greater Delta Region from southern Illinois and Missouri to New Orleans and eastward to the Alabama Black Belt. Speakers will be confirming as it gets closer to the time of the event and we will update the agenda as it develops.

We are working on finalizing a group hotel discount rate near the Clinton Center and will send that information along as soon as it is finalized.

REGISTRATION

You register by paying the registration fees, which are $65 for early registration until May 11, and late registration fees are $100 after May 11.

First come, first served if space runs out, and vaccinations are required: There are space limitations that are tighter than usual due to the policy of social distancing, being vaccinated, and having proof of vaccination that is required by the Clinton Center. The Delta Caucus fully supports Clinton Center policies on vaccination and social distancing.

Pay registration fees at website at www.mdgc.us: The fastest and easiest way to pay registration fees is to go on the Delta Caucus website at www.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 $65 check for early registration fees to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

NOTE: We will be practicing social distancing due to the virus situation, which unfortunately is likely to be with us for a substantial amount of time. The Clinton Center meeting places are spacious so we will of course hope we can find space for everybody who wants to attend. Again, if space runs out we will provide spaces on a first come, first served basis.

Late registration fees increase from $65 to to $100 after May 11 to provide an incentive to get the registration fees in on time.

Please feel free to contact other concerned citizens who would like to advocate for community and economic development in the Greater Delta Region and ask if they would like to be there. They can send in the registration fees either on the website or by check as stated above, and contact Director Lee Powell at 202-360-6347 or LeePowell@delta.comcastbiz.net if they have questions.

We have a wide range of people at our conferences, including mayors, city council members, county judges, state legislators, nonprofit executives, community-minded business leaders, universities and colleges, and specialists in key regional issues such as job creation, health care, hunger and nutrition, infrastructure improvements, Delta heritage tourism, rural development and related subjects.

If you have any questions please contact Delta Caucus Executive Director Lee Powell at (202) 360-6347 or by email at LeePowell@delta.comcastbiz.net

Still No Racial Diversity at DRA Federal Level a Year into Biden administration; State Senior Officials also Almost All White

Posted on December 14, 2021 at 12:59 PM

There has been no progress regarding the lack of diversity at the Delta Regional Authority.

If the lack of diversity continues, we are planning a news conference by Zoom in early January to increase the pressure on the administration to act.

All seven of the seven Presidential appointees in the agency’s 20-year history have been white, and currently 10 of the 11 state designees and alternates appointed by the governors are white.

Highly qualified African American leaders in the region have been recommended to the White House as Federal Co-Chair by Members of Congress, private sector groups like the Delta Caucus and others for a year now, with no response.

It is time to call on the Biden administration to stop neglecting this matter. The governors should act as well at the state level.

This is a travesty for a highly diverse region with a large African American population as well as other smaller minorities. One of the major reasons for the creation of the DRA was to address issues of racial justice and diversity.

Please look at the DRA website at dra.gov and you will see in the senior positions 19 white people and one African American person. What is wrong with this picture?

The DRA budget continues to be seriously under-funded at about $28 million for an 8-state region with a population of over 10 million people. The Appalachian Regional Commission’s backers are currently backing an increase in the already much larger ARC budget up to $235 million. Delta advocates should advocate for an increase at least to $150 million, which factors in decades of being drastically under-funded.

Yes, this is likely an oversight and a lack of attention to the Delta region and we are not making any allegation of intentional racial bias, but that is no excuse in 2021 to still have a lack of diversity, not to mention the small budget.

However, there are those in our coalition who believe that in many of the governor’s offices there are those who do not want diversity, although they would not say so publicly. And as for the Biden administration, neglect is no excuse: there should have been a well-qualified African American appointee months ago.

In the past, the only reason we succeeded in creating the DRA and at least getting the budget up from the tiny $5 million of the early 2000s to $28 million was by forcefully pressuring the state and federal and state powers that be for action ASAP, including media coverage.

All our experience tells us that there will be no meaningful action if the request is phrased in quiet, sweet terms like “I hate to bother you and know how busy you are, Governor or Member of Congress or White House official, but if you don’t mind could we see some action for diversity, if it won’t inconvenience you.”

The governors, White House, Members of Congress–with a few exceptions like Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi who has also called for action on these issues–have ignored our repeated calls for action over the past year. This is part of the response to the economic and other damage inflicted by the pandemic, so the old excuse about being busy “with more important matters” will not fly.

The Biden administration claims to have a policy of concern for lower to middle income people who make up the great majority of our region and the country, but they need to back up their claims with action.

We plan a news conference in Little Rock as the Capitol city of one of our key Delta states in early to mid-January to call attention to this problem if there is still no action by then. We may also plan a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC if the indifference continues.

We again commend Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas for being the only high-level official in a position to make appointments to either DRA or state senior posts who has paid any attention to the steady stream of calls for racial diversity at the DRA. Gov. Hutchinson earlier this year appointed a well-qualified African American, Ateca Foreman, to one of the two state DRA posts. Everyone else has been asleep at the switch.

Only calls for action from constituents and concerned citizens will prompt action. Please call, email or otherwise communicate with your Members of Congress, governors’ offices, or call the White House switchboard at 202-456-1414 and ask for the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.

These forms of communications have been done all year and while we never give up, we will have to resort to the more forceful call for action at news conferences by Zoom in early January.

As we have said on numerous occasions previously, that was good that the Biden administration named Leslie Durham of Louisiana as Alternate Federal Co-Chairman. Unfortunately that did not address the lack of racial diversity.

Still No Racial Diversity at DRA Federal Level a Year into Biden administration; State Senior Officials also Almost All White

Posted on December 14, 2021 at 12:59 PM

There has been no progress regarding the lack of diversity at the Delta Regional Authority.

All seven of the seven Presidential appointees in the agency’s 20-year history have been white, and currently 10 of the 11 state designees and alternates appointed by the governors are white.

Highly qualified African American leaders in the region have been recommended as Federal Co-Chair by Members of Congress, private sector groups like the Delta Caucus and others for a year now, with no response.

It is time to call on the Biden administration to stop neglecting this matter. The governors should act as well at the state level.

This is a travesty for a highly diverse region with a large African American population as well as other smaller minorities. One of the major reasons for the creation of the DRA was to address issues of racial justice and diversity.

Please look at the DRA website at dra.gov and you will see in the senior positions 19 white people and one African American person. What is wrong with this picture?

The DRA budget continues to be seriously under-funded at about $28 million for an 8-state region with a population of over 10 million people. The Appalachian Regional Commission’s backers are currently backing an increase in the already much larger ARC budget up to $235 million. Delta advocates should advocate for an increase at least to $150 million, which factors in decades of being drastically under-funded.

Yes, this is likely an oversight and a lack of attention to the Delta region and we are not making any allegation of intentional racial bias, but that is no excuse in 2021 to still have a lack of diversity, not to mention the small budget.

In the past, the only reason we succeeded in creating the DRA and at least getting the budget up from the tiny $5 million of the early 2000s to $28 million was by forcefully pressuring the state and federal and state powers that be for action ASAP, including media coverage. Quiet requests go un-answered.

The governors, White House, Members of Congress–with a few exceptions like Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi who has also called for action on these issues–have ignored our repeated calls for action over the past year. This is part of the response to the economic and other damage inflicted by the pandemic, so the old excuse about being busy “with more important matters” will not fly.

The Biden administration claims to have a policy of concern for lower to middle income people who make up the great majority of our region and the country, but they need to back up their claims with action.

We plan a news conference in Little Rock as the Capitol city of one of our key Delta states in early to mid-January to call attention to this problem if there is still no action by then. We may also plan a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC if the indifference continues.

We again commend Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas for being the only high-level official in a position to make appointments to either DRA or state senior posts who has paid any attention to the steady stream of calls for diversity at the DRA. Gov. Hutchinson earlier this year appointed a well-qualified African American, Ateca Foreman, to one of the two state DRA posts. Everyone else has been asleep at the switch.

Only calls for action form constituents and concerned citizens will prompt action. Please call, email or otherwise communicate with your Members of Congress, governors’ offices, or call the White House switchboard at 202-456-1414 and ask for the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.

These forms of communications have been done all year and while we never give up, we will have to resort to the more forceful call for action at news conferences in early January.

That was good that the Biden administration named Leslie Durham of Louisiana as Alternate Federal Co-Chairman. Unfortunately that did not address the lack of racial diversity.

Agenda for Delta Conference by Zoom, Nov. 18-19, 2021

Posted on November 18, 2021 at 11:56 AM

Delta Issues in Recovering from the Pandemic

November 18-19, 2021

Delta Grassroots Caucus Meeting by Zoom

Please register on the Zoom link below if you have not already done so.

Again, this is how you tune in to the conference. The link is here, but you need to highlight, copy and paste it–it’s not a direct link. Thanks–Lee Powell, Delta Caucus:

https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIuf-yqqjksHdGY-fvE5GtJ05zdyI7TbnU2

OPENING SESSION, NOV. 18, Thursday evening, 4:50 p.m. to about 6:50 p.m.

“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.—Josh Goffney, honor student at Philander Smith College and recipient of the 2021 Delta Caucus Carol Willis Award, which is given to a promising young leader in the Delta to honor the legacy of Carol Willis, Philander Smith College alumnus, and a native of McGehee, Arkansas in the Delta who rose to become a distinguished attorney, political consultant, and senior adviser to President Bill Clinton

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 Andersen 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; Executive Director, Memphis Academy of Health Sciences Middle and High School

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

6:15 p.m.—Vicki Malpass, Winrock International, Associate Director of US Programs

Nori Muster of the Bill Muster Foundation, brief remarks on the legacy of steamboating on the Mississippi River, including the historic Delta Queen

FRIDAY NOV. 19 SESSION, 9 a.m. to 12:30

9 a.m. to 10:40 a.m.—Hunger, Health and Economic Inequality Issues in the Delta during the Pandemic

9 to 9:05—Lee Powell, Caucus Director, opening remarks

9:05 to 9:15–Kathy Webb, Executive Director, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance

9:15 to 9:25–Rev. Preston Clegg, Pastor of Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, on the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s philanthropic work in Helena/Phillips County Arkansas

9:25 to 9:35–Keith Fulcher, President, Community Foundation for Northwest Mississippi

9:35 to 9:45–Dorothy Grady-Scarbrough, Executive Director, Mississippians Engaged in Agriculture (MEGA)

9:45 to 9:55–Bo Ryall, President and CEO, Arkansas Hospitals Association, overview of the Coronavirus situation in Arkansas

9:55 to 10:10–Joel Berg, CEO, Hunger Free America, a national hunger and poverty organization

10:10 to 10:20–DISCUSSION

10:30 a.m.—10:40 a.m. Infrastructure

10:30 to 10:40 a.m.—Shannon Newton, Arkansas Trucking Association, on infrastructure issues

10;40 to 10:50–DISCUSSION

10:50 to 12:45 p.m.—Big Picture Speakers on Delta’s Community and Economic Progress

10:50 to 11–Mike Marshall, CEO, Sikeston, Missouri Regional Chamber and Economic Development Corp., former Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority

11 to 11:10 a.m.–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); Remarks about the Delta Caucus’ work looking back after 20 years

11:10—11:20–Harvey Joe Sanner, long-time Delta regional advocate, President, American Ag Movement of Arkansas

11:20 to 11:30 a.m.—Professor Tamara Glover, Chairperson, Department of Social Work at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff

11:30 to 11:50 a.m.–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

11:50 to about 12:10—Mike Preston, Arkansas Secretary of Commerce and Executive Director, Arkansas Economic Development Commission, followed by a discussion session

A Note about the Delta Caucus Activities

The Delta Caucus is an advocacy organization and does not have any status as a registered lobbyist. A number of years ago Director Lee Powell had registered out of an abundance of caution, but we have deleted the status and make sure to adjust our activities accordingly. There is considerable doubt as to whether our Director ever needed to register years ago, but this was done out of an abundance of caution. In recent years we have concluded that we should not register as lobbyists.

The Delta Caucus is incorporated as a regular corporation in order to give us complete freedom of action in our activities. Even a nonprofit 501c3 can engage in some lobbying, as noted below, and since we are not a 501c3 we have even more ability to engage in occasional lobbying, although most of our activities are informational and advocacy.

The National Council on Nonprofits states that there is considerable confusion about the distinction between lobbying in the narrow legal sense and advocacy:

“Lobbying is … Communicating with decision makers (elected officials and staff; voters on ballot measures), about existing or potential legislation, and urging a vote for or against. All three components of this definition are required: decision makers, actual legislation, AND asking for a vote.

So why the Confusion?

The reason the difference between advocacy and lobbying even matters is because the law that public charities operate under, Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3), is exceedingly confusing. One of the limits (provisos) in that section of the law states that tax-exempt status is contingent upon

“… no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)),”

“No substantial part” is vague and some may believe that the safest route is to avoid any lobbying. Indeed, the IRS has this to say in summarizing the law: “A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.”

End of citation from National Council of Nonprofits


There were no decision makers at the Nov. 18-19 Delta Zoom conference. There was no pending legislation regarding DRA, so it is hard to see how the generalized support for them would be considered lobbying. There were comments that DRA ought to include diversity in its senior ranks, but it is hard to see how that would be lobbying. You lobby when you say there is “X” legislation pending, and I hereby urge you, Decision Maker, to vote for or against it.” (Along with the requirement that a lobbyist has to be paid and lobbying is not a substantial part of their overall work.)

There have certainly been elected officials and politicians who have spoken at many other Delta Caucus events. Their participation itself is not lobbying.

Again, we don’t have tax-exempt status so as not to worry about the loss of something we don’t have in the first place. That’s why we are incorporated as a regular corporation.

At this conference, all of the speakers were either nonprofits, university or college officials, community advocates, and others. We did not have any politicians or elected officials.

Please note that the IRS has said “A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.” We have even more freedom of action on this point because we are not a 501c3.

There may have been a few quotes that might be construed as lobbying at this conference, but the vast majority of comments were informational and educational, and certainly the Delta Caucus did not pay the substantial sums needed to anyone to engage in lobbying that would have triggered the requirement to register as a lobbyist.

Again to quote the National Council on Nonprofits: “The legal definition of a lobbyist is actually quite narrow: lobbyists are required to register if one-third of their time per month is spent engaging in direct communication with officials for lobbying purposes. Contract lobbyists are required to register if they receive or are entitled to receive $2,000 per month for direct communication with officials.” (End of quote)

I do minimal fundraising nowadays because my financial situation personally has nothing to do with the Delta Caucus and I don’t need any income from it. I think people ought not to have to pay expenses and ought to get some nominal payment for their work, but lately I am actually losing money on the Delta Caucus. I am often not paid at all (beyond expenses) and even when fundraising does better I certainly don’t receive the levels of funding listed above by the National Council on Nonprofits.

Thanks–Lee Powell, Executive Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus