PRRAC: THE EIGHTH YEAR
Note: Please contact us if you would like a print copy or a copy of the audited financial statements.
The Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) is a national nonprofit organization founded by major civil rights, civil liberties and anti-poverty groups to address problems at the intersection of race and poverty. It effectively began operation in 1991.
The impetus to establish PRRAC was the need for advocates and social science researchers to work together more closely in order to combat the continuing twin scourges of poverty and racism in the United States. The overlapping crises of homelessness, poor educational performance, persistent unemployment and underemployment, declines in real wages and income supports, rising infant mortality and drug-related crime in poor communities have prompted national as well as local civil rights and civil liberties groups to reassess their own priorities. Traditional anti-poverty and legal services advocates have likewise begun to search for new allies, to update their strategies and to fashion new organizing strategies and legal theories that might meet the increasingly complex problems confronting the poor and racial minorities.
Most advocates have concluded that, to be effective, they must, more than ever before, pursue joint or cooperative strategies. Equally important, they have recognized that they must develop a deeper understanding of labor market economics, social psychology and rapid demographic changes in minority and poverty communities. Advocates need an infusion of the best information and social theory from social scientists. They also need a means to direct the research energies of social scientists towards questions of importance to their own clients.
PRRAC has two objectives. The first is to function as a forum for community-based activists, policy advocates, civil rights and anti-poverty attorneys, and social science researchers who are working on behalf of the poor and racial minorities. The second is to commission and fund social science research that can advance community-based activism, policy initiatives and litigation on behalf of these same persons. Through a range of networking functions and research funding, PRRAC hopes to fashion, disseminate and replicate new strategies to address the problem of persistent poverty and racism in the United States.
In May, PRRAC held a conference on “Effective Education for Low-Income Minority Students” at Howard University Law School. The by-invitation event was designed to bring to the attention of education reporters the results of important social science research. A handbook on education reform will be produced based on the conference proceedings. PRRAC produced a special issue of The Journal of Negro Education, “The Role of Social Science in School Desegregation Efforts: The St. Louis Example” (vol. 66, # 3), co-edited by PRRAC Board member William L. Taylor, Dianne Piche and William T. Trent. The issue consisted of the expert reports commissioned by PRRAC for the St. Louis school desegregation litigation (for which Taylor was lead counsel), as well as trial transcript and deposition excerpts, converted into articles. (Copies of the issue are available from PRRAC, without charge, with a self-addressed label and $1.58 postage.) An extremely positive settlement to the lawsuit, maintaining the nation’s largest voluntary, highly successful interdistrict school desegregation program, was subsequently obtained.
Negotiations were begun with American University looking to a formal affiliation relationship. As part of this process, PRRAC was asked to organize a 1999 Summer Institute on “Racism in America,” commemorating the 35th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Institute will consist of several credit courses and an accompanying lecture series, film series and photo exhibit.
PRRAC continued its focus on President Clinton’s Race Initiative, begun with the first segment of a series of “Advice to the Advisory Board” essays by well-known activists and commentators, published in the November/December 1997 issue of Poverty & Race. The second segment of this collection of 27 essays, directed at the Initiative Advisory Board headed by John Hope Franklin, appeared in the January/February 1998 issue of P&R. Contributors included Howard Zinn, Peter Edelman, Peter Dreier, PRRAC Board member S.M. Miller, Manning Marable, Hugh Price, Julian Bond, Jonathan Kozol, Marcus Raskin, the National Council of La Raza, Frances Fox Piven, Herbert Gans, Bill Ong Hing, Benjamin DeMott, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., Michael Omi, Lillian Wilmore, Clarence Lusane, Frank Wu, PRRAC Board member William L. Taylor, Fred Harris, David Shipler, Sam Husseini, Karen Narasaki, PRRAC Board member Theodore Shaw, Bob Wing and Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich. The first segment of a follow-up set of essays, by many of these same people, commenting on the Advisory Board’s September 1998 Report to the President, was published in the November/December 1998 issue of P&R — with contributions by S.M. Miller, Clarence Lusane, Bill Ong Hing, Jonathan Kozol, Frances Fox Piven, Carmen Joge/Charles Kamasaki, Lillian Wilmore and Frank Wu — with subsequent segments to appear in later issues. PRRAC also plans to produce a “counter-report” to the President’s report when it appears sometime in 1999. Copies of these essays are available from PRRAC with a self-addressed label and postage (contact the office for details).
An upgrade of PRRAC’s computer systems was installed in mid-year.
No new research/advocacy grants were made during 1998. Work continues on many of these projects, as well as on the larger projects the PRRAC Board has commissioned – the State and Federal Data Reconnaissance Project and the Housing and School Segregation Project.
An updated descriptive listing of the ca. 90 projects PRRAC has funded to date and the products thereof was published in September (and included as an insert in the September/October issue of Poverty & Race). Copies are available from us upon receipt of a self-addressed label.
We are seeking funding to resume grantmaking, in specific areas and more generally -possibly via an endowment for this element of PRRAC’s work. Looking cumulatively at PRRAC’s small grants program, the most common substantive area of work is housing (and homelessness); other areas include health, education, employment, criminal justice, immigration, transportation, voting, domestic violence and the environment. Researchers funded included staff of advocacy organizations, academics (working independently on projects that will be of assistance to advocacy groups or in tandem with such groups) and members of grassroots organizations. Where organizations do not have access to appropriate research help, PRRAC draws on its network of researchers to locate such assistance.
In deciding which applications to fund, criteria — beyond the basic threshold requirements that the request be for research support around the intersection of race and poverty, and that the research directly support a planned, concrete advocacy agenda — include the importance of the advocacy effort, the utility and quality of the proposed research, the potential for success of both the research effort and advocacy work, the project’s potential for publicity and dissemination, and its potential for replication elsewhere. PRRAC strongly encourages involvement of minority researchers. As projects are completed, opportunities for replicating the research and/or advocacy will be explored and, as appropriate and needed, advanced.
While the advocacy work advanced by PRRAC-supported research usually takes a while to implement, there are many successes to date. Some examples:
The Clinica Legal Latina/Ayuda’s research on domestic violence among DC-area immigrants helped in passage of federal legislation protecting the immigration status of women victimized by such abuse.
The ACLU’s research led to their successful suit challenging Alabama’s racially discriminatory education system.
The Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago’s research documenting the miseducation of homeless children helped pass state legislation guaranteeing such pupils an adequate education, and produced a litigation settlement with a similar result.
Ed Kissam’s research on the systematic undercount of farmworkers led to revision of Census Bureau enumeration procedures, in turn increasing population-based program funds.
Yale Rabin and Joe Darden’s documentation of the government role in creating racially segregated housing patterns in Allegheny County, PA, was a key element in producing an extraordinarily progressive consent decree in the Lawyer’s Committee For Civil Rights Under Law suit.
The Labor/Community Strategy Center’s research into racially discriminatory transit planning and implementation by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority is being used to support their path-breaking lawsuit; the suit raises a new area for Title VI and Constitutional concerns and enforcement, already being replicated and considered in other cities.
Research by Yale Rabin critical of the public housing replacement plans in New Haven and Providence and his preparation of alternative plans have assisted Legal Services lawyers in both cities to secure improved plans for desegregated housing.
Occidental College professor Manuel Pastor’s computer-based system of linking community groups with useful local academic resources in the LA area is now available for easy replication in other cities.
1998 PRRAC BOARD OF DIRECTORS
John Charles Boger, University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill, NC
Kati Haycock, The Education Trust, Washington, DC
Jose Padilla, California Rural Legal Assistance, San Francisco, CA
john powell, University of Minnesota, Institute of Race & Poverty, Minneapolis, MN
Phyllis Holmen, Georgia Legal Services, Atlanta, GA
Shari L. Dunn Buron (from 6/98), National Legal Aid & Defender Association, Washington, DC
Nancy Duff Campbell, National Women’s Law Center, Washington, DC
David Cohen, The Advocacy Institute, Washington, DC
Bill Fletcher, Jr. (until 6/98), AFL-CIO, Washington, DC
Tonya Gonnella Frichner (from 6/98), American Indian Law Alliance, New York, NY
James Gibson (until 6/98), The Urban Institute, Washington, DC
Thomas Henderson, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Washington, DC
Chung-Wha Hong (from 6/98), National Korean American Service & Educational Consortium, Flushing, NY
Alan Houseman (until 6/98), Center for Law & Social Policy, Washington, DC
Kenneth Kimerling (until 6/98), Asian American Legal Defense & Educational Fund, New York, NY
S.M. Miller, The Commonwealth Institute, Cambridge, MA
Don Nakanishi, University of California, Asian American Studies Center, Los Angeles, CA
Jane Perkins, National Health Law Program, Chapel Hill, NC
Anthony Sarmiento (from 6/98), Working for America, AFL-CIO, Washington, DC
Theodore M. Shaw, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, New York, NY
Milagros Silva (from 6/98), ACORN, Brooklyn, NY
Esmeralda Simmons, Center for Law and Social Justice, CUNY, Brooklyn, NY
Cathi Tactaquin, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Oakland, CA
Bill Tamayo (until 6/98), San Francisco, CA
William L. Taylor, Washington, DC
(Organizations listed for identification purposes only)
1998 PRRAC STAFF
Shanta Rao (until 12/98)
Cherryl Donahue (until 12/98)
Denise Rivera Portis (from 12/98)
Elizabeth Ellis (from 11/98)
SOCIAL SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD
Richard Berk, UCLA Department of Sociology
Frank Bonilla, Hunter College Center for Puerto Rican Studies
Cynthia Duncan, University of New Hampshire Department of Sociology
Roberto Fernandez, Stanford University Graduate School of Business
Heidi Hartmann, Institute for Women’s Policy Research (Washington, DC)
William Kornblum, CUNY Center for Social Research
Harriette McAdoo, Michigan State University School of Human Ecology
Fernando Mendoza, Stanford University Center for Chicano Research
Paul Ong, UCLA Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Planning
Gary Orfield, Harvard University Graduate School of Education
Gary Sandefur, University of Wisconsin Institute for Poverty Research
Margaret Weir, University of California-Berkeley, Departments of Sociology & Political Science