The African American Task Force met for the first time Wednesday morning as it prepared to identify and address racial disparities across Delaware. As the killing of George Floyd on camera commanded national attention to the history of systemic racism in America, Delaware has focused on how it can improve itself, and the task force is labeled as an important step toward equality.
"While much of the focus has been on George Floyd's killing, it also has been on the systemic racism in law enforcement. We can't turn a blind eye to the systemic issues in other parts of our society," said task force co-chair state Representative Stephanie T. Bolden on August 26, 2020. "We will work with Delaware State University and other HBCUs in leveraging knowledge and expertise to undertake extensive research into the ongoing disparities in this route. Our work during the next several months will be difficult, but we must remain focused for the long term."
The task force will have broad vision, looking to focus its subcommittees on a number of areas where racial disparities are most pronounced, including:
- health care
- mental health
- business and economic development
- access to capital lending institutions
- community empowerment
- voting rights
- environmental justice
- community violence
- criminal justice system
While the task force is co-chaired by Bolden and Chief Operating Officer of Delaware State University Cleon Cauley, Esq., subcommittes are broken out into the focuses of Economic Opportunity, Health & Welfare, Safety & Justice, and Infrastructure & Environment. They will be chaired, respectively, by state Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker, state Reps. Kendra Johnson and Melissa Minor-Brown, state Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, and state Sen. Elizabeth Lockman.
The community has spoken, Dorsey Walker said, and legislators are listening.
"To you, our constituents, we say thank you. We were able to put this Justice For All agenda together as a result of hearing the cries from our community," she said. "As we move forward, in particular with the economic empowerment committee, we're looking to do is ensure that there's equity as it pertains to procurement from the city, to the county, to the state. We know that one of the ways that people are able to build wealth is through economic empowerment opportunities. So what we desire to do is ensure that we are creating those opportunities for those in our state."
A number of assistance will come from positions across the Delaware government. Attorney General Kathy Jennings office will assist with the Safety & Justice subcommittee.
"This subcommittee will seek to advance our overall goals of our Delaware Legislative Black Caucus, looking at items in reference to gun and community violence," Chukwuocha said. "We want to create advocacy, as well as community action plans and legislation that will help us to address the saturation of our streets with illegal guns in order to keep the guns out of our communities, and out of the hands of our children."
"As you know, my passion has been to reform the criminal justice system, and make it fair and equal for everyone," AG Jennings said. "Remove racial disparities, be a less punitive environment, and a more rehabilitative environment for everyone in Delaware. The Attorney General's Office also handles a number of other subjects that are so important to this task force. Among them, we are involved in environmental litigation. We are involved in civil rights litigation, and rooting out public corruption. We work closely with every agency represented on this task force and represent those agencies. So it's a pretty broad area of jurisdiction that we have here in Delaware, and I really welcome the opportunity to work with all of you on these important goals."
The reach of the task force is impressive in how thorough it already is in attempting to identify disparities. Other offices involved include the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families, the Department of Transportation, DNREC, the Delaware Department of Human Resources, the Delaware State Housing Authority, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the Delaware Statistical Analysis Center, the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, and the NAACP.
The task force was established by Senate Bill 260, detailed in section 39.
The entire bill is available here:
Questions and comments can be submitted to the task force at AfricanAmericanTaskForce@Delaware.gov.