Progressive Urban Policy Forum

NAACP Progressive Urban Policy Forum:

PUPF is comprised of Greater New Haven’s leading thinkers and practitioners in the area of urban policy development. As the Greater New Haven NAACP’s policy arm, the group is charged with research, policy development and advocacy in the areas of but not limited to economics, health, public safety and education and youth.

PUPF will be instrumental in informing the long-term policy goals of the National NAACP and Greater New Haven NAACP, particularly those that impact urban, under-resourced communities. Each NAACP committee agenda will be based on the organization’s long-term, intended outcomes. Ultimately, these outcomes will serve as the organizational blueprint to solving urban issues.

Each member’s written contribution will be acknowledged by the way of a formal publishing process as well as being posted to the organization’s website. In Addition, all pertinent developments will be shared with our communities, fellow activists and elected officials and National NAACP on an annual basis. The publication and research will go directly into action by the NAACP committees and staff.


  • Develop the Greater New Haven NAACP long-term legislative policy agenda.
  • Tackle systemic problems that affect the urban & minority community in Greater New Haven.
  • Integrate the National NAACP legislative policy goals with the Greater New Haven Branch into one agenda.
  • Become a resource pool of ideas and solutions for the urban community.
  • Coordinate a political and advocacy strategy around policy ideas for implementations.
  • Share research and solutions with key stakeholders and the community members.
  • Develop and advise the Greater New Haven NAACP State of Minority Affairs Report.

Infrastructure: The Forum will be managed by two co-chairs. Each will be appointed by the NAACP President. The Forum will consist of several subcommittees. Each Forum member will be assigned to a subcommittee related to their respective disciplines and interests, all members are volunteers. The forum is broken up into several groups, Economic Wealth & Development, Health Policy, Education, Youth Engagement, Civic & Political Engagement, and Social Welfare.

The NAACP staff will provide administrative support to the forum.


Education Group

Dr. James Comer,

Dr. James Comer, MD, MPH is the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine‘s Child Study Center, and has been a Yale medical faculty member since 1968. During these years, he has concentrated his career on promoting a focus on child development as a way of improving schools. His efforts in support of healthy development of young people are known internationally. Dr. Comer, perhaps, is best known for the founding of the Comer School Development Program in 1968, which promotes the collaboration of parents, educators, and community to improve social, emotional, and academic outcomes for children that, in turn, helps them achieve greater school success. His concept of teamwork has improved the educational environment in more than 500 schools throughout America. A native of East Chicago, IN, Dr. Comer received an A.B. degree in 1956 from Indiana University, an M.D. degree in 1960 from Howard University College of Medicine, and an M.P.H. in 1964 from the University Of Michigan School Of Public Health. Dr. Comer is the author of many books such as , What I learned in School: Reflections on Race, Child Development and School Reform. San Francisco: Josey –Bass (2009), From There to Here Those Who Dared: Five Visionaries Who Changed American Education. Carl Glickman: Teachers College Press (2009). Leave No Child Behind: Preparing Todays Youth for Tomorrow’s World Yale University Press (2009). Since 1971, Dr. Comer has served as Director or Trustee of the following Boards: the Nellie Mae Education Foundation; Wesley University, Albertus Magnus College, Teachers College Columbia University, The Carnegie Corporation. Dr. Comer has been awarded 47 honorary degrees and has been recognized by many organizations. In, 2007 he received the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Education. In 2004, he received the John P. McGovern behavioral Science Award for Education from the Smithsonian. In 2006 he received the John Hope Franklin Award, given to those who have demonstrated the highest commitment to access and excellence in American education.

Alex Johnston,

Alex Johnston is CEO of ConnCAN. As ConnCan’s first employee, Alex launched what is now regarded as one of the nation’s leading state-level education reform organization. In the five years since, he had led ConnCan’s effort to advocate for state policies that will ensure every Connecticut child has access to a great public school. In 2009, ConnCan achieved three major legislative victories through its Mind the Gaps campaign: overhauling the state’s teacher certification rules, opening up stories of longitudinal student achievement data to the public and securing $8million of funding for the expansion of high-performing public charter schools in the midst of an $ 8 billion state budget deficit. In 2010, ConnCan’s ‘Our Race to the Top’ campaign helped secure a new teacher evaluation system that incorporates student achievement growth, the adoption of the Common Core Standards, and a new pathways for certification for talented classroom teachers to become principals. Alex is a graduate of Harvard University, Alex received a D. Phil. In politics from Oxford’s Lincoln College on a Rhode Scholarship, where he studied the impact of government funding on nonprofit service provider.

David Nee,

David Nee is Executive Director of William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund. David Nee became the first Executive Director of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund in 1993. The fund works collaboratively to improve education for Connecticut Children by supporting school change, informing the public debate on educational issues, and strengthening the involvement of parents and the community. Mr. Nee was previously executive director of Ittleson Foundation and of then Florence V. Burden Foundation. He has chaired the boards of the Institute for Community Peace, the Committee on Legislation and Regulation of the Council on Foundations, the New York Regional Association of Grant makers, and the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy. He has also served on the boards of the Connecticut Academy for Education in Math Science Technology, Grant makers for Children Youth and Families, and the National AIDS Fund. Mr. Nee graduated from Harvard College in 1968, holds a master‘s degree in English from Yale University, and an M.B.A from Boston University.

Civic & Political Engagement Group


Ron Thomas is Director of Public Policy & Advocacy for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM). His responsibilities include, face to face lobbying efforts directed at state legislators; managing the development and implementation of CCM’s legislative program and policy; assist ting mayors/first selectmen on policy and management issues; and serving as federal/congressional liaison for Connecticut’s cities and towns. Among his areas of responsibility are: budget, land use, housing and community development; labor relations; elections; judiciary; and children and families issues. Previously, he was, among other things, a National Urban Fellow and Special Assistant to the Mayor of Hartford. Ron has a B.A. (Prelaw/History) from Virginia State University and a Master’s in Public Administration from Bernard M. Baruch College in New York City. Ron is a member of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Dr. Yuhuru Williams,

Dr. Yuhuru Williams is widely regarded as one of the nation’s top history education professionals, An expert on the Civil Rights and Black Power Movement as well late 19 & 20th century US History, African American History & Social Studies teaching methods. Dr. Williams teaches History at Fairfield University and is the Chief Historian and Vice President for Public Education and Community Outreach at the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Dr. Williams is the author of Black Politics/White Power: Civil Rights Black Power and Black Panthers in New Haven (Blackwell, 2006) and Teaching U.S. History Beyond the Textbook (Corwin, 2008). He is the editor of A Constant Struggle: African-American History from 1865 to the Present, Documents and Essays (Kendall Hunt, 2002), and the co-editor of In Search of the Black Panther Party: New Perspectives on a Revolutionary Movement (Duke University, 2006), and Liberated Territory: Toward a Local History of the Black Panther Party (Duke University, 2009). He also served as general editor for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History’s 2002 and 2003 Black History Month publications, The Color Line Revisited (Tapestry Press, 2002) and The Souls of Black Folks: Centennial Reflections (Africa World Press, 2003). Dr. Williams also served as an adviser on the popular civil rights reader Putting the Movement Back into Teaching Civil Rights.Dr. Williams’ scholarly articles have appeared in The Black Scholar, The Journal of Black Studies, The Organization of American Historians Magazine of History, Delaware History, Pennsylvania History, and the Black History Bulletin.

Wealth Creation & Economic Development Group

John Padilla,

John E. Padilla works within the Center for Family Economic Success at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, where he is responsible for the Foundation’s national portfolios in workforce development and community re-entry of former offenders. He also leads the Foundation’s work in Connecticut where he focuses on strategies that build financial stability among low-income families, and supporting policy work at the state level. Founded in 1948, the primary mission of the Annie E. Casey Foundation is to foster public policies, human-service reforms, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of today’s vulnerable children and families. Born and raised in New York City, John lives in New Haven, Connecticut. John is a graduate of Wesleyan University, and holds an MBA from the Executive Program at the University of New Haven, where he also was the recipient of the Graduate Business School’s Seton Award for Leadership. He also earned a certificate from the Minority Management Training Program at the Tuck Business School at Dartmouth College. In his civic life John is an engaged resident of New Haven and a strong advocate of community service. John is the former Chair of the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, where he served for seven years, including the final two as Board President. Other affiliations include St. Francis Home for Children, The State of Connecticut Board of Academic Awards, and the City of New Haven Parking Authority, and Christian Community Action. Most recently, John, his wife Frances and a group of friends joined together to found the Progreso Latino Fund, which has raised over $200,000 to benefit Latino children in the greater New Haven community. Whether at home or while traveling, John indulges his love of music, especially Afro-Cuban and Cuban jazz, with a record collection that numbers more than 2000.

Mrs. Althea Brooks,

Mrs. Althea Marshall Brooks is the President/CEO of Empower New Haven serving in that capacity since May 2003. In January 1999, New Haven was awarded designation as a federal empowerment zone administering; Ms. Richardson directs the implementation of the strategic plan submitted for this designation and administered over $30 million in public and private funding. The primary objective of the strategic plan is to assist with the economic development of six New Haven communities, focusing on job creation, workforce development, and improved quality of life, including home ownership, public safety, youth, and education. Since her appointment, homeownership has increased in the agency’s targeted six Empowerment Zones, over $10 Million dollars in new, non-Empowerment Zone funding was raised for capacity building, low income asset building, home repair and maintenance programs for low- to- moderate income homeowners; an aggressive business façade improvement program commenced, and enhanced workforce strategies developed. Prior to her promotion, she served as Senior Program Manager for Empower New Haven overseeing the agency’s primary initiatives – Workforce and Business Development and Homeownership. Empower New Haven includes a broad cross-section of decision makers – grassroots representatives from city neighborhoods, businesses, other nonprofits, corporate stakeholders, elected officials and public employees. Ms. Marshall Brooks serves on numerous Boards and Committees throughout Greater New Haven and the State of Connecticut and serves as adjunct faculty at Gateway Community College. Ms. Marshall Brooks has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Family Studies from the University of Connecticut, a Master’s of Science Degree from Southern Connecticut State University in Sociology, and a Master of Divinity degree from Yale University.

Dr. Fred McKinney,

Dr. McKinney is the President of the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council. The GNEMSDC mission is to significantly increase procurement opportunities for certified minority business enterprises. Dr. McKinney is an adjunct member of the University of CT, School of Business where he teaches finance and economics. Dr. McKinney is also a partner with the economic consulting firm BJM Solutions, LLC. BJM Solutions is an economic consultant company specializing in financial and housing market analysis. Dr. McKinney earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in economics in 1983 and is the first African American male to receive a Ph.D in economics from Yale University. Dr. McKinney earned his B.A. degree in economics from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1976. Dr. McKinney served on the Council of Economic Advisors in 1977-1978 during Carter Administration. In 2004, Dr. McKinney was appointed by Governor M. Jodi Rell to serve on the Task Force for Procurement Reform for the State of Connecticut. Dr. McKinney is the former Chairman of the Board of the Gateway Community College Foundation. He is a director at the Fairfield County Community Foundation, Director at the Community‘s Bank of Bridgeport and a member of the Greater New Haven Regional Leadership Council. Dr. McKinney also serves as a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Community Advisory Committee.

Ms. Valarie Wilson,

Valarie Shultz-Wilson was appointed as President and CEO to the Urban League of Southern Connecticut (ULSC) in 2006. Under her leadership ULSC has expanded their program service area to, New Haven, Middlesex, and New London Counties. Valarie has taken on the tasks of diversifying ULSC programs. ULSC has launched the first AARP work search center in Stamford and has opened 3 additional centers in Bridgeport, New Haven, and Danbury. Under her leadership the League has opened a “Smart Money Center” (SMC) in Stamford to help low income residence repair their credit and offer a viable alternative to payday lenders. The SMC has provided assistance to small minority contractors with bonding, start-up capital, and administrative support. In addition, SMC affords minority businesses the opportunity to compete for state and local contracts and employ residence from low-income areas. The Urban League is now a leading community partner working to “…enable African Americans and other minority groups to secure and sustain economic self-reliance”. The Urban League has led the charge by providing assistance in developing a twenty-first century workforce for a new “Green Economy”. Valarie Shultz-Wilson was appointed as President and CEO to the Urban League of Southern Connecticut (ULSC) in 2006. Under her leadership ULSC has expanded their program service area to, New Haven, Middlesex, and New London Counties. Valarie has taken on the tasks of diversifying ULSC programs. ULSC has launched the first AARP work search center in Stamford and has opened 3 additional centers in Bridgeport, New Haven, and Danbury. Under her leadership the League has opened a “Smart Money Center” (SMC) in Stamford to help low income residence repair their credit and offer a viable alternative to payday lenders. The SMC has provided assistance to small minority contractors with bonding, start-up capital, and administrative support. In addition, SMC affords minority businesses the opportunity to compete for state and local contracts and employ residence from low-income areas. The Urban League is now a leading community partner working to “…enable African Americans and other minority groups to secure and sustain economic self-reliance”. The Urban League has led the charge by providing assistance in developing a twenty-first century workforce for a new “Green Economy”. Valarie Shultz-Wilson has devoted her life to seeking new and innovative ways to help others find success. Valarie received her BA in marketing and public relations from the University of Louisville in her hometown of Louisville, KY. She received her master’s degree in nonprofit management from Rockville University and also holds professional certifications from the National Urban League, the University of Connecticut, New York University, and Neighbor Works America. She has accumulated more than 20 years of experience in the fields of nonprofit management, organizational development, and fund development. Valarie is the proud mother of four adult children who currently resides in Fairfield County Connecticut.

Kia Murrell Esq.

Kia Murrell Esq, Recently named as one of Forty Under 40 young professionals by Connecticut Magazine, Kia F. Murrell is assistant counsel for the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA), the state’s largest business organization with over 10,000 members. CBIA works to promote a healthy business climate to encourage economic growth and job creation in the state. Kia represents the interests of the business community in labor and employment matters including: wage and hour law; fair labor standards; workers compensation; unemployment compensation; and occupational health and safety standards before the state legislature and administrative agencies. She works closely with government officials and public policy makers to ensure that the perspective and impact on the business community is considered in public policy decisions.

She educates lawmakers, businesses and the public at large about the impact that public policy has on business costs and the vital role that labor costs in particular play in a business’ decision to remain in Connecticut; reinvest in the state economy; and ultimately to hire and create jobs. In her role as an advocate, Kia is on the front lines of some of the most controversial public policy debates. As a business community representative, Kia has been appointed to several notable boards and commissions, including the Connecticut Department of Labor’s Employment Security Advisory Board; and the Second Injury Fund Advisory Board overseen by the State Treasurer’s Office. Kia is a frequent public speaker on public policy issues and has been interviewed by numerous national, state and local media outlets. She has guest lectured on public policy and advocacy at several major universities and she is active in a variety of professional activities including the Connecticut Bar Association; the George Crawford Bar Association and the Society of Human Resource Managers. In addition to her professional activities, she is on the Board of Directors for Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Community Health Services of Hartford and is a member of the Connecticut Women’s Council; the National Congress of Black Women and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Prior to joining CBIA, Murrell was Deputy Secretary of External Affairs for a former Mayor of Philadelphia after spending years practicing law as the youngest managing attorney at the City of Philadelphia Law Department. She received her J.D. from the Villanova University School of Law in Villanova, Pennsylvania, and has a B.A. degree in Government from the University of Virginia.

Social Welfare Group

Jamey Bell, J.D.

Jamey Bell is Executive Director of Connecticut Voices for Children, where she works on state tax and budget, education and child welfare issues, and leads the organization’s legislative advocacy. She was an attorney at Greater Hartford Legal Aid, Inc. for 26 years, concentrating on legal issues affecting the well being of low-income children and families, including health care access, education, child protection and juvenile justice. She was lead counsel in successful class action litigation to require the Connecticut Department of Social Services tom provide adequate dental care to low-care families on Medicaid. She has worked to build broad0based coalitions to promote policy reforms and for greater inclusion of immigrants and other minority populations. Jamey Bell has B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of Michigan and a J.D. degree from Northeastern University School of Law.

Dr. Jeffrey Ogbar,

Dr. Jeffrey Ogbar was born in Chicago and raised in Los Angeles, California. He graduated with honors and received his BA in History and a minor in African studies from Morehouse College in Atlanta (’91). He earned his MA (’93) and Ph.D. (’97) in US History with a minor in African studies from Indiana University in Bloomington. Since 2003-2009 he served as the Director of the Institute for African American Studies. In 2009 he was named associate Dean for the Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Jeffrey research interest include the 20th century United States with a focus in African American history. More specifically, Dr. Ogbar studies black nationalism and radical social protest. He has developed courses, lectured and published articles on subjects as varied as Pan-Africanism, African American Catholics, civil rights struggles, black nationalism and hip-hop. Prof. Ogbar has held fellowships as Harvard University’s W.E.B DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research, where he completed work on his book, Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity. He also held fellowships at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, and the Africana studies program at the University of Miami where he conducted research for his book, Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap. His latest book is an edited volume, The Harlem Renaissance Revisited: Politics, Arts and letters.

Youth Engagement

Che Dawson,

Che Dawson is the Assistant Director of Operations for Success Charter Network (SCN), a New York City based charter management organization. Che manages the initial set-up and day-to-day [non-instructional] operations of SCN’s 9 schools. Prior to joining SCN, Che was the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Mayor’s Office, for the City of New Haven [Connecticut]. During his tenure with Mayor John DeStefano’s team (January 2007 – June 2011), he was instrumental in developing programming and policy around New Haven youth. His most significant contributions included the development of the City’s Department of Youth, the Open Schools and Service Capacity Mini-Grant programs. He had also played a critical role in facilitating a more efficient use of the City’s resources while enriching the lives of city youth. Prior to working for the City of New Haven, Che was the Executive Director for Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership (LEAP), a New Haven-based youth development organization. LEAP provides children and youth ages 7-21 – from five of the city’s most under-resourced communities – academic and social development opportunities. Che began his tenure with LEAP as a counselor in 1994, gradually assuming additional responsibilities over the years. In addition to managing program implementation and staff, Che was instrumental in sustaining the organization’s growth in new communities, and developing the organization’s management training strategies. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in physics from Adelphi University. While earning his Master’s degree in public administration, Che served as a National Urban Fellow under the tutelage of Arne Duncan, while he held the post of CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Along with his long list of responsibilities at the City of New Haven, Che maintains a busy volunteer schedule, which includes: mentoring, tutoring and coaching many of New Haven’s children and youth.

Stephanie Barnes,

Stephanie Barnes Executive Director of The Boys & Girls Club of New Haven. She has a history of proven leadership and sharp business intellect and in a very short time with the Boys & Girls Club organization, is considered, by Boys & Girls Club of America, to be one of the most influential and promising leaders in the Northeast. Ms. Barnes is responsible for all day to day operations of the Boys and Girls Club including all organizational programs, the direct supervision of the Club’s staff, all development efforts and management of the Club’s total operating budget. Her achievements and strong background include eleven (11) years of relevant experience working for leading non-profit organizations where she provided executive level leadership and key decision making. Her past experience includes: working for The APT Foundation, the AIDS Interfaith Network, Inc., the American College of Nurse Midwives, the United Way of America and most recently as Project Coordinator of the Youth@Work Partnership for the City of New Haven.

Dr. Shirley Jackson,

Dr. Shirley Jackson is a graduate of Wayne State B.A., University of California at Santa Barbra M.A., Ph.D, her areas of specialization are race/ethnicity, gender, and social movements. Dr. Jackson has done research on race/skin color and class in Cuba since the Cuban Revolution. She has traveled to Cuba several times. She also does work on African American women’s organizations, and on race/skin color and class in Cuba, the United States, and Brazil. Dr. Jackson is an active member of several professionals sociology associations. Dr. Jackson is currently working on two research projects. The first is a soci-historical exploration of themes of race/ethnicity, gender, and violence in editorial cartoons during WWII and Civil Rights Movement. The second is an exploration into the lives of African American women in social fellowship organizations. Dr. Jackson served as Department Chair from 2001-2007, she created the Ethnic Studies minor at Southern Connecticut University which she co-coordinates with Dr. Julian Madison of the History Department. She is a Board member of the National Association for Ethnic Studies and the Society for the Study of Social Problems, has served as President of the New England Sociological Association, chair of the American Sociological Association Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities, and on committees in the Eastern Sociological Association, Association of Black Sociologist, and other organizations. Her community involvement includes serving as both as Family Partner and Family Selection committee member for Habitat for Humanity and on The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven’s Women and Girl’s Fund committee. She is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. Dr. Jackson teaches, Racial and Ethnic Relations, Social Problems in the U.S. Women of Color in the U.S., Women of The Third World, Race, Class and Gender, Community Sociology, Introduction to Sociology, Urban Sociology, Social Change, Women in Society, Social Inequality in the U.S. and Seminar in Sociology.