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Underserved, Proof You Can Build Diverse Coalitions and Get Stuff Done

Underserved: Harnessing the Principles of Lincoln's Vision for Reconstruction for Today's Forgotten Communities by Ja'Ron Smith and Chris Pilkerton, gives readers an authentic picture of the behind-the-scenes efforts within the Trump administration to enact crucial bipartisan legislation. Both Smith and Pilkerton, holding senior positions during President Trump's tenure, played pivotal roles in passing landmark bills and the allocation of permanent funding for America's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

The book sheds light on a significant but often overlooked aspect of the Trump administration's legacy, focusing on the substantial strides made in supporting HBCUs. 

On the day that President Trump met with what is likely the largest gathering of HBCU presidents ever to gather in the Oval office, the media became fixated with Trump advisor Kelly Anne Conway stepping on a sofa in the Oval to get a better picture.  While media outlets highlighted superficial incidents, the book highlights the significance of what happened that day.  Permanent funding for HBCUs.

Underserved delves into the Trump administration's response to HBCU leaders' pleas for debt relief, a matter neglected by the preceding Obama administration. Despite previous requests for debt forgiveness due to Hurricane Katrina-related financial burdens, HBCUs like Xavier University, Tougaloo College, Dillard, and Southern University faced indifference from the Obama administration. In contrast, Underserved highlights that the Trump administration forgave a combined $90 million owed by these institutions. Furthermore, it emphasizes the administration's forgiveness of over $350 million in debt requested by 17 other HBCUs, a plea disregarded by the preceding administration.

President Trump's commitment to supporting HBCUs no doubt stemmed from him recognizing the institutions as a substantial return on investment. HBCUs stand as formidable institutions, contributing significantly to the professional landscape in America. They have been instrumental in producing 40% of all Black engineers and 50% of all Black lawyers. Notably, 70% of Black doctors in the country received their education from HBCUs, and an impressive 80% of Black judges are alumni of these distinguished schools.

Smith and Pilkerton share the unreported truth that the administration's focus on solutions over partisan politics facilitated positive outcomes for underserved communities.

Underserved is more than a history of the Trump administration’s efforts, but it is also a forward-thinking work, offering practical solutions to address poverty and crime. The inclusion of a foreword by Ice Cube adds a layer of cultural significance and further addresses the importance of building diverse coalitions for the best solutions. 

For readers aspiring to become positive forces in their communities, Underserved serves as a valuable resource, encouraging a shift towards solution-oriented approaches to tackle societal challenges.

On Wednesday, Smith testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary acknowledging the five-year anniversary of The First Step Act. According to Right on Crime where Smith serves as a Senior Fellow, the legislation has "reduced recidivism to a fraction of the national average and has helped thousands of incarcerated people successfully re-enter society."

As in the book, Smith shared with members of Congress four concrete areas that are proven to improve American communities.

  1. Support police with proper funding.

  2. Focus police time on preventing and solving the most violent crimes. Police, resources should not be focused on tackling issues like homelessness and mental health issues.

  3. Implement evidence based on policies that have been proven to reduce crime.

  4. Continue to demand accountability for results.


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