Rep. Vanessa Brown discusses four years as PLBC chairwoman

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 1 – State Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, D-Phila., officially handed over the chairmanship of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus today to state Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila.


Brown's second two-year term as chairwoman ended when the 2015-16 legislative session expired at midnight, Nov. 30.


The new leadership team, including Chairman Harris and Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila., vice chairwoman; Sen. Art Haywood, D-Phila./Montgomery, secretary; and Rep.-elect Chris Rabb, D-Phila., treasurer, was voted into office during a reorganizational meeting in mid-November.


"I look forward to working with this new leadership team," Brown said. "I know I can count on them to continue the successes we made the last four years.


"We made a lot of advances during my term. Some of my proudest accomplishments as chairwoman include the establishment of an Equal Opportunity Officer and Advisory Committee for the state House of Representatives, which will ensure that all House of Representatives employees will work in a safe and equitable work place; the formation of a partnership with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, to raise awareness of employment discrimination for those with a criminal conviction in their past, coinciding with the PLBC's efforts to 'ban the box' which requires job applicants to report previous convictions, even if the conviction is long ago and has no bearing on the applicant's ability to do a job; and the expansion of the PLBC Scholarship program, which gave cash scholarships to 30 minority college students in their pursuit of higher education.


"Over the course of my two terms, the PLBC was also instrumental in establishing a listserv system among statewide minority individuals, groups and organizations, making it easier to keep in touch and share ideas and information. Since 2012, the PLBC has collaborated with both the state's executive branch and the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs to ensure state boards and commissions are more diverse and inclusive. Also over the course of my term, the PLBC was able to unite our General Assembly to establish a sickle-cell line item via one of my amendments, which annually provides specific funding for outreach and education on sickle cell diseases.


"More recently, the PLBC has been responding to current events, such as the series of Know Your Rights forums which we established after the Ferguson, Missouri, police-involved shooting. The PLBC conducted a series of forums advising residents what their rights and responsibilities are during police encounters and the PLBC has also actively fought for the decriminalization of the possession of a small amount of marijuana in local communities. I expect this to become an even bigger issue with the legalization of medical marijuana.


"While my leadership term is complete, I will continue to work with Chairman Harris and the PLBC as they continue to promote and protect the interests of Pennsylvania's minority community."