The Black Institute – Another ACORN Sprout

The mission of The Black Institute is to shape intellectual discourse and dialogue and impact public policy uniquely from a Black perspective (a perspective which includes all people of color in the United States and throughout the Diaspora [1]). The Black Institute will translate the “think” in think-tank into “action” through a head, heart and feet strategy: the head being research, data gathering, polling and academic partnerships; the heart being civic education, training and development; and the feet being on the ground organizing and issue based campaigns. The Black Institute will change the discourse of public debate, train and educate new leadership and develop initiatives to build wealth, build power and deliver justice to Black people [2].


Michael Anicette, Esq. – Attorney. Although a search of the web did not yield much biographical information concerning Michael Anicette, an interesting fact was discovered. He is/was the point of contact for receiving donations for a 501 (3c), New York Agency for Community Affairs, Inc. (NYACA) which is strangely based at 2609 Canal St., 4th Floor in New Orleans, LA. [4] [5].
Carl Horowitz in 2009 article stated that, “New York ACORN Front Group Based in New Orleans Gets Taxpayer Money” and as of 2009, “… one of its affiliates, a misleadingly-named nonprofit entity called New York Agency for Community Affairs, Inc. (NYACA), has been at the center of attention. A recent probe by a consortium of New York City newspapers shows NYACA thus far in this year alone has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from New York state and local taxpayers for political campaign services.[6]” The taxpayers money granted to and the association of NYACA to ACORN confirmed in June, 2010 [7]. The New York City Council, in particularly council members, DeBlasio, Palma, Sanders, Jr.,Viverito sponsored $35,000 for NYACA for the fiscal years 2008, 2009, and 2010 [8].
An interesting expense for NYACA in 2007 was $730,995 for “Contractual & Personnel Service” to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) which just by coincidence happened to be located at the same address as NYACA [9].
In 2010, Mr. Anicette was once again the point of contact for joining yet another organization, New York Communities Organizing Fund, Inc., another 501 3(c), organization, which sponsored a celebration of “a new beginning in the fight for social change, applaud the first year of work by New York Communities for Change [(NYCC [10]) or ACORN under a new name [11]] and honor those public figures that stood by us.” The list of those honored and “standing with them” is a list of Americans from all walks of life lawyers to unions (SEIU) and congress people (Charles Rangel) [12].

James Heyliger – President, AMENY (The Association of Minority Enterprises of New York, Inc.) A minority and women business enterprise (MWBE) non-for profit trade organization dedicated to the development and enhancement of its constituents, and the economic viability of disadvantage communities [13].

Other members of the Board of Directors include Selvin Bushay a Community Activist, Carmen Wallace a Marketing & H. R. Consultant, Joseph P. Awad, Esq. – Partner, Silberstein, Awad & Miklos, P.C., Arthur Schwartz, Esq. – Partner, Schwartz, Lichen & Bright, P.C. and Melvin Lowe – Principal, Melvin Lowe Group, LLC.


Roger Green – Executive Director, DuBois-Bunche Center for Public Policy – Before coming to the DuBois Bunche Center For Public Policy as executive director, he served as a member of the New York State Assembly from 1981 until 2005, where he represented several neighborhoods in central Brooklyn.
While in the Assembly, Mr. Green was widely acknowledged as an expert on educational reform as well as on issues related to children and family policies. He served as the chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Science and Technology, the Committee on Children and Families and the Joint Budget Conference Committee on Human Resources. A longstanding advocate of civil and human rights, Mr. Green worked within the legislative process to enact numerous laws that reflected his commitment to these principles. In addition to his responsibilities as the executive director of the DuBois Bunche Center, Mr. Green is a professor of Public Administration and the publisher of the soon-to-be-released “Solutions”, DBC’s journal [15].
The DuBois Bunche Center for Public Policy is a think tank dedicated to forging solutions to the challenges confronting people of color living within urban communities in the United States and throughout the African Diaspora (There’s that word again …OM). DBC produces research, formulates policies, sponsors conferences and produces public affairs media programming that advances economic and social justice. The DuBois Bunche Center accomplishes this economic and social justice mission through: Scholarly Research; the identification of emerging trends, issues and best practices in public policy; the organization of roundtables, forums and conferences to connect policy makers with governmental and non-governmental actors; the formulation of laws, public policies, programs, and community covenants that advance progressive change; the dissemination of research and public opinion via academic journals, traditional media and new media outlets; and the cultivation and empowerment of a new generation of scholar activists and advocates in the tradition of Dr. DuBois and Dr. Bunche. It is housed at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York [16].

David Jones – President & CEO, Community Service Society of New York (CSS) Mr. Jones has led CSS since 1986. Before that, 1983 – 1986, he served as Executive Director of the New York City Youth Bureau. He was a Special Advisor to Mayor Koch from 1979 to 1983 with responsibilities in race relations, urban development, immigration reform, and education. Jones has also served from1996 to 2000 as Chairman of the Board of Carver Federal Savings Bank, the largest African-American managed bank in the nation. He served for 12 years on the board of trustees of Wesleyan University and is now a Trustee Emeritus. Mr. Jones also served on the board of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and was Vice Chairman of the Primary Care Development Corporation, which finances health care programs and facilities in medically underserved communities.
Mr. Jones has been appointed by Mayor Bloomberg to several commissions, including his transition committee. Mr. Jones is Chair of the Advisory Board of New York City’s Independent Budget Office and a member of the Advisory Council of the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene. He is a board member of the Scherman Foundation. He is also Chairman of the Board of the Nation Institute.
Mr. Jones is past chairman of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), which is committed to making organized philanthropy more responsive to socially, economically, and politically disenfranchised people [17]. The NCRP has served for more than 30 years, as the country’s independent watchdog of foundations [18]. The Members and Partners read like a who’s who of various progressive and liberal organizations, including Tides, the Ford Foundation, Needmor (this organization will come up in with another member of the Advisory Board) [19].
He is also a founding member of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone and for seven years was President of Black Agency Executives, a group of black leaders of major New York City human service agencies. For over 10 years he served as a member of the board of directors of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Mary Sobecki – Program Officer, The Needmor Fund Mary Sobecki is grants manager/program officer for The Needmor Fund. Prior to joining Needmor, she worked at the Toledo Community Foundation for 15 years, where she served as senior program officer and later as the founding director of the Nonprofit Resource Center. In addition to her work as a grantmaker, Mary is also a stand up
comedienne, as well as a member of an improvisational comedy troupe known as the Around the Bend Players [20].
The Needmor Fund is a family foundation established in 1956 in Toledo, Ohio, by Duane and Virginia Secor Stranahan. In creating The Fund, the Stranahans carried forward their parents’ legacy of community stewardship: in the late 19th century, as a landmark family in a bustling new city, the Secors were pivotal to Toledo’s economic, intellectual, and cultural formation; in 1910, Frank Stranahan and his brother Robert founded The Champion Spark Plug Company, which was to become a leader in corporate accountability and philanthropy. The Needmor Fund is informed by the energy, vision, and generosity of these forebears [21]
The Needmor mission is to work with other to bring about social justice. The Needmor Fund supports people who work together to change the social, economic, or political conditions which bar their access to participation in a democratic society [22]. Needmor fund is also a “member” of the Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG), which also includes other well known Liberal / Progressive funders such as Ford, Open Society, Ben & Jerry and many others [23].

Other members of the advisory board include: Jose Alvarez – Principal, Alvarez Porter Group, LLC
John Banks – Vice President, Government Relations, Con Edison, Brian Figeroux, Esq. – Figeroux & Associates, P.C., Bill Lynch – President, Bill Lynch & Associates, Cheryl McKissack – President, McKissack & McKissack, Rev. Connis Mobley – Sr. Pastor, United Community Baptist Church.

STAFF [24]

Bertha M. Lewis – President & Founder. The Black Institute has been founded upon the vision of Bertha Lewis, a life-long community activist and organizer. Bertha’s work as a leader has been recognized time and again by several prominent organizations. She was one of ten national recipients of the 2004 Citizen Activist Award of the Gleitsman Foundation for her work in public education reform. She received the 2005 New York State Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, Inc. Leon Bogues award for community and political activism. Ms. Lewis was also named by Crain’s magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Women of New York in 2007 and was named as an “Influential” in politics by New York Magazine in 2006.
In 1992 Lewis went to work for ACORN, first as a counselor to first-time home buyers, and then, in 1995, as head of its housing-development unit. In 1996 Lewis became the head of ACORN in Brooklyn, and by the end of 1997 she was Executive Director of New York ACORN.
In her new position, Lewis also had command of ACORN’s various front groups, serving, for instance, as co-chair of the Working Families Party (WFP), a 30,000-member-strong outgrowth of the socialist New Party and connected with Andrew Stern and his SEIU labor organization. Speaking just a few days before Hillary Clinton won her U.S. Senate seat in 2000, Lewis explained the high expectations that WFP placed on politicians whom it endorsed: “Candidates know that when they’re on our line, they’re committed to certain things […] Hillary knows that if she wins, we’re going to be knockin’ on her door. She won’t be able to hide.”[25] (This reference contains much more information of Bertha Lewis)
After a 20 year tenure with ACORN, culminated in October 2008 with her appointment as the CEO and Chief Organizer. Under Lewis’s leadership, ACORN, was investigated by Congress for a number of crimes, which lead to the conclusion that ACORN should no longer receive federal funding and may / should be prosecuted for charges under RICO, which as can be seen, lead to absolutely nothing. ACORN closed its doors, as ACORN, on April 1, 2010 [26] [27] [28].

Princess V. Lyles – Executive Director has long had a passion for social justice. Prior to joining The Black Institute she worked in private practice as a Corporate and Real Estate Attorney with the law firm of Shipman & Goodwin LLP. A graduate of Spelman College and Howard University School of Law she served as the Editor-in-Chief of Howard Scroll: The Social Justice Law Review and as a Law Fellow with the NAACP Legal Department (A Soros Funded organization [29] . Princess also studied Human Rights in South Africa with the International Human Rights Exchange Program.

Ebony Constant – Organizing Associate joined after graduating from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts where she majored in Political Science/ Public Policy and History. Ebony worked as the Communications Director and Co-Office Manager for a New York State Senate campaign in the summer of 2010. She also plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in American Foreign Policy.

Yet another ACORN sprouting?

[1] Diaspora: the movement, migration, or scattering of a people away from an established or ancestral homeland.
[9] Page 10
[12] Anicette’s name appears in the fine print on the contribution form.

Semper Fi,
Beckah, Top shot and Old Marine

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