Project 21 Press Release: Black Activists Applaud Bush Selections for Civil Rights Commission; Change in Commissioners and Staff Will Create “True Leadership”

Members of the Project 21 black leadership network are applauding recent appointments to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights made by President George W. Bush.

President Bush selected Gerald A. Reynolds, a former civil rights official with the U.S. Department of Education, and Ashley Taylor, a former deputy attorney general for the state of Virginia, to replace Commission chairman Mary Frances Berry and vice chairman Cruz Reynoso whose terms expired in early December. Reynolds will serve as the Commission’s new chairman, and serving commissioner Abigail Thernstrom will become the new vice chairman. Kenneth Marcus, another former civil rights official at the Education Department, was also named to be the Commission’s new staff director.

“With the selection of Gerald Reynolds and Ashley Taylor, the once-venerable U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is finally able to begin a sorely needed restructuring and rebirth,” said Project 21 member Donald E. Scoggins. “By appointing these highly-qualified individuals, President Bush illustrates his genuine commitment to the protection of all citizens. In these assignments, there is also reason to anticipate that this organization will once again become apolitical and professional in scope.”

During Berry’s tenure as head of the Commission, the government body became recognized more for her divisive and political behavior and allegations of mismanagement than for its mission to investigate potential civil rights problems. Berry frequently ignored the input of commissioners she did not agree with and even refused to seat Bush-appointed commissioner Peter Kirsanow until ordered to do so by an appeals court. A Government Accountability Office investigation found the Commission regularly disobeyed budgetary guidelines and was an “agency in disarray.”

Reynolds pledged that his first action as chairman will be to proceed with a financial audit of the Commission.

“It’s well past time the Civil Rights Commission gets back to business, as opposed to the constant playing of partisan politics fostered during her tenure,” said Project 21 member Michael King. “Contrary to the constant bickering that Berry and her cohorts in groups such as the NAACP have fostered, there is much the Commission can constructively deal with as our nation moves forward. The Commission is now in a position to provide true leadership.”

Reynolds is a member of Project 21, as is fellow commissioner Kirsanow.

Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at

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