Project 21 is an initiative of The National Center for Public Policy Research to promote the views of African-Americans whose entrepreneurial spirit, sense of family and commitment to individual responsibility has not traditionally been echoed by the nation’s civil rights establishment. This became most obvious during the April 1992 riots in Los Angeles, when the media provided extended coverage of the reaction of liberal civil rights leaders to the events surrounding the Rodney King controversy. Curiously, the media made little mention of those in the African-American community who spoke out in favor of law and order and individual responsibility – and against the rioting.
Rather than merely complain about the lack of attention given to conservative and moderate African-Americans as typified by the coverage of the riots, The National Center for Public Policy Research convened a meeting of conservative and moderate African-American activists in mid-1992 to determine whether it was feasible to construct a network to bring conservative and moderate voices in the black community to the attention of the media. The answer was yes, and Project 21 was born. By March of 1993, Project 21 secured the necessary funding to hire a full-time coordinator to pursue its goals. Project 21’s mission includes the active promotion of conservative and moderate viewpoints by Project 21’s network of members in the media, and the ongoing recruitment of new members to be promoted.
Project 21 acts as a public relations network for moderate and conservative African-Americans, and is interested in promoting those African-Americans who want to discuss their beliefs not only in the privacy of their own homes but in thousands, sometimes millions, of homes across America. Whether a member is a talented writer, articulate speaker, dedicated policy analyst or just have interesting viewpoints on important issues, Project 21 is there to help its members get recognition.
Project 21 has enjoyed enormous success. Project 21’s network of African-American moderates and conservatives have been interviewed by hundreds of newspapers, talk radio shows and television programs throughout the country. Participants have been featured on such programs as CNN & Company, CNN Morning News, The McLaughlin Group, C-SPAN’s Morning Journal, Larry King, Rush Limbaugh, The Michael Reagan Show, BET’s Our Voices, and America’s Black Forum as well as in newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Detroit News, USA Today, The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, and many others.
Project 21 members have been published, quoted or interviewed over 35,000 times since the program was launched in 1992.
Project 21 first burst into attention following the release of Black America 1994: Changing Direction in January 1994. A 77-page volume, Black America 1994 is a comprehensive assessment of the challenges and opportunities facing the African-American community. A collection of 15 essays written by Project 21 participants, the report addressed important contemporary issues including economic stagnation, crime, education, health, welfare, and the disintegration of the black family.
In the weeks following the report’s release, its contributors participated in several hundred media interviews, and Project 21 received nearly 5,000 requests for information and numerous offers of support.
Project 21 released a major report, The Health Care Ghetto: African-Americans and Health Care Reform, at a National Press Club press conference in August, 1994. The report was the first of its kind to analyze how various health care reform initiatives would affect minority communities.
In January 1995, Project 21 released a second annual report: Black America 1995: A New Beginning. The report consisted of 38 essays by Project 21 members on topics ranging from the information superhighway to crime. In January 1996, a series of profiles were released of black conservatives and moderates who shun government spending and embrace greater community involvement as the way to solve problems. Black America 1996: A Time for Renewal also included an agenda created by black conservatives and moderates outlining what government needs to do – and what it needs to stop doing – if people are going to start solving their own problems.
In 1997, following two years of research, Project 21 released an in-depth report: Black America 1997: How Government Harms Charities… And How Some are Succeeding Anyway. Until now, it has not been widely known that humanitarian groups suffer from government’s regulatory harassment. The 90-page report received front page newspaper coverage in Washington D.C. and led to calls from lawmakers interested in repealing the regulations that harm the ability of charities to help the poor.
Project 21 also has taken a lead role in bringing to public attention the fact that a substantial number of government environmental rules have a disproportionately negative economic impact on minorities. In addition to assisting with the research and publication of over 60 studies, op-eds and press releases on this topic in recent years, in 2002, joining with the John P. McGovern Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs to form a Center for Environmental Justice, Project 21 released a comprehensive econometric analysis of the impact of so-called “smart growth” regulations on minorities. The study, “Smart Growth and Its Effects on Housing Markets: The New Segregation” was published in November, 2002.
Project 21 is also actively involved in educating the public on proposals to empower communities rather than the government. For instance, Project 21 was instrumental in promoting the ideas incorporated in the Community Renewal Act, sponsored by Reps. Jim Talent (R-MO) and J.C. Watts (R-OK) in the 105th Congress. Project 21’s Contract with Black America, proposed to the leadership of the Republican Congress in January 1995, started the process that eventually led to the crafting of the Community Renewal Act.