February 12, 2018/Blog, Media

Fighting for equality for communities of color | Our Movement Monday

In our series Our Movement Monday, we talk with Texans across our state about their work and the challenges facing their communities.

Today is Founders Day for the NAACP. The fight for civil rights continues to transform our nation. We are forever thankful for the hard work and sacrifices of the NAACP and their members.

To honor NAACP Founders Day, we sat down with Yannis Banks, former Legislative Liaison of the Texas NAACP.

Yannis Banks is currently a Community Involvement Specialist with Capital Metro. Before that he worked for the Texas NAACP as their Legislative Liaison for 10 years. As the Legislative Liaison, Mr. Banks attended meetings & hearings during the legislative session advocating for the views of the African American community on issues like public education, higher education, payday lending, criminal justice, juvenile justice and many more.


 

Thank you for taking the time to be a part of Our Movement Monday. As you know, today is NAACP Founders Day. Can you tell our readers about the NAACP and y’all’s mission?

Yannis Banks: The NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots-based civil rights organization. Our mission is to fight for the political, educational, social and economic equality for communities of color.

We have made great strides since our founding in 1909. Yet, we have not reached the point in our legal system where justice is available to all, where every voter has equal access to the ballot box, and where every student receives a quality public education.

Tell us more about Texas NAACP and your work to protect voting rights and expand access to the ballot box?

Yannis Banks: The NAACP will never stop advocating for unfettered access to the ballot box for all Americans. We are driven by the legacy of those who sacrificed their time, resources, and lives for our right to vote. We will not let politicians or anyone deny communities of color the right to vote.

We’re witnessing the biggest assault on voting rights since Jim Crow. From Voter ID to redistricting to cutting the number of polling places in minority communities, we cannot go back.

We’ve mobilized our members to help people navigate these shameful policies at the local and statewide level.

  • Financial Freedom – We have been working with our local branches to host educational workshops ranging from how manage checking accounts, how to apply for home loans, the harms of payday loans and how to manage credit.
  • Environmental Justice – Local branches have been working within their communities to push back against plans for dumpsites being placed in their community.

We’ve also taken the State of Texas to court with our allies from Mexican American Legislative Caucus and League of Women Voters to strike down the Texas Voter ID law. It denies African Americans’ and Latinos’ access to the ballot, discriminates against minority voters, and imposes an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.

“57% of our state is minority. You don’t see that in our election maps.”

It’s not just Voter ID laws. We see the same court rulings in redistricting cases.

Yannis Banks: Exactly. 57% of our state is minority. You don’t see that in our election maps.

The court keeps discovering what African American and Latino civil rights leaders have known for some time — Republican Voter ID Laws, gerrymandering cases, and other laws, like SB 4, discriminate against minority Texans and they were designed to do just that.

Earlier you talked about how justice is not available to all in our legal system, what can our readers do in their communities to change this?

Yannis Banks: More than 2 million Americans incarcerated today. Most are nonviolent offenders. When we look at who is being stopped by police, charged with crimes, and even the length of their prison terms, African American men are more likely to be stopped and sentenced to longer terms. One in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime.

The NAACP works to strengthen relationships with police organizations and change the bias in our legal system. This starts with bringing law enforcement and communities together to build stronger neighborhoods, only voting for elected officials who will fund training programs to help prevent implicit bias and who will pass legislation to end mass incarceration, and most of all making sure everyone is given a second chance when they return to their communities.

How is the NAACP Texas working to eliminate racial inequalities that continue to plague our education system?

Yannis Banks: We have worked with other organizations to push for more funding from the state into the public education system. We also are working to have more cultural competency training by educators and law enforcement officer in our schools. The data shows that when it comes to discretionary discipline kids of color are disproportionately given harsh punishments, many times pushing them in to school to prison pipeline by introducing them to the criminal justice system.

Thank you, Yannis for answering our questions and sharing the great work the NAACP and the Texas NAACP is doing. If you want to learn more about the Texas NAACP, visit their website here:

More about Yannis Banks

Yannis Banks graduated from Texas State University with a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration. He is currently a Community Involvement Specialist with Capital Metro. In that role he is responsible for making sure the community is informed on the decisions that Capital Metro makes and also expressing what the community thinks about those decisions.

Before that he worked for the Texas NAACP as their Legislative Liaison for 10 years. As the Legislative Liaison, Mr. Banks attends meetings & hearings during the Legislative session advocating for the views of in the African American community on issues like public education, higher education, payday lending, criminal justice, juvenile justice and many more. He is also responsible for the day to day operations of the Texas NAACP which includes managing the website, attending meetings and occasionally speaking for President Bledsoe.

Mr. Banks is the co-host of 2 popular radio talk shows, The Forum and The Wakeup Call that airs on KAZI 88.7. He also is a co-host of 2 popular music shows, Thank Goodness It’s Funky (TGIF) and The Untapped Show on KAZI 88.7 in Austin, TX.

In 2010 he was selected to be the chair of the African-American Subcommittee for the Travis county Complete Count Committee. It was his job to help ensure that as many African-Americans participated in the census as possible.

He is founding board member of New Leaders Council – Austin which started in 2016.