Economists say the recession is over. Recent national job reports illustrate an upward climb to the recovery. Yet these accomplishments have not effectively reached the urban communities of color–neither Black nor Hispanic.
This is according to the National Urban League’s 2011 “State of Black America” (SOBA) released recently. To combat this painful State of Black America in 2011, the NUL has declared a war on unemployment.
“With overall unemployment now at 8.9 percent and 13.7 million people still out of work …the recovery has yet to make a significant visit to communities of color,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League (NUL).
Since 1987, the NUL has published its comprehensive publication, “The State of Black America,” to address what members, analysts and specialists see as the major issue affecting urban America for that year. Not much has changed. Last year it was “Responding to the Jobs Crisis.” This year, the issue is “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
The report, which is both published in hard copy book form for sale and provided for free online, illustrates a devastated urban America. Black unemployment is at 15.5 percent as of the March jobs report by the United States Bureau of Labor. Of those 13.7 million unemployed Americans, 8 percent are White and 12 percent are Latino, according to the report. In addition, the report predicts a job loss count of 500,000 to 800,000 due to a proposed $61 billion budget cut in the federal budget.
The statistics illustrate a reality that has permeated and affected other aspects of American life, such as healthcare, international trade, education, housing and transportation. They are all a “jobs issue,” Morial said.
Boasting its history as a “do-tank” the SOBA report-released this year during a town hall meeting at Howard university–presents statistical data about unemployment. But it also offers solutions in its 12-point plan, “Jobs Rebuild America: Putting Urban America Back to Work.”
The plan outlines needed initiatives from state, local and federal governments such as direct job creation and the renewal of the Youth Summer Jobs Program. The plan also promotes the development of a jobs initiative that creates positions in technology and broadband, healthcare, and clean energy.
AT&T and the NUL are working in cooperation to address the broadband gap in urban areas. The mobile corporation sponsored the unveiling of the State of Black America March 31.
Vice President of AT&T’s Business Solutions, Xavier Williams, labeled a more universal internet access and broadband job creation as a solution to job training, education, and healthcare. These initiatives, Williams said, help to promote the “power of communication,” which can greatly help Black Americans “learn a new trade so that they can be productive in the community.”
To further discuss the implications of the report and brainstorm solutions to the issues, the NUL hosted a panel at the Town Hall. Moderated by journalists Roland Martin and Jeff Johnson, the panel had the voices of AT&T’s Williams, radio show host Warren Ballentine, Michelle Singletary, a syndicated columnist for The Washington Post and other CEOs of Urban League locations.
With regards to the report and AT&T’s encouragement of broadband job skill training, the panel analyzed reasons for what they believe has been a lack in job skills training in general. Aided by the insight of Howard University Student Association President Brandon Harris, the panel touched on a contributing factor in the unpreparedness for the work force of urban Americans–a failing educational system.
“The reason those people are unskilled is because the education system isn’t preparing them,” Johnson said during the panel.
Town hall guest Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray agreed on a need for educational reform, particularly in the Black community.
“[We need to] underscore the importance of education. In the District of Columbia, we have close to 2,000 kids [who] don’t go to school. The overwhelmingly large majority of those young people are African Americans who see no place for themselves in schools, see no value to education, often times wind up in special education. [They] see no place for themselves, and graduate to the criminal justice system,” Gray said.
Gray sees early child education as the first steps of prevention to such an outcome. D.C. is the first city in America to have early child education available to every 3 and 4-year-old whose family wishes their child to be in the program. The earlier their start, Gray said, the better chances children have.
“If I could put a fetus in an early education system, I would,” Gray said.
Job creation and education reform funnel into the NUL’s call for national action. Gray asked Washington, the Congressional House Majority and America the same question: “Do you hear us?”
Morial concluded: “We can’t just sit back and expect the unemployment crisis to resolve itself. We need targeted solutions to get the economy moving and put urban Americ back to work.”