The Great Recession has battered, bruised and pummeled the nation—but nowhere more so than in urban and minority communities. It is amid this crisis that the National Urban League (NUL) releases its 36th edition of “The State of Black America” report this week and declares war on unemployment.
As our cities go, so goes the nation. And although economists have declared the recession technically over, there can be no complete recovery as long as the unemployment rate in Black America stands at more than 15 percent. There can be no complete recovery when the home ownership rate for African-Americans is declining, with thousands of African-Americans losing their homes to foreclosure—many of the cases due to the greed and deceit of predatory lending. Thousands have been discouraged by the crisis from even attempting home ownership.
There is no complete recovery when a handful of filibustering U.S. senators last spring and summer blocked a summer jobs bill, then came back four months later and voted to extend tax cuts for the richest Americans.
Our 2011 report, “Jobs Rebuild America: Putting Urban America Back to Work,” is the single most comprehensive plan for repairing the economy and putting the nation on the road to a complete and meaningful recovery.
Since the recession, the NUL has been the nation’s economic first responder. And even now, as the economy begins to turn around, our affiliates continue to help people keep their homes through our housing counseling efforts and find new work through our job training and job placement programs. We also help small-business owners develop strategies to grow their businesses so that they can employ more people.
People like Lonnie Grayson, president of Environmental & Safety Solutions in Cincinnati. Working with a business coach at the Entrepreneurship Center at the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati, Lonnie developed a strategic plan for growing his firm. The result: major new contracts and a doubling of his workforce.
People like Donna Harper, who received job training through the Urban League’s Mature Workers Program of Essex County in New Jersey. After many years in the workforce, Donna became a casualty of the recession and found herself emotionally devastated. But she did not give in to despair. Instead she enrolled in the Mature Workers program. Inspired by the professionalism and commitment of the staff, she soon joined the affiliate’s Project Connect staff full time.
Despite the success of Urban League programs across the nation, we still face the danger of job-killing budget cuts under consideration in Congress. These extreme cuts could destroy as many as 700,000 jobs and drive the nation into a double-dip recession.
In the war on unemployment, the National Urban League has a battle plan. From restoring the Summer Youth Jobs Program to reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act to creating Green Empowerment Zones, the National Urban League’s 12-point Jobs Plan includes dynamic ideas for putting urban America back to work.
We call on Congress to consider our plan (available at iamempowered.com) and, more important, to put politics second and people first.
Marc H. Morial is the CEO of the National Urban League, the nation’s largest civil rights organization. The NUL will be hosting a town hall meeting on the state of Black America on March 31 at Howard University.
(Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)