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Fixing the Black Male Unemployment Problem

Fixing the Black Male Unemployment Problem

Experts tackle a problem that is devastating the African-American community.

Published October 17, 2011

Unemployment is a crisis affecting all communities, but more than any other demographic nationwide, unemployment is affecting African-American men the most.


Currently, the  jobless rate for Black males stands at 16.8 percent. That’s more than twice the 7.7 percent rate for white males and more than the 13.2 percent figure for Black females, according to data released a week ago by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Norfolk State University's president Tony Atwater calls it a "quiet crisis," and recently he and two other experts, Bishop Allen McFarland of Calvary Evangelical Baptist Church in Portsmouth, VA, and Edith White, the president and CEO of the Urban League of Hampton Roads, VA, offered their strategies to increase Black male employment in their areas.


“The National Urban League priorities include rebuilding and modernizing America, direct job creation, pathways back to work, youth employment, assistance for the long-term unemployed and investment in innovation,” Edith White told The Virginian-Pilot, a local paper.


White says that solutions must be identified for those looking for work as well as the emerging workforce. In a partnership with the Green Jobs Alliance, the Urban League is providing training in alternative careers. Despite the record number of Black males unemployed, she says that a great deal of attention must be paid toward the teenage labor force whose participation dropped from 52 percent in the summer of 2000 to 38 percent in the summer of 2009.


“It is critical to the future of our region and America that programs are funded that provide job experience in science, technology, engineering, math and environmental occupations,” she said.


Others, such as Atwater, had different solutions. His university is responding strategically and comprehensively to the crisis. Under his direction, NSU has launched a campus-wide initiative called the Spartan Crusade for Academic Success (SCAS), that will work closely with an adopted high school, junior high school, elementary school and kindergarten to develop and deploy academic, academic support and enrichment programs and activities designed to help students academically succeed.


Atwater says that these steps will help to combat Black unemployment by “confronting the invisible elephant,” or education in the Black community.


McFarland, on the other hand, seeks to combat the crisis by developing a Black male leadership in the church.


“I believe that purposefully pushing Black men to take the leadership role in the home and the church from an early age will carry over to stronger numbers in the workplace,” he said.


The three agree that there is no magic formula to help to quickly eradicate the problem, but they are hoping that minute solutions continue to be created that can carry over to help many.


To contact or share story ideas with Danielle Wright, follow and tweet her at @DaniWrightTV.

(Photo: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

Written by Danielle Wright


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