WASHINGTON – With urban and minority communities mired in economic uncertainty, the National Urban League declared “war on unemployment” with the release of the 2011 State of Black America report today.
“Our nation has declared war on poverty…war on drugs…even war on obesity,” said President and CEO Marc H. Morial. “The National Urban League calls on Washington to declare war on unemployment, and urban America is the battlefront. As urban communities go, so goes America, and unless those communities have access to jobs and are fully prepared to excel and innovate in those jobs, the nation’s economic recovery is meaningless.”
The State of Black America, issued annually by the National Urban League since 1976, centers on an Equality Index, which ranks blacks and Latinos against white Americans on issues such as income, homeownership, health insurance and education. This year’s Equality Index of Black America stands at 71.5%, a 0.6% decline from last year.
The Equality Index of Latino America, included for the second time this year, stands at 76.8, compared to a 2010 index of 76.6%.
“Unfortunately, the areas where we have seen the equality gap narrow, in unemployment and lack of health insurance, reflect a worsened condition for the population in general,” Morial said. “With every downturn in the economy, urban and minority communities fall further and further behind. The State of Black America reflects the urgency for intervention and incentives targeted at the communities that are most deeply affected.”
The report was released at a Town Hall event at Howard University, moderated by award-winning journalists Roland Martin and Jeff Johnson, where students and others engaged with a panel of thought leaders and economic experts including: radio host Warren Ballentine, Chanelle Hardy, Executive Director of the National Urban League Policy Institute; Tomeka Hart, President and CEO of the Memphis Urban League; Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary, Alvin Thornton, Senior Advisor for Academic Affairs to the President of Howard University; Darnell Williams, Pres. & CEO, Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts; Erica Williams, Deputy Director and Co-founder of Progress 2050 at the Center for American Progress and Brandon Harris, President of Howard’s Student Government Association;
"We are pleased to join with the National Urban League and others to identify and implement solutions that will improve the State of Black America," said Howard University President Sidney A. Ribeau. "Together, we must address issues that are compromising the success of Black children at all educational levels to ensure that they are prepared to compete, especially in a global environment, with defined creative, analytical, science, technology and engineering competencies."
Sponsored by AT&T, the event was webcast live and offered the National Urban League’s and Howard University’s online communities the opportunity to participate via Facebook and Twitter.
"AT&T is proud to partner with the National Urban League on the inaugural national town hall and 8th annual release of the State of Black America," said Xavier Williams, AT&T Senior Vice President for Government, Education and Medical. “The State of Black America offers a road map to those working to expand American prosperity. The Urban League's focus on jobs is a compliment to our investment in education, commitment to wireless broadband deployment, innovation and job training.”
The Town Hall explored topics addressed in the report, such as Congressman Emanuel Cleaver’s essay on the Green Impact Zone in Kansas City, MO; Donna Brazile’s discussion of fallout from the mid-term elections, and First Lady Michelle Obama’s description of her Let’s Move! Initiative for healthier kids.
Lending a ray of hope to the economic picture are the “success stories” from National Urban League programs aimed at promoting employment and economic empowerment, such as Entrepreneurship Centers, and the Mature Workers program. Lonnie Grayson, President of Environmental & Safety Solutions, Inc. in Cincinnati, was able to double his workforce as a result of the assistance he received through the Entrepreneurship Center at the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati. Morial recognized Grayson and other “success stories” in attendance at the Town Hall.
Morial cautioned against the job-killing effect of federal spending cuts under consideration in Congress.
“If you reduce federal spending, you reduce economic growth,” Morial said. “Our analysis shows that the proposed cuts could kill as many as 700,000 jobs and throw the country into a double-dip recession.”
The National Urban League is a historic civil rights organization dedicated to economic empowerment in order to elevate the standard of living in historically underserved urban communities. Founded in 1910 and headquartered in New York City, the National Urban League spearheads the efforts of its local affiliates through the development of programs, public policy research and advocacy. Today, there are more than 100 local affiliates in 36 states and the District of Columbia, providing direct services that impact and improve the lives of more than 2 million people nationwide.