“YOUR PEOPLE WILL REBUILD THE ANCIENT RUINS AND WILL RAISE UP THE AGE-OLD FOUNDATION, YOU WILL BE CALLED REPAIRER OF BROKEN WALLS, RESTORER OF STREETS WITH DWELLINGS”
The Declaration of Independents declares that “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
The great civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., referencing the quote from the Declaration of Independent said:
“If a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life or liberty and the possibility for the pursuant of happiness. He merely exists.”
While it is true that America has fundamentally recovered from the 2007 recession, communities of color in general, and the African-American community, in particular, languish far behind the rest of the county. African-Americans unemployment rate is 8.8 percent, more than double the rate of whites, 4.3 percent, and is actually closer to the 9 percent unemployment rates whites experienced in the depths of the recession. Would you believe, in light of this travesty, Black unemployment is starting to trickle upward!
Black youth unemployment is an astounding 31 percent, and in many communities, it hovers around 51 percent. Amazingly no one seems to care as more and more African-Americans are being economically marginalized. Any attempt to tackle the astronomical Black unemployment rate is viewed as racist pandering, not worthy of serious consideration or investment. As with the so-called “war on drugs,” as long as the unemployment is endemic to the Black community, no serious policies are put in place to redress it. In fact, in a way reminiscence of the so-called “war on drugs,” in a subtle yet perceptible way, Black unemployment continues to help feed the so-called prison industrial complex.
On January 15, 1998, I was called from the Ghetto of the South Bronx to head up a reentry mentoring program for Long Island Youth Mentoring. In my mind I thought I was finally moving out of the Ghetto into a better community, one in which I could use my experience to better the lives of a diminishing African-Americans community known as the Village of Hempstead. In my mind, I thought nothing could be as despairing as the South Bronx. I also believed that God was rewarding me by moving me out of the South Bronx to a better community with people that were better off.
To my surprise, and dismay, I found myself riddled in the same type of neighborhood I was desperate to escape. I found the Village Hempstead had the same level of desperation as my brothers and sisters in the South Bronx. I found the same level of social and economic disparity, the same dysfunctionality, the same sweltering hopelessness, the same escapist abuse of drugs and alcohol, the same level of gangs activity, the same level of incarceration and recidivism, the same level of dysfunctional broken hurting single-parent homes; Unemployment of youth and young adults was the same if not higher. It was, for me, what we call a “rude awakening;” it was not another episode of the Jeffersons sitcom “Moving of up to east side,” it was more like a remake of the twilight zone.
But here is what I found different about the people of the Village of Hempstead, they had a different level of social consciousness, they were willing to fight to save their communities. What I do know is true is this: “If a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life or liberty and the possibility for the pursuant of happiness. He merely exists.