“This is a crisis,” Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., told reporters. In an increasingly vocal effort to put attention on the high rate of unemployment in their congressional districts, Rep. Cleaver and his colleagues hosted a Jobs Crisis Summit at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday morning. The Summit was one of the first events in a series of events the CBC is planning this summer to focus on unemployment. During the Summit, the CBC announced their upcoming For The People Jobs Initiative, a five city series of jobs fairs featuring companies offering immediate hiring that will take place in August.
The unemployment rate is 16.2% for African Americans overall and 17% for black males — the highest unemployment rate of any group currently recorded. The general unemployment rate in the U.S. is 9.2%.
Though the majority of CBC members represent predominately African American districts, the issue of unemployment was spoken about across racial lines. As they focus on their constituents most in need, the CBC announced details of their upcoming, hiring based, jobs tour. The CBC’s For The People Jobs Initiative will start in Cleveland, Ohio on August 8. The tour will make stops in Detroit, Miami and Los Angeles. More dates may be added.
“We are here to tackle this unending descent into high unemployment. There should be an urgency from every corner of this government beginning with the White House to deal with this problem,” Cleaver said.
Joining members of the CBC at the summit, including lone Republican Rep. Allen West of Florida, were Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., Gary Flowers of the Black Leadership Forum, the NAACP’s Hilary Shelton and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, among several others.
Dyson and Rev. Jackson Sr. echoed a familiar theme during the summit: That there had to be a targeted approach to dealing with systemic unemployment in the highest unemployment groups. On that point, all who spoke at the summit were in agreement.
“I think I have to agree with you on this point,” Rep. West said as he looked at Prof. Dyson, “When you have this 16.1% unemployment rate — and this is the military side of me coming out — you have to have a targeted solution,” West said.
The CBC is also pushing on all fronts to get support for their “10-20-30” initiative to deal with systemic poverty. That policy calls for there to be direct investment in communities that have been dealing with long term systemic poverty for over three decades.
Many attending the gathering expressed the need to push harder on the Obama Administration as well as on the grassroots level to confront the problem of unemployment. That discussion included strategies on how leaders in Congress and in the black community could work jointly in the future moving forward.