A commitment to federal action on jobs is the best way to honor the historical significance of the nation’s first African-American President taking the oath of office on Martin Luther King Jr., Day, in the 50th anniversary year of the March for Jobs and Freedom.
“The inauguration of an African American president is symbolic of the nation’s journey in the 50 years since the March for Jobs and Freedom, but a 14 percent African American unemployment rate – twice the overall rate – is a symbol of how far we have to go,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “In this anniversary year, the National Urban League – an organizer of that seminal March – remains committed to the issues that motivated our movement in 1963. We reiterate our petition that a second term agenda focus on the issues of economic opportunity and income inequality.”
The day after President Obama’s reelection, Morial issued a letter to him and to Congressional leaders, calling for a comprehensive jobs program, a focus on early childhood education, an expansion of job training and workforce development efforts, a new approach to reducing gun violence, and a sensible fiscal plan.
In December, a historic convening of nearly 60 African-American leaders echoed those priorities, issuing a communiqué urging “our elected leaders at the national, state and local levels to give our unique challenges utmost consideration as they grapple with the daunting fiscal and social challenges facing our country.”
“As transformative and inspirational as Dr. King’s ‘I Have A Dream” speech was on that historic day – and we celebrate those powerful words – we must not lose sight of the fact that the March was organized in demand for action on jobs,” Morial said. “Twenty years earlier, plans for a similar March had inspired President Franklin D. Roosevelt to establish the Committee on Fair Employment Practice, and to ban discriminatory hiring in the defense industry. The March in 1963 spurred passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. We must continue to inspire bold action in defense of equality and opportunity.”
The National Urban League earlier this month announced Jobs Rebuild America, an historic initiative that includes a series of public and private investments totaling more than $70 million over the next five years. Existing programs will be augmented and new programs created, reaching thousands of job-seekers, youth and entrepreneurs, and putting urban America back to work. The second component of the initiative is an aggressive grassroots advocacy campaign focused on federal legislative action to create permanent pathways to employment for at-risk teenagers and young adults.