NUL’s State of Black America Panel: “Black America is in a State...

NUL’s State of Black America Panel: “Black America is in a State of schizophrenia…”

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“Redeem the Dream: Jobs Rebuild America.” That is not only the theme for the National Urban League’s 2013 State of Black America breakfast, but the current initiative fueling the organization’s mission to empower our communities and change lives.

Every year, the National Urban League hosts its annual event to address the state of black America. This year’s breakfast focused not only on the status of black America, but also on the educational and economic gains we have yet to make through improvements in our workforce.

National Urban League President & CEO Marc H. Morial provided the welcome while Cynthia Marshall, Senior Vice President of Human Resources of AT&T provided opening remarks. Morial discussed the Urban Jobs and STEM Ready Acts, sponsored by Congressman Chaka Fattah, D-PA, and Congressional Black Caucus Chair Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, D-OH, that were introduced on behalf of the National Urban League which is trying to distinguish itself by offering economic solutions to the problems facing black Americans and the nation at large.

Mr. Morial also applauded AT&T for the company’s commitment to jobs and diversity, and highlighted the company’s job creation initiatives: “AT&T hires 20,000 people a year,” he stated.  Mrs. Marshall set the room on fire by offering key insights into economic opportunities for diverse communities and introduced the audience to her favorite acronym, “M.A.D.: Making a Difference.”

Chanelle Hardy, Executive Director of the NUL Policy Institute, provided an overview of the 2013 State of Black America report, the Urban League’s annual publication addressing the social and economic status of black Americans.  “The economic equality index for blacks stands around 71%. The gaps are closing, but there’s still work to be done,” Hardy explained.

This year’s State of Black America panel was moderated by Karen Finney, the first African-American spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee and MSNBC’s newest weekend correspondent.

Panelists included:

  • Stephanie Brown James, Founder of Brown Girls Lead
  • Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Author, Radio Host, and Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University
  • Tanisha Sykes, Senior Editor of Personal Finance and Career for Essence Magazine
  • Robert Traynham, Washington Bureau Chief for Comcast
  • Cynthia Marshall, Senior Vice President of Human Resources for AT&T

Each panelist brought to the fore their own viewpoint regarding  black America’s ability to seek economic equality. “We need to embrace technology. Closing the digital divide will help us close the achievement gap,” Marshall said while highlighting AT&T’s focus on the three A’s: availability, affordability, and adoptability.  Dyson captivated the audience with his intellectual advocate’s approach to the problems facing America’s black communities. “We need to do for black people what white people do for each other: give our folks the hookup. It’s time to “rejigger the pipeline,” he explained while discussing the complex nuances of economic achievement in black communities.

Brown James took a psychological approach in describing what she saw as a major hurdle facing black communities. “Black America is in a state of schizophrenia. Many of us are disconnected from reality. We believe what others say about us and are confused about our identity.” According to Brown James, progress requires that we refocus our energies on ourselves and that we avoid getting caught up in stereotypes or monolithic depictions of what it means to be black.

Rounding out the panel, Traynhan ended the conversation on a forward looking note:  “Our conversations must migrate down into our communities and families, and move beyond the upper echelon chatter. We must ready our children to compete at the global level.”

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