Cartoon of the Week

To Be Equal

Pass the Urban Jobs Act Now


“This program would give city organizations the tools and resources they need to help our youth prepare for future jobs, find employment opportunities, and reach their full potential.”

—New York Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand

Despite all the attention paid in recent months to spending cuts, there are some Members of Congress who agree with the National Urban League that the nation’s number one priority must be job creation and putting America back to work. Months ago, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and New York Representative Edolphus Towns introduced the Urban Jobs Act that would provide much-needed federal funding to non-profit organizations engaged in preparing at-risk youth, ages 18-24, for the world of work.

On Tuesday of this week, Gillibrand, Towns and I participated in a press conference at the New York Urban League in Harlem to generate greater Congressional and public support for this important legislation. We were joined by New York Congressman Charles Rangel, NY Assemblyman Keith Wright, and New York Urban League President, Arva Rice. All of us agree: the nation’s recovery cannot be complete until we bring jobs and hope back to hard pressed urban communities.

More than one-third of the nation’s minority youth are unemployed. But, even with 14 million Americans out of work, at least 2 million jobs remain unfilled because employers can’t find workers with the needed skills. The Urban Jobs Act would help close that gap by targeting federal funding to assist urban youth, many of whom have dropped out of school or are in need of a second chance, in obtaining the education and skills necessary for success in the labor market. This would help reduce youth unemployment, provide workers for open jobs and strengthen the economy.

The average unemployment rate for minority youths in urban communities in July was approximately 39 percent for African Americans and 36 percent for Latinos. In New York, these minority youth are twice as likely to drop out of school and make up 80 percent of the city’s detention centers. Clearly, we must make targeted, effective investments now to spur urban job growth and prevent the loss of an entire generation. That is the real potential of the Urban Jobs Act.

The Act would create an Urban Jobs Program that would award competitive grants to national non-profit organizations, in partnership with local affiliates, to prepare youth ages 18 through 24 for entry into the job market. A national organization that received a grant would provide a comprehensive set of services that includes:

Case management services to help participants effectively utilize the services offered by the program; Educational programming, including skills assessment, reading and math remediation, educational enrichment, GED preparation, and post-secondary education;Employment and job readiness activities, including mentoring, placement in community service opportunities, internships, on-the-job training, occupational skills training, job placement in unsubsidized jobs, and personal development; and Support services, including health and nutrition referral, housing assistance, training in interpersonal and basic living skills, transportation, child care, clothing, and other assistance as needed.

The Act would increase the capacity of organizations like the Urban League of New York which operates two city employment centers and has helped prepare many young adults for full-time employment.

Our message to Congress is clear: The time for debate and delay is over. Pass the Urban Jobs Bill now.

Click here to sign a letter of support:

Marc H. Morial is ?president and CEO of the ?National Urban League.

‘Honoring Uncle M.L.’


Unfortunately I never met The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but fortunately, I did meet Uncle M. L. (short for Martin Luther), the name he was referred to by his parents, siblings, family and friends as he was growing up to become Dr King. During his life time, I was too young to understand or be aware of the societal injustices that were surrounding me, and certainly too young to comprehend his great dream for America, or his nonviolent philosophy as an instruction manual on how to live one’s life.

My memories are of a guy I used to play with. A man that I would curiously notice during the hours of family time at the annual Thanksgiving dinner who would slip away to another room to get a quick nap. It would be years before I could appreciate how the mantle of his leadership and the weight of his work and travel schedule created the conditions where he desperately needed those quick naps.

I do have a very vague memory or two of him in the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist, our family church, but my memories are overwhelmingly of a playful comical man. Just as in his work as a man of the cloth and as a human and civil rights leader, Uncle M. L. during his family and friend time was determined to bring joy, relief and laughter to those surrounding him. Aside from remembering playing with him, I vividly remember the fun effect he had on others. After his assassination, as I grew and learned of his work, I recognized the compassion I saw at home in his work.

As I grew to comprehend his philosophy and meet Dr King, I realized that one of the true regrets that I have in life is that I was not old enough for us to have worked together, as we played together. As the newly elected President/CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference [SCLC] the most successful human rights organization in American history, I now follow in his footsteps as the 2nd generation of King Leadership But I can only imagine how the multitude of citizens black and white, male/female, and the old and the young, whose names are not held up in the bright lights, who enabled him to be the great Dr. King. I can only imagine how they must feel having been apart of a revolution that not only changed our country but the world. There is a sense of pride when I think about the fact that a guy I share DNA with, a guy who precedes me by only one generation and a guy I actually knew will have a monument built in his honor in the A list section on the mall in the nation’s capitol.

I know my fellow African-Americans have a sense of pride knowing that a person that looks like them will have a place along side some of our greatest presidents. But for me, the proudest thing (and I think it would be the proudest thing for Uncle M. L.) is the long term impact this will have on American society. In the immediate term, the focus will probably center on the fact that this is the first time a monument will be built to honor an African American. In the long term the true point of pride for me is that this will be the first monument given for PEACE and NONVIOLENCE on the mall.

This in no way is a criticism or negative reflection on the other existing monuments; they all deserve to be there, just like the monument to Uncle M. L. But the monument to Uncle M. L. will provide future generations an example of a citizen leader who led, fought and won a war without ever having fired a shot. Future generations will see an army of black and white, male/female, and old and young who met the violence of attack dogs, water hoses, bombings, gunfire and lynchings. With the nonviolence of passive resistance, peace and love for one’s fellow human being, future generations will know it is possible to meet violence with nonviolence and win. They will know that conflicts can be resolved without use of weapons that rights don’t have to be achieved at the point of a gun.

This monument will be a gathering place for people of all hues, any ethnicity and any religious orientation or no religious orientation. This monument will be both a reminder and an example to people around the world demonstrating how to change the negative aspects of their societies, while preserving the best, and most importantly, preserving life and the infrastructure needed to maintain it.

Just as the National Holiday commemorating Uncle M.L.’s life has become much more than a day of hero worship of a man, to a day where millions of Americans perform acts of service to others, in fact, it’s the only holiday on the American calendar whose official designation states that is not a day for play but a day of service to others. Because of what Uncle M.L. did as a citizen leader, the principles he fought and stood for this monument will follow that tradition and become more than a memorial to the man but an inspirational NONVIOLENT path to a more caring, a more peaceful and a more just society.

As one who shares DNA with a guy, who I personally consider the greatest leader of the 20th century, it’s not the brick and mortar on the mall that gives me the greatest sense of pride, but the lesson that it conveys, CHANGE THROUGH NONVIOLENCE.

Congratulations Uncle ML on a life well lived!

Isaac Newton Farris Jr. is the nephew of Martin Luther King Jr. and currently serves as President/CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Housing Crushing Wealth


National home prices are down more than 30 percent since they peaked in 2006. Experts expect prices to continue to decline for the rest of this year, into the next. This is bad news for black and Hispanic homeowners who have most of their wealth tied into their homes.

Currently, white households have 20 times more wealth than black households and 18 times more than Hispanic households. The wealth gap is at the widest it has been in 25 years. What is causing the divide? Most minorities had their funds invested in their homes, whereas whites diversified their investments, putting money into the stock market, which has rebounded, and their 401Ks.

For many, buying a home is a sign that ‘they’ve made it’ and have captured a piece of that elusive American Dream. Indeed, home ownership is a critical first step on the road toward wealth. When buyers make that purchase, they do so hoping to see a return on their investment and rarely, if ever, expect to lose money. But that is exactly what is happening to millions of minority home owners across the country. As the housing market continues to decline, so too do home values, further widening the gap between white and minority wealth and erasing decades of government programs that sought to close that gap.

Historically, blacks and Hispanics have had a difficult time accessing the same levels of wealth whites have. Locked out of lucrative positions that would provide them with a firm financial footing, they’ve waited patiently to see the effects of government initiatives, such as affirmative action and minority mortgage lending programs. Those programs have helped and, in recent years, we’ve seen people of colors both leap into boardrooms with great success and purchase homes in the neighborhoods of their dreams.

Then the economy began to spiral downward. Because whites had a head start, so to speak, they were able to better withstand the economic turmoil. Minorities, many of whom are just a generation or two removed from poverty, have not been as fortunate. Though they may not have foreclosed, they are living in areas where many of their neighbors have and are living in a home that is now valued far less than their mortgage.

Everyone anxiously awaits signs that the economy is really improving and that the housing market is making a turn for the better. Minorities, in particular, need the market to swing upward. As the government decides steps for the future, we must urge them to consider initiatives that will stabilize and grow the housing market.