Mentoring, hard work and the hookup

JULIANNE MALVEAUX NNPA Columnist | 3/13/2013, 11:50 a.m.

Most historically Black colleges do the same thing, bringing corporate partners to campuses and exposing students to the many ways they can access employment opportunities. In many cases, the entire campus offers students engaged mentorship. Education, networking and discipline.

When people tell the story of the American Dream, they talk about the many ways that hard work will help someone transcend class. They talk about hard work. People who earn the minimum wage work hard. People who make ends meet on public assistance work hard. It's not just about hard work. It's about hard work--and the hookup.

A corporate leader who is a wonderful friend once said that she could use her position to hook up women and African-Americans who needed a hand up. She also indicated that the hookup could help individuals, but we also, and always, need a hook in to public policy decisions that affect our nation.

That means we need a seat around every table where public policy is being made, whether on issues of race or on issues that seem race-neutral. We should be talking about the deficit, about tax reform and about government spending. We should be talking about international affairs, about world areas of conflict, about our fluctuating currency. As long as we live in this flawed nation, all issues are Black issues.

Even with the hook in, we need to offer the hookup. That means embracing or mentoring a child. That means providing an opportunity to someone who is unemployed. That means supporting education through contributions to colleges, but also by providing help to individuals. It's the same hymn book we've been singing from for more than a century. Now we need to sing with more energy.

Things won't change in Black America unless some of us do. We need to both hook in and hook up!

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is president emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.