Congressional Black Caucus (171770)

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Joint Economic Committee Democrats held a public forum Friday afternoon at the Harlem Hospital Center on the economic inequalities and challenges that plague the state’s African-American families. The panelists, who ranged from government representatives to CEOs of companies developed to help close the economic gap, discussed how gaining equal access to jobs helps to level the playing field in other aspects of reaching the American Dream.

“While the American Dream of prosperity, security and opportunity is still the standard by which most people measure success, for today’s working families, especially of color, that dream seems impossibly out of reach,” said Charles B. Rangel, representative of New York’s 13th Congressional District. “I thank the CBC and JEC for coming to Harlem to discuss how steep the ladder is and how far apart the rungs are so we can work on policies that will help tackle the rising inequalities threatening the well-being and future of our communities.”

The facts that were shared were not surprising, but they remained alarming to the predominately Black audience. Black-owned businesses fail at a higher rate than their white counterparts. Heads of Black households who have a bachelor’s degree earn significantly less than whites who only have a high school diploma. Companies are more likely to hire whites over Blacks.

In predominately Black neighborhoods, health care is scarce, yet Blacks represent a significantly large percentage of those affected by diseases and illnesses. African-Americans are discouraged from attending or finishing college because of the high costs of college tuition. Densely populated, high crime and poor areas in the city are populated by a majority of Blacks because the cost of living continues to rise. The common thread of financial inequality needs to be eradicated.

Rep. Yvette D. Clarke compared the current gaps between the quality of life of Blacks and whites to that of the Civil Rights Movement.

“These disparities threaten the ability of every family to achieve the American Dream, as even a half-century after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, African-Americans in the United States are still denied the right to full participation in our civil society,” said Clarke.

The panelists wanted the alarming facts to move the audience into action. Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference, implored the audience to show up where Blacks have been missing—the polls.

“I want you to vote at every election, and when you vote, you hold people who you vote for accountable,” said Dukes.

Along with Dukes, the panel included William “Sandy” Darity, professor at Duke University; David R. Jones, president and CEO of Community Service Society of New York; Hope Knight, president and CEO of Greater Jamaica Development Corporation; Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO of Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies; Walter Edwards, chairman, Harlem Business Alliance; Gregory Floyd, president of Teamsters Local 237; Virginia Fields, president and CEO of National Black Leadership Commission; Clayton Banks, founder and co-executive producer, Silicon Harlem; and Alejandra Castillo, Esq., national director of Minority Business Development.