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Hearing on Black Economic Status

POSTED: June 15, 2010, 12:00 am

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The Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW), led by Dr. Ron Daniels, has established the Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission. Co-chairpersons Bennett College President and economist Dr. Julianne Malveaux and University of Maryland political scientist, Dr. Ron Walters, lead the commission. The IBW formed the commission to establish a policy framework to analyze the Obama administration, recognizing the historic nature of President Obama’s election but understanding the need for the African American community to have a mechanism to hold the president accountable.

The Commission’s first hearing will focus on the theme “Black America: The Economic State of Emergency” and will be held Friday October 18 on Capitol Hill in the Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2237 at 12:30 p.m. The hearing will kick off with greetings and remarks from Dr. Elsie Scott, president of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who will present a citation in honor of the late Rep. Shirley Chisholm of New York, the commission’s namesake and inspiration.

In a March column on, Institute for the Black World President Dr. Ron Daniels noted, “We should be clear that the idea to create SCPAC (Shirley Chisholm Presidential Accountability Commission) was not in response to the election of our first Black president; it was a statement of intent to institutionalize an important dimension of Black politics: the monitoring of presidential administrations and reporting the results to Black America as a basis for promoting and protecting Black interests and aspirations.”

One of the most pressing issues facing Black Americans today is the state of the nation’s economy. Compared to whites in the labor market, Blacks felt the impact of joblessness before the official start of the current recession in December 2007. For most of the last four decades, Blacks have borne unemployment rates generally twice that of whites, and have been at the lower end of the wage scale. The current economic downturn exacerbated conditions and has resulted in long-term joblessness among Black men and dangerously high levels of unemployment among young adults. In many of the nation’s cities, employment is a rarity across some neighborhoods as entire segments of some communities where Blacks live are in a state of economic and social depression.

The election of Barack Obama to the presidency in November 2008 was celebrated throughout the Black community as a hopeful sign that the tide might turn on several critical issues that plague Black Americans, among them unemployment and the lack of economic opportunity. As the Obama administration pressed Congress to support the President’s economic stimulus package, formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), some quarters of Black leadership began to grumble that the White House was not giving sufficient attention to the plight of Blacks in the labor market. Black leaders muted public criticism of President Obama over concerns by some that Mr. Obama’s detractors would seize it and manipulate public opinion by painting the newly elected President as losing the support of his own community. Despite these concerns, some groups, such as the National Urban League and the Institute for the Black World 21st Century, began to frame a critique of the President’s economic agenda that focused on the development of a targeted initiative to assist unemployed Blacks. Meanwhile, President Obama set a course for the nation’s economic recovery that explicitly excluded any policy interventions that focused on Black Americans. The President insisted repeatedly his belief that all groups would benefit from his recovery agenda and he opposed efforts that targeted segments of the population.

Panelists at the hearing will include Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Dr. Ron Walters, Faye Moore of Social Services Employees Union, Local 371 in New York City, Nkechi Taifa of the Open Society Institute, and Dedrick Muhammad of Institute for Policy Studies, NorthStar News CEO Walter Fields, and Erica Williams of the Center for American Progress.


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