Category: congressional black caucus


On New Year’s Eve, December 31, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act. It essentially gives the military the authority to indefinitely detain a terrorist without a trial or charge. Based on the wording of the bill, it would appear that American citizens could be impacted or affected by the bill.

“The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it. In particular, I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorist,” said President Obama.

I know as president, there are times that certain concessions are made to get things accomplished. But on January 22, 2009, President Obama issued as one of his first executive orders was to close the Guantanamo Bay prison facility within one year. The prisoners who were held in that facility were being detained indefinitely and that was against our constitution. Three years later, our president has signed into law a bill, which has the potential to curtail certain freedoms, and Guantanamo Bay is not closed.

As the president was signing this bill, he wrote a three page presidential policy statement raising certain concerns about the constitutionality of certain provisions in the bill. It is clear that the president had problems with the bill, and understands that there are inherent dangerous abuses of power in the NDAA.

Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union says, “This statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield.” This means that citizens that protest an unfair law could be indefinitely detained with this new law.

All of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus voted against this bill except two. Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Chairmen of the Congressional Caucus stated that the NDAA does not represent the country’s principles. “We all grew up with the belief on the Constitution that we were innocent until proven guilty, and to have people detained, whether it is in this country or another country, without any kind of trial, and to detain people indefinitely is not what America stands for,” says Representative Cleaver.

As more Americans struggle with the terrorist suspected threat, more Americans will be suspected as un-American. Once someone is identified as un-American, they can be added to a list and their movements will be regulated and controlled. The country is moving to the right and the next two election cycles will establish the direction the country will take.

The NDAA is a bill that totals over 500 pages, and contains provisions for continued funding for the war in Afghanistan. Many of the political experts who do not support this bill are branding it as, “Act 2 or Phase 2 of the Patriot Act.” Everyone from the ACLU, worldwide human rights organization Amnesty International, to the FBI has expressed concerns about the bill.

All around the world, the Obama administration has been a major proponent of human rights and freedom for the residents, who are controlled by despotic leaders. Signing into law, a bill that is ambiguous, and curtails First Amendment rights has the potential to abuse human rights. Not only terrorist can be detained, but also affiliates and supporters can be detained.

It is imperative and necessary that this bill is challenged by human rights organizations, the ACLU, religious organizations, and American citizens. The constitutionality of the NDAA must also be challenged by a coalition of organizations, because our country must move forward, and reach its highest human principles and ideals.

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“These may be the worst unemployment numbers for African-Americans in years. How is it that the overall unemployment numbers stay the same and black unemployment gets worse,” says the Congressional Black Caucus blog. In July, black unemployment numbers increased to 16.7%, as compared to 16% in June. Unemployment numbers are holding at 8.1% for whites, and there is a huge disparity when unemployment numbers are analyzed and compared to blacks at 16.7%.

There is a crisis in the African-American community for jobs, and there is a depression taking place. Many of the economists are calling the situation with the economy as double-dip recession, but blacks know it as a depression. There are no jobs, they can’t pay their bills, and unemployment checks and benefits are running out.

Even Newt Gingrich is criticizing President Obama, and calling our economy the “Obama Depression.” “No administration in modern time has failed younger blacks more than the Obama administration,” says Gingrich. Gingrich’s argument rest in the fact that 40% of American black teens this summer were unemployed, and he thinks that the Obama administration is not doing enough for black youth.

There is also in many African-American cities, the unemployment rate for black males is 50%. That means that 1 out of every 2 black male is standing or hanging out on street corners with no goals, no job, and no motivation to improve. As the job situation continues to deteriorate in the cities, there will be more violence, crime, and political disobedience. Political disobedience can take many different forms, but people are upset and angry.

In 2008, on the campaign trail President Obama said, “I still believe in affirmative action as a means of overcoming both historical and political current discrimination. But I think that it can’t be a quota system, and it can’t be something that is simply applies without looking at the whole person, whether that person is black, white, or Hispanic, male, or female.”

I am not sure what the president was referring to when he made that statement, but I inferred that the president meant in certain situations there is a need to develop programs to address certain conditions. With the African-American unemployment rate at 16.7%, it is time for the president to develop programs that specifically addresses the black job crisis.

It is essential that the African American community focus needs to be placed on job creation, and continuing pressure on all elected officials, and the president. We should first start with our own black officials, but we should not stop there. We must send emails, and make phone calls to all elected officials and their color should not matter.

In every urban community in America, there is a need for organizational collaborations, and there should be job marches. It is clear that urban communities and black workers need special attention, and the squeaky or noisy wheel gets a response.

As the president prepares for his joint Congress speech on jobs, he must fight for outcomes that meet high expectations. Many in our community will be looking for actions that address and restore economic viability in the urban community.

Some of the ideas that are being discussed are tax-free zones to attract business investment in the urban communities. Also there should be training programs and funding to support the development of the work force for businesses who locate in urban communities. Finally, there is a need for public works projects to help rebuild the urban infrastructure, and provide jobs immediately.

President Obama has the power and opportunity to develop programs and initiatives to improve the unemployment numbers in the African-American community. It will take courage, innovation, and resolve, but he can make a difference.

3 Presidents, no solution: NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, President Obama, and National Urban Leage Marc Morial

On Thursday July 21, 2011, President Obama held a meeting at the White House, with NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, and National Urban League president Marc Morial. These are the two oldest and largest Black organizations in the country. The purpose and goal of the meeting was vague, but the leaders had an opportunity to share their opinions on a variety of subjects with the president.

The meeting lasted for about 30 minutes to an hour, and President Obama reiterated that reducing unemployment, which disproportionately burdens the African-American community, remained a top priority for him and his administration. It is important that the president has acknowledged that there is a crisis in unemployment in the Black community, and his administration is willing to confront the problem.

Presidents Morial and Jealous

On July 17, 2011, Marc Morial said on NBC’s Meet the Press, “We have a job crisis in America, and the nation needs a job plan. We have 14 million out of work. The Black unemployment rate is at stifling levels. It’s in fact, increased since the recovery has been begun.”

In June 2009, the unemployment rate for African-Americans was 14.9% and in June this year,

 the rate is 16.2%. White unemployment has dropped from 8.7% to 8.1%, and the Hispanic rate has dropped from 12.2% to 11.6%. Also the Asian rate has dropped from 8.2% to 6.8%.

Marc Morial has pointed out that certain segments in the Black labor force showed even higher rates of unemployment. The most recent unemployment rate for Blacks between the ages of 16 and 24 years was 31.4%. In certain cities, the unemployment rate for Black men is over 50%.

 

Representative Emmanuel Cleaver

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus recently publicly accused the Obama administration of failing to adequately address a veritable epidemic of African-American unemployment. “Can you imagine a situation where any other group of workers, if 34% of white women were out there looking for work and couldn’t find it? There would be rallies, congressional hearings, and protest marches; there is no way that would be allowed to stand,” says Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a Missouri Democrat.

The Congressional Black Caucus has introduced many different bills to attack Black unemployment rates. Debates about Black unemployment persist, but the Obama administration has focused on broad based initiatives aimed at lowering unemployment in general. It appears that the Obama administration needs a specific plan to address Black unemployment.

At the meeting with Morial and Jealous, the president discussed the efforts his administration  has made to address urban economic development through initiatives such as Strong Cities and Strong Communities. These programs act to spur economic growth in urban centers while ensuring taxpayer dollars are used wisely and efficiently.

Morial and Jealous shared their ideas with President Obama for resolving high unemployment in the Black community. The leaders say the president indicated he was willing to consider some of their ideas about job creation and employment discrimination when he is done with the debt crisis.

The two leaders also discussed with the president their opinions on the debt reduction plan. “We emphasized that no steps should be taken that gonna cost this nation jobs. No steps should be taken that’s gonna force vulnerable Americans to pay the cost of a debt reduction plan,” Morial said of the meeting. He said the president nodded his head in agreement.

It is significant that President Obama is taking time out to access and discuss the mood of the African American community. But the wheels of the federal political machine turn slowly and take time. It is important that our political leaders and Congressional Black Caucus continue to apply pressure to the White House, and mobilize the different state, local, and community Black political organizations.

African-Americans in June 2011 have the highest rate of unemployment of any ethnic group in America. The most recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics report that black unemployment is 16.1%, and the total unemployment in the country is at 9%. While white unemployment has decreased since May of last year to 8%, our numbers are increasing.

The unemployment numbers for Hispanics is 11.8%, and the rate for Asians is at 6.4%. There are a variety of reasons for the disparity in the numbers, but we all can agree that there is a crisis and a state of emergency in the African-American community. To Reverend Jesse Jackson, the high numbers of unemployed black is a

Rev. Jesse Jackson

“cry for help” due to systematic racism and a failure to enforce the law.

I would agree with Rev Jackson, but I think the problem of black unemployment is far more complex, and a portion of our problem is the state of our family and community. A lack of education is pervasive in our community, and a small percentage in the black community is prepared for present jobs and jobs in the future.

The problems with unemployment in the black community must be attacked on many fronts. African-American politicians, the black business community, black leaders and community organizers must petition and put pressure on President Obama and his administration. We should not be satisfied with a generic workforce conference, but what we need is a jobs conference focused on the black community.

In 2011, it is not politically correct or expedient for our president to talk about or focus on the problems in the black community. But when we analyze the unemployment numbers, blacks are hurting the most. We have the worst numbers in the country and there is no plan to alleviate the suffering.

Dr. Boyce Watkins

“Like a festering and infested wound that remains untreated, President Obama’s support within the black community is threatened by the fact that the people who love him most are suffering unlike anything our nation has seen over the last 50 years,” says Dr. Boyce Watkins. Since the beginning of 2008, some 375,000 government jobs have been eliminated, and blacks make up 21% of the government workforce. Many blacks who had excellent government salaries have lost a paycheck, and the same is happening in the private sector.

Many Blacks in blue collar positions and lower class jobs are losing their jobs to many in the Hispanic community. Restaurant workers and the agricultural industry are now controlled by immigrants, who make sure that their family is the first hired. With global outsourcing, many of the office jobs and manufacturing jobs no longer exist.

There are no simple answers to the Black unemployment crisis. The question must be raised is, Just how high does the black unemployment rate have to be before the Obama Administration and Congress consider it a crisis? Maybe the Congressional Black Caucus can initiate a study on black unemployment in their districts and spearhead a movement to develop a plan to eliminate and improve black unemployment.

As the black unemployment numbers continue to deteriorate, it is time for African-Americans to use their political clout. If the automobile industry, housing industry, financial industry, and construction industry can get billions in bailouts, there is no reason why the black community should not get their portion of bailouts.

In many of these depressed communities, the target market is 75% to 85% African-American. Everyone in the country must be held accountable for this crisis. The solution must start with the apathetic attitude in the black community, and should also be addressed in the White House and the halls of Congress. African-Americans must attack unemployment on all the fronts, and our community must be mobilized with an organized plan.