Monday, August 22, 2011
THE ATLANTA JOB FAIR WAS A HUGE WASTE OF TIME. By Wayne Hodges
ATLANTA – On Thursday (August 18), roughly 5,000 desperate, unemployed souls braved the unrelenting, Dirty-South heat by attending a job fair in Atlanta where an impressive ninety companies were reportedly present.
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And much, much more. Back to the story.
Most of crowd camped out overnight, wearing their best business suits and office heels, with resumes tucked neatly underneath their sweaty little armpits.
“You got children, you got kids, you got bills,” said Derric Clayton, a former security guard with three children whose been seeking work since May. “You’ve got to stay somewhere. You don’t want to be homeless.”
Atlanta temperatures were so excessive, authorities treated 20 people for heat exhaustion.
Oh yea, did I mention most (if not all) of the hopefuls waiting in line were African-Americans?
A nonplussed reaction is probably not warranted. Why? Because black unemployment is seemingly affixed at 16 percent, nearly double the national rate. The jobless number in Atlanta alone ballooned to 10.1 percent in July from 9.9 percent in June.
"The For the People Jobs Initiative," hosted by U.S. Representatives John Lewis and Hank Johnson, was sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus.
“The Congressional Black Caucus decided to take matters into their own hands,” said Mahen Gunaratna, a representative for Florida congresswoman Frederica Wilson.
“They are tired of Republicans’ inaction that prevents bills from moving forward. This is a real tangible opportunity for our constituents.”
Hmm... the Congressional Black Caucus.
Can somebody please explain why we have a Congressional Black Caucus?
I'm serious. Whatever the aforementioned committee is doing to bring about racial equity and fair business practice, it's not working. And hasn't worked for decades. Now, there's a war of dissenting words taking place in the black community.
A couple days ago, the wonderful Lora McDonald (pictured above) of the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission sent yours truly an inspirational email centered around all the bickering that's going on between community leaders.
Lora's message, which came in response to my article about Mayor Sly James' new curfew law, preached the importance of working collaboratively versus going at each other's throats. See the email below:
Lora McDonald: "Hey- I like your take on this. Curfew, not bad. Is it a solution? Not really, but it is a start. I have been thinking for a few years about all of those who are in this public safety arena and your Alonzo Washington piece reinforced that.
"It seems like we, who do this work, should challenge and be critical of each other but stop all of the public venting/ feuding. Aren’t we just playing out the street wars in a more high brow way? I mean, if Alonzo Washington can call the concerned clergy like my friend Rev. Ray an “old negro,” as he did in your blog, isn’t he just modeling a more sophisticated version of what’s happening on the streets, turf, divisiveness, anger, etc.?
"Perhaps Mr. (Alvin) Brooks, the Concerned Clergy, Mr. Washington, Mark Porter, Aim4Peace, Ron McMillan, the Crime Commission, the KCPD and the sheriff should sign some sort of a peace treaty and be a better model for how people who don’t always agree should just get along and at least not so publicly disrespect each other."
Lora is 100% right.
As a community, as leaders, as citizens, as parents, our goal should involve working together in unison to bring about positive socioeconomic change; whether it be in reducing crime, preserving public education, increasing employment opportunities, etc.
*Quick Editor's Note: Friday night, a group of friends and I engaged in a fierce debate over Mayor James' 9 p.m. curfew law. Some said it was a "good start" while others, including yours truly, countered "bullcrap." See, a "start" is unnecessary in this circumstance. Mayor James and city council members can either implement a law (like they did with the Country Club Plaza) or choose not to. You don't need a "start." If Mayor James and company decided this morning to set a 9 p.m. curfew on 27th and Prospect, they could do so. Look, I'm not some moron popping off senseless twaddle. I worked in the Kansas Senate. And I know the process. The word "start" is a pacifying term used commonly among lazy people. It has little substance. Moving on...
I asked Lora should we consider setting up a forum with a distinguished panel comprised of Mayor Sly James, Rev. Ray, Alvin Brooks, Alonzo Washington and others?
She concurred with the suggestion.
Maybe it's time to set the wheels in motion?
Like I said, the content of Lora's email is completely true. However, after learning what transpired at the job fair in Atlanta on Thursday, I feel obligated to rant by saying:
Our leadership is hurting us.
It hurts because we refuse to put in the work necessary to bring about a peremptory, viable solution.
It hurts because 5,000 people had to wait in line at one job fair.
It hurts because disenchanted youth have deferred to joining 'Flash Mobs' and other gangs as a means of social support.
It hurts because President Barack Obama was busy vacationing in Martha's Vinyard while legions of unemployed hopefuls were reduced to KFC rotisserie-status in sweltering Atlanta temperatures. Under former president George W. Bush, African-American unemployment was 9 percent, which is still not great. But there's absolutely no way Bush would've survived a 16 percent black jobless rate. Racism claims would've shot through the roof.
It hurts because the programming at BET (Black Entertainment Television) is ran by Viacom, a predominantly-white corporation.
It hurts because 70 percent of black women are mired in the 'single' category.
It hurts because black males make up 35.4 percent of the jail and prison population even though we make up less than 10 percent of the overall U.S population.
It hurts because NFL player's union chief DeMaurice Smith and NBA player's union executive Billy Hunter, both African-Americans, failed to include the lack of black majority ownership as part of the labor talks during each organization's owner-imposed lockout.
It hurts because a prominent black pastor (reportedly homosexual) in Atlanta faced multiple charges of sexual misconduct, he admitted guilt by settling out of court for $25 million, then flipped us the bird by retaining the majority of his congregation afterward.
It hurts because a black superintendent in Kansas City deemed it financially necessary to close a U.S. record 26 public schools - most located within the urban core. Had a white superintendent closed those institutions, we'd all be hollaring "racism" on the White House front lawn.
The moral of the story is once an African-American takes over in a key role of leadership, blacks underneath should take caution and run for cover.
Please excuse me for singling out black leadership. Our nation as a whole is lacking in the guidance department. The issues plaguing Urban America are merely a microcosm of a bigger societal problem.
Enough ranting, back to Atlanta...
As people passed out from heat exhaustion, word on the street claims most of the companies in attendance didn't even provide job applications. Or, as one young man put it: "We just out here for no reason, no applications, nothing."
Instead, company representatives delivered brief pep talks coupled with condescending pats on the back, before instructing would-be applicants to go back home and visit their website.
Ok, you mean to tell me thousands of people camped out overnight, braved the massive Atlanta heat, waited hours in line, only to hear the phrase "please visit our website?"
Lord, please help me. It'll be hard. Oooohhh, it'll be hard. But I promise to abstain from the use of profanity while writing this piece.
Congressman Lewis (pictured left) of Georgia, the black man responsible for putting the job fair together, incensed me even further with his political babble. According to Lewis, the key to rectifying the job crisis is to "keep the faith."
"You have to give people a sense of hope, a sense of optimism," said Lewis to Atlanta news reporters. "And tell them over and over again 'don't give up, don't give up, hang in there, and keep the faith.'"
Congressman Lewis, with all due respect sir, people don't need "hope." And they don't need to "hang in there." People simply need jobs.
Trust me, once they're gainfully employed, hope will soon follow.
Lewis' resolution is a textbook example of why our leadership bites. As African-Americans, it's imperative we rise above the obsolete "keep the faith" theory as a crutch that everything will be alright. Because it's not alright.
Thousands of businessmen, consisting of all races and colors, are sitting at home wealthy as a byproduct of this longstanding, flawed philosophy.
See, I believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And, yes, I believe he died for our sins.
However, I also believe the Lord assists those who assist themselves first. And black folks, let me tell you something, we ain't assisting ourselves.
Congressman Lewis' "keep the faith" nonsense and Rev. Jesse Jackson's famous "keep hope alive" slogan are no longer acceptable solutions to black despair.
Because while we're busy keeping 'the faith,' the rest of the world has sprinted on by at an alarming 'Roadrunner' rate. "Beep Beep."
The job fair in Atlanta serves as undeniable proof business owners are either unimpressed or completely fed up with certain aspects of black culture.
In giving reasons for non-hire, a Chicago-based employer let the cat out the bag recently by citing a plethora of racial stereotypes in describing blacks as “uneducated,” “unskilled,” “unstable,” “illiterate,” “dishonest,” “lack initiative,” “unmotivated,” “involved with gangs and drugs,” “don’t understand work,” “lack charm,” “have no family values,” and are “poor role models.”
And trust me, if this employer feels this way - the majority of them probably do too.
Please visit the 'War Zone' below to see what the people have to say. Pastor Jones, Super Joe and Nancy Peace offered some compelling responses.
Look, the good news as it pertains to inadequate leadership evolves around the optimistic notion 'there's nowhere to go but up.'
That said, my question for today's leaders is :
"Which way is up?"
Wayne Hodges, an MBA from St. Mary University, is the Editor-in-Chief of “Mass Appeal News.” He also serves as a contributing writer to YourBlackWorld.com, he’s a Democrat reporter for the Examiner, and he’s a film critic with ILoveBlackMovies.com. Wayne welcomes your comments 24/7 at firstname.lastname@example.org