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We often hear facts about unemployment percentages, quantity of jobs added and the overall state of the economy.Â But how many times have you simply wondered what all of this really means?Â Who is actually impacted by â€œjobs createdâ€?Â How do people find this employment?Â How many people of color are hired?Â And perhaps our greatest challenge as yet, how many of our youth are getting this work?Â The December jobs report indicated that employment rose by over 200,000, while the unemployment rate itself fell to 8.5%.Â While this is great news, letâ€™s not forget the unfortunate reality that many of these jobs may not have reached our young people.Â As the mother of a teenage Black boy, I am increasingly concerned about his future, my own future and the fate of the next generation. The month of July is typically the summertime peak for youth employment when kids are out of school and making some extra cash.Â And that is precisely why 2011â€™s July youth employment numbers were all the more troubling and frightening.Â According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 48.8% â€” less than half â€” of all young folks aged 16 to 24 had a job.Â This was the lowest July rate on record for the series which began in 1948.Â For the first time in decades, American children faced diminished opportunities and a more unpredictable future than their parents.Â There was a time when a college education paved the way for increased prospects and guaranteed work.Â That unfortunately is far from reality now as even college grads find it impossible to obtain jobs while their mountains of debt continue to accrue.Â It is a grim reality that almost no one seems to be addressing.Â Itâ€™s partly why we saw the Occupy Wall St. protests emerge, and why more and more young people continue to join movements like ours â€“ they know weâ€™re at a pivotal moment. Recently, in National Action Networkâ€™s Atlanta chapter, we held a youth mobilization panel that focused in part on creating opportunities for young people.Â We hold similar events around the country and work with young community leaders like 14-year-old Mary Pat Hector to address the concerns of young people and create solutions for combating this great problem.Â While NAN conducts national events like our rally for Jobs & Justice, each and every one of us can do something in the neighborhoods we live in. If youâ€™re an adult with a little bit of spare time, talk to some of the young folks near you, help them to see that their future isnâ€™t all doomed. Young people, if thereâ€™s absolutely no work available near you, try creating unique entrepreneurial ways of making money that utilize your skills like selling paintings, singing at a neighborhood venue, creating a new video game, etc. And even though you may not want to, volunteering somewhere like a hospital or community group may actually lead to paid work soon. In this still tough economy, itâ€™s important to remember to think out of the box and not lose hope.Â Yes, there may be seemingly endless obstacles before you â€“ even more so than my generation faced â€“ but there are also more things at your disposal.Â Donâ€™t forget about social media and technology; things we didnâ€™t have as readily available when I was a teenager.Â No one is saying that the road ahead will be easy, but we must not lose focus.Â While we continue the political fight to keep attention on the unemployed and the plight of the suffering (including young folks), the youth of this country must stay just as vigilant on pushing their vision forward.Â Itâ€™s a message I tell my own son every day: if you donâ€™t mobilize and create a voice, no one will hear you.http://newsone.com/newsone-original/boycewatkins/why-black-people-dont-mind-spanking-their-kids/
As I stood holding family members of Zurana Horton this week, my tears turned to anger as I replayed the imagery in my mind of the mother of 12 being gunned down as she used herself as a shield from the bullets that were flying at the kids being let out of school in Brownsville, Brooklyn. RELATED: The Fight For Justice Wages On Here I was in the home of a mother who had already lost two other children to gun violence and now she had to raise grandchildren that would surely be forever scarred by the brutal gun violence that took their motherâ€™s life. I looked around at photos of Zurana and thought about the state of emergency in the Black community and how we wonâ€™t turn each other in because itâ€™s â€œworking with the man,â€ but will instead allow our people to kill each other while our streets are the â€œWild Wild West.â€ I lost my sonâ€™s father to gun violence 10-years-ago and Iâ€™m so tired of watching more innocent victims like him and Zurana get their lives cut short. Thankfully an arrest has been made in this case but that wonâ€™t bring Zuranaâ€™s life back. National Action Network held a press conference and the media asked the same old questions: Whether the elected officials have been accountable and what more the community can do. It makes me want to vomit when I think about how we have to beg people to care about the loss of Black life, and then we have to beg the community to take care of itself and quit the taking of lives. Why is it that we donâ€™t know where these illegal guns are coming from? Why are we unable to get weapons off our streets? And why on earth is it so damn hard to get our politicians to do something about it? If Zuranaâ€™s tragic death occurred on the upper east side of Manhattan and not Brownsville, Brooklyn, you better believe elected officials and those in power would be singing a different tune. If young white men and women were dropping like flies from bullets in their neighborhood, I can guarantee you all of society would come to a halt until some sort of resolution could be achieved. Now, some people may say that we in the Black community need to speak up and do something to protect ourselves. But after generations of systematically being put down, the post-traumatic slavery syndrome is still affecting us whereby we as a collective think we somehow donâ€™t deserve better. Well, Iâ€™m here to say itâ€™s time we demand better. It is nothing short of a travesty that we continue to watch men, women and children in our community get taken out by senseless violence on a daily basis. The simple act of picking up your children from school should not cost a person his/her life. People keep people keep asking me why I continue to write about the issue of gun violence. The truth is, every single time someone dies from gun violence I feel like Iâ€™m living in the moment when I got the call that my sonâ€™s father was murdered, and they had found his body in the bushes where it had been for two weeks. I will never stop talking about the issue of gun violence and nor should we as a community until it ceases to exist. RELATED: Sharpton Joins Call To Give Up Killer Of Mother Who Saved Children
Whether youâ€™re blessed with stability or struggling to make ends meet, those of us with a conscience understand that the fight for civil rights continues until all of us can live at ease. Last Saturday, we at the National Action Network (NAN) were joined by tens of thousands as we collectively marched for jobs and justice in Washington, D.C. And on Wednesday evening in New York City, key figures in the arts, entertainment and sports industries gathered with us as we honored their work and commitment to the community. From the streets to the suites, the fight for justice wages on. During a weekend that marked the official Martin Luther King Jr. dedication in the nationâ€™s capital, NAN conducted our annual rally and march for jobs and justice. At a time when millions of Americans are without work, foreclosure rates are through the roof, entire families are finding themselves homeless every day, wealth disparity is expanding, unequal access to education is plaguing impoverished communities and people have all but forgotten about the poor, we assembled to ring our voices in unison. We marched for livable wages, employment equality and a level playing field just as Dr. King did decades earlier. As we recognized our progress from the emancipator to the liberator, we rallied and marched for the injustices that still remain. While some entertainers and power players stay focused on their own advancement, others understand the significance of empowering the next generation and uplifting the people that propelled them to success. At our 2nd annual Triumph Awards, NAN recognized Tyler Perry, Judge Greg Mathis, Chris and Malaak Rock, Marva Smalls of Nickelodeon and Viacom, Californiaâ€™s Attorney General Kamala Harris, Maurice Cox of Pepsi-Cola, Jimmie Lee Solomon of the MLB and Tina Thompson of the LA Sparks. Through their respective fields and lifeâ€™s work, each one of our honorees understands the importance of creating opportunities for the traditionally marginalized and volunteering their time and energy towards helping others. It is through this notion of sacrificing for the common good that these remarkable folks and others like them continue to champion justice. As our society evolves and momentous gains are achieved, we cannot forget to acknowledge inequities that still persist. This past week, I had the honor of addressing both the rally in Washington and our Triumph Awards in NY. As the youngest female national director of NAN, I do not take these tremendous moments lightly â€“ for I know that I have been blessed with a great duty. Standing in unity with all those that grasp the significance of paying homage to our great leaders of the past and recognizing our modern day champions, Iâ€™m proud to watch NAN and our fearless leader Rev. Sharpton continue to take the streets to the suites â€“ and bring everyone along in the process. RELATED: Why We Are Marching For Jobs This Saturday Do Black Women Get What They Deserve?
Iâ€™m thirty-one years-old and have been marching since age 10 with my parents, Reverend Al Sharpton, and community members from across the country. My parents were founding members of the National Action Network and even as a teenager, I, and the other youth members of NAN, one of whom was musical sensation Alicia Keyes, had a better sense then some of my peers today about why itâ€™s important to march. Letâ€™s start with this premise: We must march for jobs and justice because we are in catastrophic times. My peers are jobless. Our elders and the working class and poor are under attack in extraordinary and systematic ways. And we are living in one of the most unpredictable and capricious times in our nationâ€™s history. Many of my peers seem to only know of segregation through stories of relatives or by reading it in the history books and appear disengaged from the process. When you have an African American president, elected officials from all backgrounds, people of color in various businesses, a society where open discrimination is illegal and the reality of a diverse mix of entertainers in the limelight, a lot of them have difficulties seeing beyond the surface. But while there are clear advances we have made, the remnants of institutional barriers are as thick as ever. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was delivering his infamous â€œI Have a Dreamâ€ speech, his fundamental call to action was for everyone â€” Black, white, brown, yellow, purple â€” to unite in an effort to secure social and political equality across the board. It was his work for civil rights and labor rights that made him the historic figure he has become. It was near the grounds of his monument that will be unveiled this weekend that he was planning a tent city for poor people when he was killed. Decades later, that core vision is sadly unrealized. When students of color and the poor still receive inadequate education, we have not realized the dream. When thereâ€™s a staggering 50 percent unemployment rate among young Black men in many cities across the nation, we have not realized the dream. When gun violence is rampant and more of our children are dying unnecessarily each and every day, we have not realized the dream. When the imprisonment rate for minorities is disproportionate to our percentage in society, we have not realized the dream. And when people continually attempt to dismantle unions and attack American workers, we have not realized the dream. This weekend in Washington, D.C., the National Action Network, under the leadership of Rev. Al Sharpton, will once again convene our annual MLK march for justice. This yearâ€™s theme is titled: â€œFrom the Emancipator (Abraham Lincoln) to the Liberator (MLK Jr.): The Collective Journey of Civil Rights to be Reaffirmed.â€ As we welcome the support of esteemed individuals like Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, and Lee Saunders, Secretary Treasury of AFSCME, we call on everyone concerned about the plight of this nationâ€™s disparity to join us. We will conduct a rally at noon on Saturday and then march â€” yes march â€” along Independence Ave. In the spirit of our ancestors, in the spirit of Dr. King, and in the spirit of all those that died for freedomâ€™s cause, we will march. We will march for some of my peers who are disengaged and we will continue marching until every man, woman and child truly has an equal shot at this American dream â€” for that is, after all, the dream each and every one of us should have. RELATED: Time For Black Journalists To Stop Criticizing Rev. Al Sharpton How The Murder Of My Sonâ€™s Father Inspired Me To Fight
Last week, I asked the all-important question, â€œ When Does Supporting Black Men Become Tiring ?â€ Judging by the slew of comments, itâ€™s clear to see how the mere mention of this subject can set off a firestorm. But to both my female and male readers, I hear you and itâ€™s not a one-sided convo. Yes, women are tired of dealing with nonsense, but what are we bringing to the table ourselves? Some of us are out here holding things down, but letâ€™s be honest, others are, well, tarnishing the image of Black women everywhere. And itâ€™s time we talk about this reality. A few days ago, R&B superstar Rihanna gave a trademark edgy performance on the London leg of her tour. But perhaps this time, even the not-so-shy entertainer pushed the envelope a bit too far when she allegedly placed two of her fingers in her private area while on stage. As people from all age brackets watched her in that arena, and subsequently around the world in videos and pictures, I have to ask what sort of message is being sent to young women? And just as importantly, what are we saying to the world about the role of Black women in society? To be fair, Rihanna isnâ€™t to blame for all of our problems, but when we begin to openly display ourselves in this manner, we simply canâ€™t turn around and then command respect. Just as we are tired of supporting Black men who canâ€™t get it together, many of them who have it together donâ€™t want some of us and rightfully so. Bottom line is, if you want quality, you must also give quality â€“ and that means in every aspect of life. And ladies, maybe we are sometimes passing up on the good men out here. Instead of looking for someone with good credit, a steady job, ambition and education, we are sometimes blinded by money, cars and flashy materialistic things and he better have gangsta sex (stop acting like you donâ€™t know what Iâ€™m talking about). Itâ€™s important to remember that just like Rihannaâ€™s performance is entertainment and not reality, so too are many of the superficial things we value around us. When it comes down to it, itâ€™s all pretty simple: you get what you give priority to. In these tough times, itâ€™s important to figure out precisely whatâ€™s important to us as women so that thereâ€™s no question as to whether or not weâ€™ll be sticking by our men or if they are sticking by us, but that both sides are worthy to be loved! RELATED: Time For Black Journalists To Stop Criticizing Rev. Al Sharpton How The Murder Of My Sonâ€™s Father Inspired Me To Fight
A few days ago, a couple of girlfriends and I got together for dinner to catch up, vent and let off some overheated steam. What started off as escapism from our every day battles quickly transformed into a precise focus on those very struggles. â€˜Tamika, I want to talk about anything but politics, nothing serious please,â€™ is what they said.â€ But before you knew it, our discussion revolving around the men in our lives soon enough was fixated on the economy, jobs, housing, disproportionate incarceration rates â€“ oh, and sex. As these external factors deteriorate, so too does family life, relationships and of course so too does the sex.Â Itâ€™s time to be frank and honest ladies and gentlemen. Itâ€™s no secret that the economic downfall of â€™08 and the continued ramifications have affected us the most. With staggering unemployment rates that are double and sometimes triple the rates of joblessness among whites in some areas, a crippling rate of foreclosures, inadequate schools, reduced after-school programs and diminished opportunities overall, communities of color are bearing the brunt of this financial disaster.Â And not surprisingly, more of our men are sometimes resorting to desperate means of providing for their families â€” and as a result â€” an astronomical number are finding themselves behind bars. The many that continually push to find legit work are losing faith as they are often the last ones hired in an environment where employers often look out for â€˜their ownâ€™ first. My friends and I, some who are married and some in serious relationships, all agreed on one thing:Â weâ€™re just flat out tired of trying to encourage these men out here. Even though we fully comprehend the dynamics at play that make it so extraordinarily difficult for our brothers to find work, we are simply exhausted from giving all of our energy and unconditional support â€“ while at the same time holding down our own work. Black men often complain that we nag too much.Â But what happens when the nagging stops?Â Does that mean that we no longer care?Â Or have we matured to a place of understanding what the other person may be going through? Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in between. While we try to support our men both emotionally (and these days many times financially), we may be forgetting to take care of ourselves as well.Â And with more men in jail, weâ€™re clearly not receiving the attention we deserve, and letâ€™s be honest there are also more and more women pleasing other women as a result. When men are broke or struggling, are we just no longer turned on? The economic crisis clearly isnâ€™t going to be resolved overnight.Â But as we women continue to find strength to not only motivate ourselves but the men we love, we must also remind these men to get it together in order to keep the passion alive.Â For not only is the Black family structure at risk, but so too is our physical bond as man and woman.Â And who in their right mind wants that.