Black American unemployment in 2010 soared more than 16%. As we begin 2011, there should a more effective and concentrated national plan to significantly increase the overall employment of Black Americans in 2011.

Black American unemployment in 2010 soared more than 16%. As we begin 2011, there should a more effective and concentrated national plan to significantly increase the overall employment of Black Americans in 2011. The December 2010 consumer spending reports document not only increased spending by all Americans during the holiday season, but also displays another economic indicator that the U.S. economy continues to rebound. Yet, the financial plight and sustainability of African American workers and households still face enormous challenges even amidst the recovery of the American economy.

The unemployment statistics reported monthly by the U.S. Department of Labor only tell a portion of the real economic hurdles facing the African American community. In far too many cities and towns, Black unemployment rates are double the unemployment rates of Whites. Interestingly, the Department of Labor uses the category “Civilian non-institutional population” to cite the population numbers in calculating labor statistics. Because of the massive increase in the overall incarceration rates of African Americans, the unemployment is actually higher for us than is statistically calculated by the Department of Labor. Black incarceration rates are nearly seven times the imprisonment rates of Whites in the United States. Of course with several million African Americans in the criminal justice system either in prison or on parole, the goal of attaining good, productive permanent employment is made much more difficult.

The issues of globalization and the tremendous advances in technology during the last decade have changed the dynamics of the world economy. American jobs with the best pay scale will increasingly be linked to the global marketplace and to the new innovations in technology. The good news is that African Americans and others have an opportunity to level the economic playing field in both attaining good paying jobs and starting up new businesses to the extent to which African Americans and others prepare to take advantage of the job creation and business development opportunities now at hand.

But, as I have continued to stress, preparation to become financially viable and productive requires a good education, proper networking, and a strong determination to be successful. At a time when we should be eradicating poverty and social suffering from our communities by demanding and providing the best educational systems and institutions for our children and young adults, it is as if that too many of us have been lulled into a state of hopelessness. That is exactly why when I have the good fortune to meet young, intelligent, up and coming brothers and sisters in the African American communities who are striving to make a difference educationally and economically to improve the quality of life, I am always encouraged.

The priorities for 2011 have to include developing and determining effective educational options for African American parents and students, increasing support for Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) and strengthening the National Association For Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), innovating and launching African American owned businesses that have both local and global reach into the marketplace, and supporting sustainable economic development in our communities with a focus on job training and long term employment programs and projects.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency, there is a new focus on growing the minority business community in the United States. In other words, to grow employment in our communities, we must grow the development of new businesses in our communities. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke recently announced the appointment of 25 individuals to serve on the National Advisory Council for Minority Business Enterprises. This new council is led by the MBDA and is the first such federal advisory council that will be focused on promoting minority businesses since the early 1970’s. Thus, another milestone for the Obama Administration. David A. Hinson, the MBDA National Director, is an accomplished expert on minority business development in the African American and other minority communities. Hinson stated, “The nation’s 5.8 million minority-owned firms have significant untapped potential that can benefit the United States. The advisory council has an opportunity to shape future policies and programs that will set the foundation for the growth of $100 million companies across all industries that are owned and operated by U.S. minorities.”

The outlook, therefore, in 2011 is more promising than it was two years ago. Opportunity is on the horizon for African American businesses and workers. But, let’s stay focus. Let’s be prepared. Our long fight for freedom, justice, and equality has to result in more employment and thus empowerment. Let’s continue to fight.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis is senior advisor for the Black Alliance for Educational Options and president of Education Online Services Corporation.

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