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SUNO holds ‘Black jobs matter’ summit

26th January 2015   ·   0 Comments

By Mason Harrison
Contributing Writer

Award-winning actor Danny Glover headlined this month’s Black Jobs Matter summit at Southern University at New Orleans. The event raised the ever-present issue of job scarcity for Black residents, particularly Black men, more than half of who are without steady work. Recent figures point to various barriers to employment, including criminal backgrounds and reduced education levels. But even when these variables are eliminated, only half of all eligible male applicants are tapped for interviews.

Glover described Louisiana as “the hardest place to organize” workers given the state’s political climate. Glover, a self-professed “child of the Civil Rights Movement,” said the events of the 1960s-era Black organizing efforts left an “indelible impact” on his then-eight-year-old mind inspiring his present-day activism. Glover has spoken across the country on the importance of racial equality and economic justice.

The summit—held January 19 to mark the 29th year of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day—was organized by a trio of local organizations, the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, Stand with Dignity and the Community Evaluation Commission. The workers’ center and Stand with Dignity advocate for low-income, financially marginalized residents facing challenges in the city’s job market. The commission’s focus is Black job placement during construction of the city’s new airport terminal.

Each organization strives to address what organizers describe as the city’s “Black jobs crisis,” something Glover called the result of the lack of a “union tradition” in the state. “Every time you look around, there’s a major event in New Orleans, whether it’s the Super Bowl or something else. You mean to tell me that Blacks can’t be employed during these events,” he said. “The problem is that we are disposable.”

Jobs, Glover said, are an integral part of the Civil Rights Movement. “Don’t forget that Dr. King was not just focused on civil rights, but economic rights. What was he doing when he was assassinated? He was organizing poor people and garbage workers in Memphis,” he said, referring to King’s efforts in a mostly Black sanitation workers’ strike for better job conditions and wages in the days leading up to his murder.

Glover stressed the importance of returning to longstanding traditions of organizing. “We must mobilize and determine what does resistance look like in an age where the Koch brothers are buying elections,” he said, in a nod to Charles and David Koch, the billionaire pair of conservative campaign donors. “We always seem to get half of what’s good and twice of what’s bad. We don’t just have a jobs crisis, but we have a spiritual crisis. Twenty-five percent of Black women are not living with their husbands.”

Glover challenged the summit’s participants to view their efforts as part of a global movement for economic justice. “We shouldn’t simply be just good citizens, but view ourselves as citizens of the world in a manner similar to the Greeks and Romans. We forged efforts to create ethnic studies programs as students and workers’ strikes not just for Blacks, but for all people who are marginalized. But these efforts must be taken up by you, all of us, not just me. I’m just fortunate enough to have a platform.”

This article originally published in the January 26, 2015 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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