Increased support for small black businesses, high-tech training programs and a new commitment from the black community to provide jobs for youths were among the possible solutions to the problems of black youth unemployment suggested yesterday by a panel of black young people, and community and business leaders.
"We need to alert the nation to this emergency in our community. It is a necessary first step toward infusing cash and jobs so that young people will have gainful employment," said D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy.
Yesterday's forum at the University of the District of Columbia was the first of 21 discussions scheduled around the country to "confront the state of emergency in black youth unemployment." The discussions, a joint effort of the National Urban League, the NAACP and the AFL-CIO, eventually will be used by the Congressional Black Caucus as a basis for legislation to attack the problem.
The jobless rate for black youths nationwide is about 70 percent, compared with 20 percent for white youths, Fauntroy said. "It's a disturbing problem. White high school dropouts have a lower rate of unemployment than the average black college graduates."
"If I can get a chance to get into the door, I know I can make it to the top. But most employers won't let me in the door," said Sandra Avert, 22, a panel member who is unemployed and a single parent.
Fauntroy said the hope of more jobs for black youths rests with the development of more black entrepeneurs. However, such a task will be difficult, he predicted.
"This country has created too many big business dinosaurs. It is not oriented toward small business. It is up to us blacks to put money back into the community that will stimulate business for us," he said.
An increase in high-tech training programs will prepare youths for new kinds of jobs that require specialized training, knowledge and decison-making skills, said William E. Pollard, director of the AFL-CIO's civil rights department.
Black youths must either be ready to enter careers of the future or remain unemployed, he said. But Pollard cautioned: "While we pursue more jobs for black youths, we must also teach them how to apply for and handle jobs after they get them."
Mark Battle, a professor of social service management at Howard University, said it is "extremely important" for the black community to recognize that joblessness among young blacks is a crisis and to assert "solid, wise political pressure to accomplish the solutions."