by Lesley R. Chinn
In Riverdale, a partnership with OAI, Inc. is helping to put a dent in the village’s unemployment rate at a time when the jobless rate for Black males is 14.3 percent and for females—13.6 percent.
Designed to recruit minority applicants for the Pathways to Apprenticeships in the Construction Trades (PACT) program, the partnership between OAI and PACT is free and helps minority men and women pass entrance exams in preparation for building and trade apprenticeship programs.
Of 143 South Suburban and Far South side participants in the Chicago region, a recent study from OAI revealed that 25.2 percent of Riverdale applicants completed the PACT training program.
The data also showed that 28.6 percent of current apprenticeships were assisted through PACT while 48.3 percent were accepted into building trade apprenticeships. Moreover, 29.4 percent were placed in employment or post-secondary education programs and about 48.3 percent were accepted into building trade apprenticeships.
Overall, 41.3 percent of the participants successfully found jobs. If participants don’t pass the exams, they can come back to PACT/OAI to get additional training.
“These are the types of jobs that people can raise their families on once they get into the union,” said Riverdale Mayor Zenovia Evans. “Based on President Obama’s economic plan, construction jobs should be one of the main priorities. So there’s a possibly to get a lot of people back to work,” she added.
Making his pitch to the American public on Monday night to pass the economic stimulus bill, the president went into to detail on how the plan would directly benefit towns like Elkhart, Indiana through unemployment benefits, easier access to health insurance for the jobless, and infrastructure projects in surrounding areas.
Mayor Evans would like to see some of the money trickle down to villages like hers.
Besides unemployment, the cost to repair the sewer system for instance, will be $10 million on the north end of town located from Indiana to Illinois and from 138th to 140th streets. The section is one of the oldest areas in the village. Every time it rains, that area of town floods,” she stated.
In addition to sewers, the town needs help with expanding projects like those at the resource center located on 137th and Wabash. Completion of projects like that, would speed up industrial redevelopment.
Last June, Comax a scrap-metal conversion company from Northwest Indiana came to town. A truck-repair company, Export Transport is in the process of coming to Riverdale soon, but according to Evans, the zoning department is reviewing those plans. “Creating jobs and bringing in businesses will ultimately affect the schools, help bring in a broader tax base, and then you have people who can afford to pay their taxes in order to live…,” Evans said.
And jobs are tied to homeownership. With the economic situation in bad shape, Riverdale residents, along with so many others, are finding it more difficult to hold on to their homes. Last Thursday during televised reports, President Obama said in talking about the stimulus plan, “”It starts with this economic recovery plan. And soon, we will take on big issues like addressing the foreclosure problem, passing a budget, tackling our fiscal problems, fixing our financial regulation and securing our country.”
According to a Realty Trac report, there were a reported 168 foreclosed properties listed as of February 4 in Riverdale. But as of February 9, the site showed more than 203 foreclosed properties dating back to June 2007. Foreclosure prevention and financial workshops have been hosted throughout the year to help at-risk homeowners.
“The foreclosures are tied to the loss of jobs. A lot of people are in foreclosure now but they’ll end up refinancing hopefully in order to keep their homes. Some of them will ultimately end up losing their homes and that’s something that we don’t want to end up seeing, but you see it every place you go,” Evans explained.
A poor economic state could take its toll on the crime rate too. Although there was a drop from 689 crimes reported in 2006 in Riverdale, there were still more than 663 crimes reported in the village in 2007 alone, according to a 2007 Illinois State Police report. The majority of these crimes involved robberies, burglaries, and motor vehicle thefts, the data showed. A recent drug bust that nabbed 15 offenders in Riverdale came to a halt after a five-month long investigation, which took the work of the sheriff’s office and the local police department.
Three of the 15 suspects were firsttime offenders who participated in a mentoring program at a local church to help turn their lives around, Evans said.
On February 5, Obama expanded on former President Bush’s faithbased initiatives and created a new office named “the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships” with the issuance of an executive order. Obama made a concerted effort to assure his secular followers on the left that his faith-based program is different from Bush’s, a program that has received much criticism.
Opposing Obama’s plan on the left was Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office who complained, in a New American online report, “What we are seeing today is significant — a president giving his favored clergy a governmental stamp of approval. There is no historical precedent for presidential meddling in religion — or religious leaders meddling in federal policy — through a formal government advisory committee made up mostly of the president’s chosen religious leaders,” she said.
When asked whether she supported Obama’s faith-based initiatives, Evans said she applauds them and projects there will be more to come under his leadership. These initiatives, like the mentoring program in Riverdale at a local church where first-time offenders can get a fresh start, help make a difference in people’s lives, she said.
“Any holistic approach to combating the affects of drugs and crime would have to involve the faith of all denominations and many religions to be involved in counteracting any criminal activity,” she said.
by Dwayne T. Ervin
For 100 years, the NAACP has fought against the injustices of race, housing, education, and jobs for African Americans in Chicago and across the nation.
While the organization plans to hold a series of events in celebration of its upcoming centennial from February 2009 to February 12, 2010, the Chicago Chapter is struggling to recruit new members.
The first branch of the NAACP was formed in Chicago in 1910. At one time, Chicago boasted of as many as 30,000 members.
Although the local branches including the South Side, West Side and the branch in the South Suburbs, have not officially made plans to celebrate the centennial, other branches in Illinois have scheduled programs. According to Dr. Jean Oden, secretary of the South Side Branch of the NAACP, the branch has been trying to recruit new members.
The NAACP started after riots in Springfield, Illinois on August of 1908. Ida B.Wells-Barnett, W.E.B. DuBois, Henry Moscowitz, Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villiard, and William English Walling led the “Call” to renew the struggle for civil and political liberty in New York on February 12, 1909.
The representatives from Chicago were Jane Adams, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Rabbi Emil G. Hirsch, Mary E. McDowell, Louis F. Post, William M. Salter, and Prof. W. I. Thomas.
Noted as the catalyst for the largest grassroots civil rights movement that would be spearheaded through the collective efforts of the NAACP, SCLC and other Black organizations, NAACP member Rosa Parks in 1955 was arrested and fined for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. The chain of events from that moment on helped spark the civil rights movement.
The Illinois Chapters of the NAACP met in Springfield last Saturday to discuss their plans to commemorate the 100 years. Two statues, built in Springfield, memorialize the riots of 1908. “Some of the events that took place were carved in from the riots,” said Oden. The artist who designed the, “Race Riot Monument,” is Preston Jackson.
One of NAACP’s other annual events is the 40th Annual NAACP Image Awards which airs on Fox Television on Thursday at 7p.m. Academy Award-winner Halle Berry and acclaimed screenwriter/actor Tyler Perry, both recipients of an NAACP Image Award, will host the event.
More information about events or for details on how to become a member of the NAACP, log on to www.naacp.org.
Peaked by election of President Barack Obama
by Lesley R. Chinn
This year, Black History Month is celebrated on the heels of an historic inauguration of the nation’s first Black President Barack Obama.
While there has been a “pinned-up” interest in Black History for a long time, Cynthia Lowery Morris, executive director of the Washington, D.C.- based African-American Experience Fund (AAEF) of the National Park Foundation (NPF), hopes that with Obama’s historic election and inauguration, people will start to pay more attention.
Inviting the Tuskegee Airmen and members of the Little Rock Nine group to be special guests at the inauguration, “helps connect the dots for kids so that they understand that it is just not about Obama,” Lowery Morris stated. “President Obama has done a good job of acknowledging the trailblazers and the people who have made the way for him. Hopefully, that is sinking in with some of our younger people.”
The Little Rock Nine was a group of Black students who integrated Central High School in 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas, three years after the U.S. Supreme court case Brown vs. Board of Education ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional. The Tuskegee Airmen are a group of Black pilots who flew with distinction during World War II as the 332nd Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Author, historian and professor Timuel Black said the dramatic ascendancy of President Obama has promoted interest not only in his background, but also in the background of other prominent African- Americans, like members of the Tuskegee Airmen and the Little Rock Nine. “Obama is living proof that you can rise to the top, but you have to be prepared,” he said.
According to a Kelton Research study conducted recently on behalf of the AAEF of the NFP, a large percentage of Americans do not know about Black contributions to U.S. History. While a study of more than 1,000 respondents revealed their lack of knowledge, it also showed that a percentage of Americans were interested in gaining more information.
According to the study, 32 percent of the respondents surveyed weren’t aware of Brown vs. Board of Education, nor the significance of this landmark case. Only 14 percent of the respondents correctly identified Carter G. Woodson as the founder of Black History Month (formerly Negro History Week) while 29 percent thought Black History Month’s founder was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
About 61 percent of the respondents said they would like to know more about Black History. Other Americans have visited on the average of one historical site per year, according to the survey, in order to increase their knowledge about Black History facts. The number tends to increase in adults under aged 30, who have visited on an average of seven historical sites in the past five years.
While fifty-seven percent of the respondents said they didn’t receive a comprehensive overview of Black History in school, Lowery Morris added more education is needed. “A lot of it is not being taught in the schools as part of the curriculum. If you talk about World War II and you don’t talk about the Tuskegee Airmen, then you’ve missed a huge component. Unfortunately, so much of our history is invisible and people just don’t even think about it,” she stated. Recollecting historic moments such as when Frederick Douglas persuaded President Abraham Lincoln to free the slaves and encouraged them to join the Union Army during the Civil War, Black mentioned these and other contributions should not be ignored. “How can you teach American history without dealing with the slave period or the conditions of Africans before they were snatched off from Africa?,” he asked.
Other statistics are even more alarming. According to an article in the Washington Post three years ago, a significant number of junior high school students believed Dr. King was instrumental in freeing the slaves, Lowery Morris said. “That’s kind of scary, isn’t it? We’re not doing a very good job. We need to figure out a way to teach [Black History] in our schools and in our community projects,” she said.
About 92 percent of those surveyed indicated they believe the emphasis on teaching Black History should be given the same attention as other subjects taught in school.
Although the late State Sen. William “Bill” Shaw was instrumental in passing legislation to ensure that Black History was taught in the schools, Maureen Forte, a fifth grade teacher at Sawyer Elementary School, said the measure has not been enforced. She agrees a greater emphasis should be placed on teaching Black History outside of the classroom.
Expressing pride in her son who was the only first grader in his class to understand the basic concept of a law enacted in 1787 and later challenged in 1856, which classified Black people as three-fifths of a person, Lowery Morris said, “Sometimes we just have to take it upon ourselves to see to it that they get that exposure.”
President Barack Obama hosted a news conference on Monday, February 9, 2009 in Elkhart, Indiana. Secretary Ray LaHood, Senator Evan Bayh, Representatives Joe Donnelly, Baron Hill, Brad Ellsworth, Fred Upton, and Andre Carson, and former Representatives Tim Roemer and Lee Hamilton joined Obama when he made his remarks that came on the heels of the Senate passing Obama’s economic recovery plan on a 61-37 vote.
I want to start by thanking Ed for coming here today and sharing his family’s story with all of us.You know, we tend to take the measure of the economic crisis we face in numbers and statistics. But when we say we’ve lost 3.6 million jobs since this recession began – nearly 600,000 in the past month alone; when we say that this area has lost jobs faster than anywhere else in America, with an unemployment rate over 15 percent; when we talk about layoffs at companies like Monaco Coach, Keystone RV, and Pilgrim International – companies that have sustained this community for years – we’re talking about Ed Neufeldt and people like him all across this country.
We’re talking about folks who’ve lost their livelihood and don’t know what will take its place. Parents who’ve lost their health care and lie awake nights praying the kids don’t get sick. Families who’ve lost the home that was their corner of the American dream. Young people who put that college acceptance letter back in the envelope because they just can’t afford it.
That’s what those numbers and statistics mean. That is the true measure of this economic crisis. Those are the stories I heard when I came here to Elkhart six months ago and that I have carried with me every day since.
I promised you back then that if elected President, I would do everything I could to help this community recover. And that’s why I’ve come back today – to tell you how I intend to keep that promise.
The situation we face could not be more serious. We have inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression. Economists from across the spectrum have warned that if we don’t act immediately, millions more jobs will be lost, and national unemployment rates will approach double digits. More people will lose their homes and their health care. And our nation will sink into a crisis that, at some point, we may be unable to reverse.
So we can no longer afford to wait and see and hope for the best. We can no longer posture and bicker and resort to the same failed ideas that got us into this mess in the first place – and that the American people rejected at the polls this past November. You didn’t send us to Washington because you were hoping for more of the same. You sent us there with a mandate for change, and the expectation that we would act quickly and boldly to carry it out – and that is exactly what I intend to do as President of the United States.
That is why I put forth a Recovery and Reinvestment Plan that is now before Congress. At its core is a very simple idea: to put Americans back to work doing the work America needs done.
The plan will save or create three to four million jobs over the next two years. But not just any jobs – jobs that meet the needs we’ve neglected for far too long and lay the groundwork for long-term economic growth: jobs fixing our schools; computerizing medical records to save costs and save lives; repairing our infrastructure; and investing in renewable energy to help us move toward energy independence. The plan also calls for immediate tax relief for 95 percent of American workers.
Now I know that some of you might be thinking, well that all sounds good, but when are we going to see any of that here in Elkhart? What does all that mean for our families and our community? Those are exactly the kind of questions you should be asking of your President and your government, and today, I want to provide some answers – and I want to be as specific as I can.
First, this plan will provide for extended unemployment insurance, health care and other assistance for workers and families who have lost their jobs in this recession.
That will mean an additional $100 per month in unemployment benefits to more than 450,000 Indiana workers, extended unemployment benefits for another 89,000 folks who’ve been laid off and can’t find work, and job training assistance to help more than 51,000 people here get back on their feet.
That is not only our moral responsibility – to lend a helping hand to our fellow Americans in times of emergency – but it also makes good economic sense. If you don’t have money, you can’t spend it. And if people don’t spend, our economy will continue to decline.
For that same reason, the plan includes badly needed tax relief for middle class workers and families. The middle class is under siege, and we need to give you more of the money you’ve earned, so you can spend it and pay your bills. Under our plan, individuals get $500 – families, $1,000 – providing relief for nearly 2.5 million workers and their families here in Indiana.
The plan will also provide a partially refundable $2,500 per-student tax credit to help 76,000 Hoosier families send their kids to college. This will benefit your household budgets in the short run, and will benefit America in the long run.
But providing tax relief, and college assistance and help to folks who’ve lost their jobs is not enough. A real recovery plan helps create more jobs and put people back to work.
That’s why, between the investments our plan makes – and the tax relief for small businesses it provides – we’ll create or save nearly 80,000 badly needed jobs for Indiana in the next two years. Now, you may have heard some of the critics of our plan saying that it would create mostly government jobs. That’s simply not true. More than 90 percent of these jobs will be in the private sector. More than 90 percent.
But it’s not just the jobs that will benefit Indiana and the rest of America. It’s the work people will be doing: Rebuilding our roads, bridges, dams and levees. Roads like US 31 here in Indiana that Hoosiers count on, and that connect small towns and rural communities to opportunities for economic growth. And I know that a new overpass downtown would make a big difference for businesses and families right here in Elkhart. We’ll also put people to work rebuilding our schools so all our kids can have the world-class classrooms, labs and libraries they need to compete in today’s global economy.
Investing in clean alternative sources of energy and the electric grid we need to transport it from coast to coast, helping make Indiana an energy-producing state, not just an energy-consuming state. Weatherizing homes across this state, and installing state of the art equipment to help you control your energy costs.
Building new high-speed broadband lines, reaching schools and small businesses in rural Indiana so they can connect and compete with their counterparts in any city in any country in the world.
And there is much, much more. Now I’m not going to tell you that this bill is perfect. It isn’t. But it is the right size, the right scope, and has the right priorities to create jobs that will jumpstart our economy and transform it for the twenty-first century.
I also can’t tell you with one hundred percent certainty that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hope. But I can tell you with complete confidence that endless delay or paralysis in Washington in the face of this crisis will bring only deepening disaster.
We’ve had a good debate. Now it’s time to act. That’s why I am calling on Congress to pass this bill immediately. Folks here in Elkhart and across America need help right now, and they can’t afford to keep on waiting for folks in Washington to get this done.
We know that even with this plan, the road ahead won’t be easy. This crisis has been a long time in the making, and we know that we cannot turn it around overnight. Recovery will likely be measured in years, not weeks or months. But we also know that our economy will be stronger for generations to come if we commit ourselves to the work that needs to be done today. And being here in Elkhart, I am more confident than ever before that we will get where we need to be.
Because while I know people are struggling, I also know that folks here are good workers and good neighbors who step up, help each other out, and make sacrifices when times are tough. I know that all folks here are asking for is a chance to work hard – and to have that work translate into a decent life for you and your family.
So I know you all are doing your part out here – and I think it’s about time the government did its part too. That’s what the recovery plan before Congress is about. And that is why I hope Congress passes it as soon as humanly possible, so we can get to work creating jobs, helping families and turning our economy around.