26 March 2012
(NNPA) - WASHINGTON - The state of Black America is simple according to the National Urban League president and CEO Marc Morial: “It’s under attack.” Marc H. Morial, Urban LeagueThe civil rights organization’s latest annual report details areas of Black life and most pressing concerns for 2012. Along with the economy, jobs, and education for all children, the major issue for this year is the vote. Thus the name of this year’s State of Black America report, “Occupy the Vote to Educate, Employ and Empower.”
“It’s no coincidence that a nationwide rollback in voting rights for America’s most vulnerable citizens is happening just as elected officials mount unprecedented campaigns to slash investments in education and economic development,” said Mr. Morial.
“As the nation struggles toward a financial recovery, public investments in education, job training and job growth are more vital than ever. Yet those very investments are targeted for sacrifice in favor of diverting more and more of the nation’s resources to those at the very top of the economic pyramid.”
“At the same time, a coordinated effort is underway to exclude from the political process the very citizens whose futures hang in the balance,” he said.
The Urban League took the report public in a March 7 town hall meeting, webcast live and covered by CSPAN at Howard University. It was moderated by Mr. Morial and award-winning journalist Jeff Johnson.
Students, community members and Urban League professionals engaged a panel of leaders and economic experts including activist and writer Kevin Powell, radio host Warren Ballentine, Chanelle Hardy of the National Urban League Policy Institute; Nolan Rollins, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans; Leslie Fenwick, Ph.D., dean of the Howard University School of Education and author and political analyst Kelli Goff.
NAACP head Benjamin Jealous connected the high rates of incarceration for Blacks and Latinos with voter suppression.
“Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately incarcerated even though they are not disproportionately more likely to commit crimes,” he said. “In 1906 Virginia enacted a law that said ex-felons can’t vote. The law was racist then and the law is racist now.”
“Florida enacted a law that pushed 500,000 people off the (voter) rolls. They were mostly Black and Brown.”
Artwork from the Muhammad Speaks Newspaper shows dejected Blacks exiting closed American factories, an image presented in the 1960s fulfilled today.
‘This is our lunch counter moment. If we don’t get it right, it will have catastrophic consequences in the next 10 years.’
—Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus
Melanie Campbell, of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, said Americans are witnessing the largest voting rights assault since passage of the Voting Rights Act.
The report includes two articles that detail the assault on voter rights—“Minority Voter Participation: Reviving Past and Present Barriers to the Polls” by Rep. Bobby C. Scott and “The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Jim Crow Laws” by Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus.
“This is our lunch counter moment. If we don’t get it right, it will have catastrophic consequences in the next 10 years,” said Rev. Yearwood.