Community leaders and concerned citizens at a Jan. 2 job forum said President Barack Obama must focus his efforts on creating programs specifically aimed at reducing unemployment in the African-American community.

Coinciding with others around the country, Your Sister’s Project hosted a community jobs forum to gather public feedback on what Obama’s administration can do to stimulate job growth and help Blacks get jobs.

MORE JOBS—Community leaders from throughout the city came together at a Job Forum to lead a discussion on how to increase employment in the Black community.

“Our community, the African-American community, is suffering the most,” said special guest Akbar Muhammad. “Collectively we must say to the Barack Obama administration, we need to look at the special needs of the Black community and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Like Muhammad, who participated in the forum via teleconference, others agreed the African-American community was being hit hardest by unemployment. They said it was important for the government to establish programs specifically targeted at creating jobs for African-Americans and training them to ensure they are prepared for these jobs.

The group identified several areas of job growth including construction, green industries and health and allied health professions. They said aid must be given to Blacks striving to create businesses in these fields and those wishing to acquire jobs in these fields.

“We need transparency on what is happening in the Black community. Why is there so much unemployment,” Muhammad said. “There’s things that are happening in our community such as our brothers being incarcerated. What kind of programs will we start for them?”

Specific focus was placed on those who have been incarcerated, a segment of the population that accounts for why African-American men have been hit hardest by unemployment, and the barriers they face. Many called for an increase in mental health programs and other initiatives to help ex-offenders fulfill job eligibility requirements such as having a driver’s license.

Fredrick Douglas, president of Cosmo Engineering, emphasized that the stimulus plan has not worked because it is being directed at businesses and organizations that are excluding Blacks. One example he used was the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which has received stimulus money for work on infrastructure.

“I think it’s not working because the money is flowing through established pipelines. These pipelines have traditional outlets,” Douglas said. “Even though there is much more money in the reservoir, it’s still going to established companies. These companies are dedicated to their own constituencies and those constituencies are not the Black community.”

Several participants at the forum called for more oversight by public officials. They said these officials must be held accountable for ensuring funds are directed at the African-American community.

“With all the changes we’ve seen, to me the situation has still gotten dire. How are you getting this money into the Black communities and the disadvantaged communities,” Douglas said. “Let’s not be fooled when we hear the statistics. The President need to make a mandate and say this money must reach these communities.”

Many also highlighted the number of non-profits in Pittsburgh and the effect they have on unemployment. Some said Blacks should focus more on building for-profit entities.

In reference to non-profits that are aimed at reducing unemployment, several people at the forum said they should be evaluated for their effectiveness. They said organizations that are effective at preparing people and finding them jobs should be replicated and ineffective organizations should lose their funding.

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