With the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund's 38th Annual Conference less than a month away, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. and a panel of guests discussed the state of the economy and its effects on the African-American community on this week's broadcast of ‘Upfront with Jesse Jackson'.
"We have to ask, is the stimulus money getting down to the right people," said Jackson. "Some of us are still so excited by the election of President Barack Obama, our joy has silenced us."
The annual conference, themed "A More Perfect Union-Targeted Stimulus: The Key to Reconstruction", runs Saturday June 27th through Wednesday July 1st at the Hyatt McCormick Place, 2233 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Chicago, IL.
Joining Rev. Jackson were: Warren Ballentine, syndicated radio talk show host; Dr. Billy C. Hawkins, president of Talladega College; Jonathan Jackson, national spokesman for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition; Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College for Women; and Johnnie Lee Savory, advocate for the wrongfully convicted.
Funding and affordability in higher education were topics of major concern for Dr. Malveaux and Dr. Hawkins. In early May, the Obama administration unveiled its education budget and in it were a number of cuts, including a program providing historically black colleges and universities $85 million in federal funding. This will significantly hurt their ability to maintain current enrollments.
The American economy lost 345,000jobs in the month of May and the unemployment rate spiked to 9.4 percent. "I have parents coming to me saying they just lost their job," said Dr. Hawkins. "They then have to ask me what they can do to keep their child in school"
Dr. Malveaux went on to add, "Historically black colleges and universities have been under attack for quite some time now, but they are absolutely necessary to our community. We have students who could have chosen to attend Harvard or Yale, but we also have the students that other schools did not believe in."
A town hall meeting and educational summit will take place during the annual conference on Monday June 29th. United State Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be the keynote speaker and address the current administration's plans for school reform, closing the achievement gap, and other education issues.
The discussion later shifted to the massive number of African American males in prison. According to a 2008 report published by the Pew Center, one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34 are incarcerated compared to one in 30 Caucasian men of the same age.
"One in every 100 Americans are involved in the judicial system," said Jackson. "Rural towns are now lobbying for prisoners to be sent to their communities for the purposes of economic development. This cradle to prison pipeline is at the expense of African-American males. "
Also sharing his story on the program was Johnnie Lee Savory who, at the age of 14, was convicted of a double murder in Peoria, Il and spent 38 years in prison. DNA evidence later proved his innocence.
Jonathan Jackson is leading the efforts of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition to obtain justice for those wrongly convicted and reform the judicial system.
The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity. The organization is headquartered at 930 E. 50th St. in Chicago. For more information about the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, please visit www.rainbowpush.org or call (773) 373-3366.