U.S. Department of Labor Chief Economist Janelle Jones speaks at the Black Women’s Economic Liberation Summit and Liberation in a Generation. (Courtesy Photo)
By Sharece Crawford
Special to the AFRO
Is 2021 the year for Black women to be elevated? Through a series of virtual conferences the organizers of Black Women’s Economic Liberation Summit and Liberation in a Generation joined forces to provide access to opportunities, resources and information via #BlackHer.
“Black Her is a media platform created by and for Black women,” said Cofounder and Editor Jocelyn Harmon. “Our goal is to celebrate the leadership of Black women…to educate and inspire each other and to act for progressive change.”
The summit featured panelists and experts on a wide variety of issues impacting women, from cash bonds, to housing, financial literacy, childcare, gender equity and a framework for good public policy for all people by Chief Economist Janelle Jones called “Black Women Best.”
According to a three-part research study by Roosevelt Institute, African American women involuntarily forfeited an estimated $58.1 billion in the “health practitioners” occupations; and sales occupations are underpaid to the tune of an estimated $9.1 billion in wages.
To support women in hardship and women committed to bridging the wealth, racial and gender equity gaps #BlackHER provided it’s participants with several resources one of them included the Black women’s guide in a COVID-19 economy.
“As Black women our inability to build wealth puts our lives at risk… It has always haunted me that Sandra Bland could not afford a $500 bail bond to get out of jail,” Harmon said as she reflected on Bland’s case, who died in jail after an officer pulled her over for failing to signal a lane change. She would have been 34 this July 13.
“Criminal punishment and economic systems failed Sandra Bland,” Harmon addded.
“The historic and continued discrimination forces African Americans to continue to suffer debilitating economic, educational and health hardships,” states H.R. 40, which specifically points to the high incarceration rate of Black Americans as well as the striking racial wealth gap. In the U.S. median wealth for White families is $188,200, compared to $24,100 for Black families, according to the Federal Reserve’s “2019 Survey of Consumer Finances.”
Solona Rice, co-founder of Liberation in a Generation, navigated the panel discussions to help participants gain clarity on the severity of the challenges ahead and identify the resources available.
“I just want to be clear, we are talking about the fact that our current material position, our current economic situation as Black women is by design,” Rice said.
‘Black Women’s Best’ means putting Black women at the center of progressive policy making, ensuring our needs and systemic disadvantages are accounted for and first,” Rice explained. “This means things like guaranteed income, targeting the unemployment rate for Black women, recasting our whole economic narrative so it’s rooted in our actual lived experiences and not what the stock market is doing.”
Chief Economist Jones of the U.S Department of Labor joined the conversation to discuss President Joe Biden’s agenda and how Black women can influence the conversation.
“We have an administration who has asked us to judge them on their commitment to structural change. The American Rescue Plan, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan are all opportunities for us to inject our voices into the conversation to talk about the big transformative changes that we need to fully prosper in this economy and society,” Jones said.
Jones and her colleague Alex Fernandaz have been tasked to lead the Department of Labor’s review of its program on policies in response to President Biden’s executive order to advance racial equity in supporting underserved communities.
“I hope you believe we can make a difference at this moment like I do.”
According to William Darity, a Duke University professor of economics and public policy who studies and advocates for reparations: “Meaningful reparations that would close the racial wealth gap would cost the U.S. government between $10 trillion and $12 trillion overall, or roughly $800,000 for each eligible Black household.”
University of Connecticut public policy professor, Thomas Craemer, has estimated a fair cost could be as high as $19 trillion, taking into account the amount of free and involuntary labor derived from millions of slaves (24 hours a day, 365 days a year) dating back to the United States’ inception.
The summit featured expert panelists and advocates from around the country like Anne Price of the Insight Center, Michelle Holder from John Jay College and Tracey Corder from ACRE. On the second panel Andreanecia Morris from Housing NOLA, Cassandra Welchin of Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable and Nikitra Bailey from the Center for Responsible Lending, all of whom joined the conversation to represent their respective firms and women nationally.
While they have committed to continuing the fight for equitable policies that put Black women first here are some of the recommendations and immediate actions that BlackHer recommends women take.
- APPLY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
If you are unemployed, apply for unemployment benefits now. They can provide a lifeline for you and your family. While unemployment benefits vary dramatically from state to state, the money you receive can help you pay the bills while you find a new job.
Go to your state’s unemployment insurance program to learn more about eligibility and apply.
- PICK UP ADDITIONAL WORK
It hurts to say this, since so many Black women are already working at the max, but another way to stabilize income is to diversify the revenue coming into the household. One can do this by picking up another job or doing some freelance work. Below are some resources that may help.
- RESKILL OR UPSKILL
A longer-term strategy for achieving income stability includes reskilling or upskilling, whether you work for others or are an entrepreneur. BlackHer “Shero” Angela Jackson, partner at New Profit and architect of its Future of Work strategy, gave the following tips on how to prepare for the jobs of the future.
First, take a moment to reflect on what you want to do next. It’s hard to pause when you are out of work, but it’s important to take the time to research jobs and industries that have a promising future. Especially if you’ve been working in one field for a long time, it’s good to take stock of the new and more lucrative careers out there. Also, don’t assume that you’re only qualified to do one job or work in one field. It’s likely that you have skills that are transferable to other industries. My Next Move is a great service that will suggest occupations and jobs to match your skills.
Second, check out your local workforce center for free and paid training opportunities and more. There are 593 workforce boards and 2,400 American Job Centers across the country. Go to CareerOneStop to learn more. These centers are funded by our federal, state, and local tax dollars, and their sole purpose is to help us acquire new skills. In addition to training, you can get help updating your resume and preparing for interviews. If you don’t find a course you are looking for, don’t be afraid to ask for it.
Finally, it’s important to be a savvy consumer when accessing any training, even if it’s free, because all training programs are not created equal. Ask these questions before you sign up:
What is your job placement rate?
What is the beginning hourly wage for this profession?
Any training program should be able to answer these questions. If they can’t, run the other way!
Before heading to class, you need to know that your precious time and money will yield the wage and job that you want. Be a cautious consumer and get the best return on your investment for you!
Pro tip: Some training programs offer income-sharing agreements to their students. They provide you with training in exchange for a percentage of your paycheck once you land a new job. Ask your training provider about this.
- LIMIT YOUR EXPENSES – START TRACKING!
There are two sides to every household economy. If you want to stay in the black or have more money to save every month, you must have revenue coming in, but you also have to control the amount of money you spend. Black women are masters of living on a budget – we’ve had to be. Here are additional tips we’ve learned about how to stay above water:
In order to know which expenses you can cut, you have to know how much you can spend, and that means building and living within a budget. Start tracking! Just like tracking what you eat every day can help you understand how, when, and where to cut back, tracking what you spend can help you know where to trim.
Tiffany Aliche, also known as the Budgetnista, is famous for her work to help Black women live well within their means. Check out her free resources on how to build a budget in seven days.
- RENEGOTIATE EXPENSES
If you are renting your home, your landlord might be open to reducing your rent in order to keep you as a tenant. You can also reach out to your cable or cell phone provider to reduce or eliminate these expenses.
- CREATE A SHARING ECONOMY
Black women are great at sharing what we have with others, but we’re not always great about asking for help. This is not a time to be prideful. Connect with a family member or friend whom you trust, and brainstorm ways to share expenses. You’ll be surprised at how much money you can save. Borrow instead of buying your own high-ticket items. Just remember to protect yourself and your loved ones by wearing your mask and washing your hands when you are sharing the company of others.
In “55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal,” BlackHer Shero Elizabeth White has lots of great ideas about how to save money and build community by connecting with each other during tough times.
- PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
One of the reasons that the COVID-19 economy is hitting us so hard is because we don’t have generational wealth or savings to fall back on. Wealth – what you own minus what you owe – is critical for surviving and thriving amidst the ups and downs of life. As mentioned above, single Black women have median wealth of just $200.
It’s important to save whenever you can. Check out SaverLife for tips and tools for saving on a budget.
- GET LIFE INSURANCE AND APPOINT A POWER OF ATTORNEY
Black women and men are dying from COVID-19 at nearly double our share of the U.S. population. We need to protect our families and children by getting life insurance.
Nationwide, Black people are dying at 2.3 times the rate of white people
Deaths per 100,000 people by race or ethnicity
Source: Covid Tracking Project
- CREATE A WILL
BlackHer Shero Lori Douglass is adamant that every Black woman should have a will, and we agree. You should always use a lawyer. If you cannot afford one, contact your local bar associations for resources.
You can visit blackher.us for more information to get involved and to participate in upcoming series.
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