In the sixties, it was the Black Panthers with the party’s Free Breakfast for Children program, which provided free breakfast before school started in Black communities with low income residents. Today, a form of Black power is tackling high unemployment.  According to the Department of Labor, Blacks continue to have the highest unemployment rate at 7.3 percent, which is more than double of the unemployment rate of Whites and Asians.

Mary Tucker, KBK representative, explains the role of real estate development in the new job program during the official announcement of the pilot program (Photo by Aya Elamroussi)

As a result, senior bishops of Black Methodist United (BMU), a collaborative between the A.M.E. Church in Nashville, the A.M.E. Zion Church in Charlotte, N.C. and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Memphis, Tenn., proposed “Jobs & Justice in Action,” a job creation pilot program that partners with KBK Enterprises, a real estate developer based in Ohio. The purpose of the program is to attack high unemployment rates across the country. The program, in its pilot phase, is set to launch in spring of 2018 to provide jobs for Black people.

“The church has a relationship with their members,” Mary Tucker, a KBK representative, told the AFRO. “You can’t go into any community as an outside developer and understand their needs and their priorities…In order to hear their voice we partner with nonprofit community organizations such as churches to give that understanding. It’s their community. And to make it ours as well, we have to get heartfelt wants and their needs.”

Tucker said, similar projects include elements such as tax credits available in a given area, financing resources and infrastructure. She also analyzes the type of resources and jobs KBK can bring to Black communities.

The program will begin by providing training in the fields of construction, plumbing, electric and contraction in six states in the Western Episcopal District: California, Alaska, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado and Washington State.

Even though the program will be launched in six western states, it was unveiled in D.C. at the National Press Building on Oct. 4.

“Our presence is an indication that we wanted to come to the seat of power, the seat of where everything legislatively happens that impacts our people,” Bishop McKinley Young, the senior bishop for the African Methodist Episcopal Church, said. “To say that there must be a different kind of response to the issues that are confronting poverty, housing and … all of the issues that are confronting our people.”

Each partner in this pilot job creation program has a different role. The churches have their close connections with the people of their communities, while KBK will execute the development work.

Bishop Staccato Powell, who is the facilitator of BMU, resides in Sacramento, Calif., said the organization has property around the country the real estate developer will work on. Powell said he expects the development work will create jobs­ for Black people.

“We (BMU) have property in all of the cities that we’re serving,” Powell told the AFRO. “So we will utilize the properties we have and make it accessible to so they can then take that and develop it.”

For instance, he explained, the organization has property around a church they own in Sacramento, Calif. They will use that property to “develop that community that is in decline,” Powell said. “But KBK will actually do the hands-on work. They are responsible for financing and putting in place all the things required for development.”