“Freedom has always been an expensive thing. History is a fit testimony to the fact that freedom is rarely gained without sacrifice and self-denial.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last Monday, the nation celebrated what would have been the 82nd birthday of the 20th century’s great drum major for justice Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King understood that economic justice was the most crucial question confronting Black people, as well as poor and middle class people generally throughout America. In fact, at his death, he was on the brink of launching a nationwide campaign for jobs and income.

As, America enters the second decade of a new millennium, and the National Urban League begins its second century, our organization is introducing a new blueprint for achieving that goal.

The nation remains mired in a great recession. The National Urban League has seen the impact of this crisis first hand. Our more than 100 local affiliates across the country are economic first-responders in the ongoing effort to help ease the burden of those most profoundly affected by this recession, serving some 2.1 million citizens in 2010 alone.

Over the past two years, much of the work of the Obama administration and the 111th Congress has been nothing short of heroic. From the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to the passage of the Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection Act, the Affordable Healthcare Act, and the extension of middle class tax relief and unemployment benefits, the administration has taken historic actions to restore America’s economic vitality.

But the persistent nature of the recession has brought little relief to families either out of work or stretching part-time wages to meet full-time financial commitments. Record numbers of Americans were forced into foreclosure in 2010, and many urban families in communities already long beset by economic stagnation are enduring unemployment rates as high as 20 percent.

That is why the National Urban League is proposing a new 12-point Blueprint for Quality Job Creation. Our plan offers a dozen dynamic and imaginative measures to both rescue those most profoundly affected by the ongoing economic emergency, while also remedying many of the underlying causes behind the recession’s inordinate and seemingly-amplified impact on the communities we serve:

1. Restore the Summer Youth Jobs Program as a stand-alone program employing 5 million teens in summer 2011.
2. Create 100 urban jobs academies to implement an expansion of the Urban Youth Empowerment Program.
3. Develop a dynamic national public-private jobs initiative to create jobs and train urban residents and stimulate economic growth in the areas of technology and broadband, health care, manufacturing, transportation and public infrastructure and clean energy.
4. Boost minority participation in information and communication technology (ICT) industries.
5. Reform, revise and reauthorize Workforce Investment Act to prepare and retrain workers for 21st century jobs.
6. Create green empowerment zones.
7. Expand small business lending.
8. Initiate tax reform that reduces rates across the board and eliminates tax loopholes.
9. Establish and promote multilateral international trade policies that expand the market for American goods and services.
10. Enact the Urban Jobs Act (H.R. 5708).
11. Expand the hiring of housing counselors nationwide.
12. Fund direct job creation in cities and states.

We urge the Congress and the White House to adopt these measures without delay.

Marc H. Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.