On Oct. 2, the National Urban League will join a coalition of more than 150 progressive organizations and tens of thousands of Americans at a national rally for jobs, education and social justice at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The goal of the One Nation Working Together (ONWT) rally is to galvanize Americans of every race, religion and walk of life to demand swift action that will put America back to work and pull America back together. I will be a featured speaker along with a number of other human rights, civil rights, union and progressive thought leaders.
Seven weeks before the mid-term elections, the American people are in a restless mood and rightfully so. The latest employment report shows that the economy lost another 54,000 jobs last month. Overall unemployment has climbed to 9.6 percent, with African-American unemployment rising to 16.3 percent and Latino joblessness now at 12 percent. While much of this is the result of the persistent great recession which began in 2007, unfortunately, there is a faction in the Congress that has repeatedly refused to pass job creation legislation which could alleviate the suffering of millions of middle class and working Americans.
In addition to the economic woes, the nation is also experiencing deep social divisions, fanned by hateful anti-Muslim sentiment, self-serving tea party vitriol and constant cable news and conservative talk show bluster. The prospects for our young people are especially bleak, with a staggeringly high 45 percent unemployment rate for African-American teens, a million students dropping out of school each year and recent college grads finding it more difficult than ever to land that first job.
Clearly, this confluence of crises calls for a unity of purpose and action that has defined the American experience through most of the past 234 years, but which has been sorely lacking in recent times. The One Nation rally is intended to rekindle that spirit and to demand the change we voted for in 2008.
Millions of Americans want to know—if we can bailout big banks and investment firms on Wall Street, why can't we bring good jobs to Main Street? Are we a nation that believes in shared prosperity for all who are willing to work for it, or are we a nation that favors only the privileged few?
The American people want to know—if education is the gateway to prosperity and a life of meaning, why are so many of our schools failing so many of our children?
And do we believe in the religious pluralism and freedom that first brought our founders to these shores, or will we remain silent in the face of faith-based bigotry? These are some of the issues that have defined the National Urban League movement for the past 100 years.
The Oct. 2 rally at the Lincoln Memorial will give the majority of us who believe we must be one nation again the chance to make our voices heard. I hope you will join us. To find out more about the rally log on to www.onenationworkingtogether.org.
Marc Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League.