Streets across America have become the sounding board for the majority that refuses to remain silent in such turbulent economic times. The cry is for jobs, for economic justice, for a fair shake at making a decent living. AFRO reporters hit the streets of Baltimore and the D.C. metro area to engage those who are struggling with unemployment and the accompanying challenges. This regular series will share their plight, one which is common to so many. What does it take to survive?

Richard Stewart, 64, resident journeyman electrician.
“I’m a veteran unable to find work. Even union jobs are gone because contractors are allowed to pay people under the table, illegal immigrants and undocumented workers. Things are real tough for highly skilled people, like myself. I’m just paying union dues for nothing. And what makes matters worse is the fact that many contractors may hire journeymen for less than three months to avoid paying unemployment compensation. I can’t even collect unemployment benefits. I’ve applied to the Homeland Security site and many others but no one calls. I’m eager and willing to work.

Kenneth Hamilton, 24. Former Camden Yards Employee. Unemployed for a month.
“I’m looking for work in retail. I’m not too frustrated, looking at the circumstances…I can’t really complain. off of food stamps from social services and I have a girlfriend that understands.”

Alphonso Willingham, 25. Former Fed-ex employee. Unemployed for a month.
“I’m looking for anything that will put food on the table. I’m not really frustrated, looking at the economy, but I know I have to just try a little harder. off of my savings, but they’ve deteriorated now.”

Nigel Charles, Government Contractor, 29, Alexandria, Va.
I was doing HR for a federal contractor from 2003-2009. I never really had problems getting jobs or a contract at all. I don’t have a degree, but I have five or six years in the federal government. In 2009 everything was good, I was on some contracts at FDIC and right around the time when my contracts were ending my son was about to be born so I took like two or three months off. I go back and all of sudden I can’t get a job because of my credit. It seems like with all the unemployment and everybody losing their jobs all at once, the whole ball game switched up. I probably owed $2,000 in random bills here and there. I have been on unemployment and it’s been keeping us above water because my girl does work full-time. I want to go back to school and take the time to better myself, but you really can’t do that living on unemployment checks.

Frederick Butler, 28, Tru Images Entertainment Group
I know for me in the industry I have had to turn away models and other clients because the money isn’t there to pay them… Even now as the economy is trying to come back it’s still hard. But I do know this; it will go down over time. It’s going to take time and people just need to stop expecting an overnight fix to a problem that took years to get in and it’s going to take years to get out…


Click here to read the first edition of “Survivors”

Click here to read the second edition of “Survivors”

Click here to read the third edition of “Survivors”