Minnesota’s Black leaders went to the state capitol last week to seek $100 million in government funds to create a capital fund for Black-owned business start-ups.
Wednesday, Black organizations unveiled the United Black Legislative Agenda — a $100 million plan to address the unemployment issues of Black citizens in the state. The Star Tribune reports that there has been a large drop in overall wealth for Black families. There was a 13 percent drop in median income between 2013 and 2014 according to the Star Tribune.
“Access to capital is the number one impediment to African-American and other businesses of color,” said director of the African American Leadership Forum Jeff Hassan. “We also know business owners of color, including African-Americans, hire more people of color than other businesses. It therefore makes sense that we would promote that.”
Multiple Black organizations have joined forces to help increase the wealth of Black communities. They include the Minneapolis Urban League, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, and the Somali Community of Minnesota, among others. The groups convened at the State Office Building in St. Paul as a united front to the economic issues plaguing Black people in the state.
According to figures from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Data, Black unemployment is at 13.6 percent — nearly 10 percentage points higher than the state average of 3.7.
The plan — if enacted and passed by state legislatures — would have a variety of initiatives that would offset the plethora of racial issues plaguing the state. The most notable and recent example of this racial tension has been the November shooting death of Jamar Clark. The 24-year-old was handcuffed when Minneapolis officers shot him during an arrest for a domestic dispute.
Last month, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton pledged $100 million to address these racial disparities, which are among the worst in the nation. The United Black Legislative Agenda proposes:
- Creation of a Business Capital Fund to support African and African-American businesses
- A summer jobs program for teens looking for work and to solve the double digital unemployment rate for teens
- Working Parents Act that would guarantee paid and sick leave
The agenda also has other initiatives aimed at solving the criminal justice system calling for bans on private prisons and grand juries. They want also want job training for East African immigrants.