By Richard Muhammad
Contributing Editor

( – The National Urban League’s watershed annual report, “The State of Black America 2009: Message to the President,” calls on the president and the society to deal with negative indicators and the continued problem of racial inequality in American life.

The March 25 report also offers answers in 12 essays that cover education, health, jobs, and home ownership. Essayists included Hal Smith, PhD., vice president of Education and Youth Development at the National Urban League; Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.); Schott Foundation President John Jackson, PhD.; Darrell Gaskin, PhD., of the University of Maryland; Eboni Morris and Lisa Brand Malone of the National Urban League Policy Institute; Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.); William M. Rodgers, PhD., of Rutgers University; economist William E. Spriggs, PhD., of Howard University; J. Phillip Green, PhD., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Cy Richardson, vice president of Housing and Community Development for the National Urban League; Stephanie J. Jones, PhD., executive director of the National Urban League Policy Institute; Black Enterprise magazine publisher Earl Graves; and Gwendolyn Grant of the Urban League of Kansas City.

Among solutions offered by the experts, political leaders and analysts:


Education: The Urban League calls for full funding of No Child Left Behind legislation; wants states to compare and report resources available to every student; advocates for support for outstanding teachers and principals and guaranteed all-day access to high quality early childhood education for all three- and four-year-olds.

Health: Urban League supports a comprehensive, universal health insurance system for all Americans; creation of a comprehensive health infrastructure for delivery of health education, prevention and intervention initiatives for Blacks; a thorough examination of the criminal justice system as it relates to treatment and rehabilitation of Black males; examination of chronic health conditions in a context of economic, sociologic and environmental contributors; and an increased Career Pipeline and Access for Minorities in the Health Professions.

Opportunity to Earn: Urban League wants increased funding for successful examples of workforce training and job placement for less skilled workers ages 16 and 30, such as the Labor Dept.’s “Responsible Reintegration of Youthful Offenders;” wants a percentage of all infrastructure money to go to job training, job placement and job prep of disadvantaged workers; wants targeted investment dollars to reignite the construction industry and fund pre-apprenticeship programs; wants funding for building and renovating schools, community centers, libraries, recreation centers, parks and infrastructure to rebuild urban communities; wants reestablishment of a temporary Public Service Employment program aimed at creating 150,000 to 200,000 jobs in urban areas.

Opportunity to Own: Urban League suggests creation of a “Homebuyers’ Bill of Rights” that would fund education and counseling, financial literacy, credit counseling, fair housing advocacy and foreclosure prevention assistance using national minority housing groups with track records of effective counseling assistance; provide for Individual Development Accounts for homeownership administered by employers with a matching savings plan for future purchase of a home and housing tax credits for those with lower incomes; and a stronger Community Reinvestment Act to include non-bank financial institutions and greater encouragement of banks to respond to the needs of low- and moderate-income communities with stricter standards that cut out incentives for predatory loans and offer increased transparency; create a HUD Task Force to investigate and prosecute violations of fair housing laws and public hearings to hold HUD accountable; and make changes to make credit reporting easier for the public to understand and create a public awareness campaign about credit scoring and wealth. Credit reporting bureaus that maintain inaccurate files would be penalized.

Opportunity to Prosper: Urban League calls for the Small Business Administration’s Community Express Loan program to be restored and made permanent; continued funding of the New Market Tax Credit Program beyond 2009; stronger and greater enforcement of federal minority business opportunity goals in government contracting; expansion of the number of businesses involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math); and development of an affordable national health insurance option.

The report’s Equality Index found Blacks remained “twice as likely as Whites to be unemployed, three times more likely to live in poverty and more than six times as likely to be incarcerated.”

“Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to live in poor and neglected neighborhoods and homes. For instance 46 percent of Blacks live in neighborhoods where 20 percent of the residents are poor. These neighborhoods suffer from: poor air quality, lack of healthy food options, dilapidated housing, lack of clean open spaces for recreational activity, and overabundance of liquor stores and fastfood restaurants, and little access to quality health care resources,” observed essayists Eboni Morris and Lisa Bland Malone, of the National Urban League Policy Institute. The analysts called for more investment in infrastructure and neighborhood improvements, green building initiatives, smart growth techniques and a renewed focus in environmental justice, reevaluation of community designs to improve health, inducements for food retailers to locate in underserved neighborhoods, increased community capacity-building to allow people to advocate for themselves and learn more about health risks and prevention; reduction of housing segregation and enforcement of fair housing laws, and expansion of federal initiatives designed to improve the health of homes.

The index found slight declines for Blacks in several areas since last year.