WASHINGTON (NNPA) - The 10 Black members of the powerful House Finance Committee are still being applauded this week by the Black Press and Black leaders nationally for boldly boycotting a committee meeting in order to force a $4 billion allocation to benefit the Black community. They have told the NNPA News Service that they plan to escalate protests if lawmakers continue to ignore the suffering of their constituents, including advertising discrimination against Black newspapers.
Describing horrid conditions in their districts that clearly illustrate disparate suffering in the African-American communities, each of the 10 members - in separate interviews - described what their constituents are dealing with and told why they must continue to act. Joblessness, frustration, hopelessness - the sentiments are synonymous from state to state. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, is supportive of the Financial Services Committee's stance and said in a statement following remarks by President Barack Obama on job creation and economic growth.
What the 10 Black members did was boycott the committee's final vote on a broad-sweeping financial overhaul bill. Instead, they were over at the White House trying to obtain greater funding for economic advances in the Black community. The vote passed narrowly, but the CBC's action effectively forced $4 billion to the table to go directly toward helping people keep their homes after they've lost their jobs.
In addition to the needs of Black businesses, home owners and the jobless, a news release describing the boycott specifically cited the importance of spending federal advertising dollars with Black newspapers.
Danny Bakewell, chairman of the 200-member National Newspaper Publishers Association, was credited by several members for helping to spark the protest by his firebrand lobbying around Capitol Hill.
Bakewell explained that the Black community, Black newspapers included, are being shortchanged for the dollars they spend with businesses and corporations. "We're asking what percentage of the market share do we represent a company's business, their profit margin? If we represent one percent, we don't expect to get anything more than one percent. But, if we represent 50 percent, we expect to have 50 percent of their resources and their effort going to strengthen their brand and building their brand in our community."
CBC members are hoping to get even more as they continue to use creative ways to call attention to the swelling problems in the Black community that have shaken up the offices of the CBC members.
CBC members have known all along about the disparate treatment of Blacks. But recently they were enlightened to the point of taking their consciousness to a new level of protest.
"As we worked through the process of getting to the point where we were going to vote for the final Wall Street bill, it became more and more difficult for the 10 members of financial services to vote for it because it felt like we were navel gazing," said Gwen Moore (D-WI) "We saw that we were presiding over the entire collapse of the Black economy. We had to make a decision about how to get attention on a whole sector of our economy that was about to go under. It wasn't like the Black community was getting a hair cut, we were being beheaded." With the Black unemployment rate surpassing 15 percent while the overall rate is at 10 percent, there is one cry above all others for which the CBC vows to continue to stand:
"Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs," lamented Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) "We're dealing with so many contentious issues in Congress, to see people who are bold and unapologetic, you can't do anything but respect it whether you agree or disagree philosophically, the boldness that comes with that stand can't be overlooked."