Facebook Joins Community Activists, Civic Leaders In Baltimore To Lower Violent Crime

Facebook, one of the biggest technology companies on the planet, has joined community activists and Baltimore’s civic leaders in an effort to decrease violence in Charm City.

In 2017, even though violent crime– murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault— decreased nationwide, violent crime increased in Baltimore, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting. City officials reported 11,010 violent crimes in 2016 and 12,439 violent crimes in 2017. In Washington, D.C., once known as the “murder capital of the country,” violent crimes decreased from 7,711 in 2016 to 6,584 in 2017.

•Baltimore, which is more than 60 percent black, is the first city in the U.S. to work with Facebook to address violent crime.

•More than 70 percent of black adults use Facebook and 43 percent use Instagram, according to the Pew Research Center.

•Facebook officials said that partnership with Baltimore is a long-term project.

Executives from the global social network recently hosted a “design jam,” a guided brainstorming session, to begin the development of new strategies aimed at addressing some of the underlying issues that contribute to violence in Baltimore. Although Facebook has taken on similar initiatives abroad, Baltimore was the first city in the United States to enter this unique partnership with the tech giant.

Gail Kent, Facebook’s global public policy lead on security, said that there are a lot of technology-based solutions that can help bring communities together and improve public safety.

“As an organization with 2.2 billion users, we have a responsibility for safer communities,” Kent said. “There is no technology solution to violence…there will not be an ‘app’ that we develop to solve Baltimore’s problems, but we can bring a different way of thinking to the table to bring communities together and help reduce violence.”

Speaking briefly during the design jam, Baltimore’s Mayor Catherine Pugh said that community engagement and mediation are critical to reducing violence in the city. She also acknowledged the role that technology can play in improving the lives of Baltimore’s residents.

Pugh said that the city hired a data scientist, “to measure what we were doing every single day” and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainable Solutions has used that information to improve access to city resources and to boost agency productivity.

Pugh applauded community activists and other civic leaders for working with Facebook on complex problems facing Baltimore.

“It is these kinds of conversations and collaborations that make a difference in the future of our city,” said Pugh.

Facebook has a vested interest in solving complex socioeconomic issues that plague majority-Black cities like Baltimore, due to the high use of the social media platform among African Americans.

According to the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of black adults use Facebook and 43 percent use Instagram, which is owned by the tech giant; blacks outpace whites, when it comes to the use of both social platforms. Nielsen reported that 55 percent of black millennials spend “at least one hour a day on social networking sites, which is 6 percent higher than all millennials, while 29 percent say they spend at least three hours a day, nine percent higher than all millennials.”

Shantay Guy, the executive director of the Baltimore Community Mediation Center, said that she was grateful for Mayor Pugh’s level of thoughtfulness with engaging Facebook to use its extensive resources for the benefit of Baltimore’s residents.

“That was really powerful for me,” Guy said.

Guy, who worked as a technology project manager at T. Rowe Price, said that she was “really stoked” to be a part of the design jam, because she understands how impactful technology can be for addressing everyday issues and long-standing social problems.

“Community engagement, technology engagement and civic sector engagement will be converging in a way that allows the community to be a part of the process instead of being left out, which happens far too often in black and [Hispanic] communities,” Guy said.

Ray Kelly, the chief executive of the No Boundaries Coalition, a resident-led, advocacy group, said that social media has changed the way that community activists reach their constituents. Now effective communication strategies must not only include traditional marketing techniques like direct marketing and public panels, but also digital and social media marketing.

“No one impacted by police misconduct is going to the [Baltimore Police Department’s] website to see what policies are under review,” Kelly said. “Community groups have to let them know and we have to get that information out there, as effectively as possible.”

Kent called the project “a long-term engagement not just in Baltimore but in other cities in the U.S. and across the world.”

Kelly said that the most important thing that the black community should know about Baltimore’s partnership with Facebook is that it’s important to get involved and stay engaged with city officials and corporations in order to have a positive change in their own neighborhoods.

“The fight is still going on,” Kelly said. “We’re in the midst of change.”

Supporting that change by reducing violence in black and poor communities is not only Facebook’s responsibility; every company in the world and every citizen in the world has a role to play in elevating the most vulnerable members of our society, said Guy.

Guy continued: “We all have a shared and individual responsibility for leveling the playing field and creating a world that is equitable.”

Freddie Allen is an independent journalist and photographer and is the former Editor-in-Chief of the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. Follow Freddie on Twitter @freddieallenjr.

Black women will elect the next president

— Black women will play a key role in electing the next president, according to a recent report by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), a national trade group and the largest federation of unions in the United States.

Carmen Berkley, the director of civil, human and women’s rights policy at the AFL-CIO said that the labor group wanted to provide context to the power that Black women voters have displayed over the past two presidential election cycles. In the briefing paper, researchers provided a case for why labor unions and non-profit organizations should be paying attention to Black women.

“Without black women, President Obama would not have won the White House in 2012,” said Berkley. “Black women voters delivered in key battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida where President Obama picked up 67 additional electoral votes.”

Berkley continued: “If black women had not turned out, President Obama would have been five electoral votes shy of winning the presidency.”

Denise Rolark Barnes, the publisher of The Washington Informer and chairwoman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) says that black women voters could make a monumental difference in the outcome of the 2016 election, just like they did in 2012.

However, Rolark Barnes also expressed concerns that neither of the presidential candidates have touched on the issues that are important to black women and single parents, who are also the primary breadwinners in their families;

issues like health care, education and the environment are very important to black women and their families.

“I don’t think we’ve heard enough from the candidates about how they plan to address issues that affect black and Latino families,” Rolark Barnes said.

Recently, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at a campaign rally in Durham, North Carolina, flanked by “Mothers of the Movement,” a group of black women who have lost children to gun violence or during interactions with law enforcement. The group included Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis and Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland.

Clinton also delivered remarks at the Black Women’s Agenda conference in September, where she acknowledged that even though the contributions of black women are “often missing from the history books— make no mistake— you are the change makers, the path breakers, and the ground shakers. And, you are proof that yes, indeed, black girl magic is real.”

Berkley said that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said that he knows the black community, but he hasn’t proven that he understands the impact that black people, especially black women, have on society.

“Black women drive turnout for the black community,” said Berkley. “We care a lot about police reform, raising the minimum wage, protecting social security and we are economically liberal when it come to the government.”

Berkley also noted that black women have been very reliable voters in the past two election cycles. In 2012 and 2014 black women voted at higher rates than other women.

According to the briefing paper on the importance of black women voters in 2016, “In 2012, 83 percent of registered black women turned out, compared to 73 percent for all other women, a ten-point difference. Black women turned out at a higher rate than other women in 2014 as well. Fifty-five percent of registered black women turned out in 2014, compared to 53 percent for all other women.”

Berkley said that black women do more than vote.

“We’re very active in our churches, we’re very active in our communities and we’re very active in our unions,” she said.

According to a survey by Lake Research Partners (LRP), a leading public opinion and political strategy research firm, black workers are far more likely to view labor unions favorably (77 percent for blacks vs. 50 for all-respondents) compared to other workers.

Petee Talley, the secretary-treasurer of Ohio branch of the AFL-CIO, said that evidence shows that black women union members have stepped up in remarkable ways.

“Not only are they organizing inside of their unions, they are organizing the black community around vote registration efforts,” said Talley.

And when black women take on leadership roles, they have the power to significantly affect elections inside their unions.

The briefing paper said: “As labor scholars Kate Bronfenbrenner and

Dorian Warren found in their oft-cited study “Race, Gender, and the Rebirth of Trade Unionism,” unions won 89 percent of elections where black women were the lead organizers compared with 53 percent for female organizers overall and 42 percent for male organizers.”

The report noted that black women were more likely than any other group to skip at least on race on the ballot.

“By skipping down ballot races, black women lose the potential to be a political force in local races, which arguably have a more direct impact on the day-to-day lives of black people,” the report said.

The briefing paper said that as the labor movement grows, it should look to black communities and black women organizers as a potential base for power.

“This requires incorporating black communities into long-term strategic thinking and lifting up the most progressive voice of the Democratic base,” the briefing paper said. “For organized labor and other parts of the political left, black women are a smart investment, in 2016 and beyond.”

Rolark Barnes says that black women hold the power of the vote and also have the influence in their households to make sure their families and friends get out to vote.

Rolark Barnes continued: “We need to come out strong, like we did before, and make the difference we know we can make in November.”

NNPA, Howard University team up to poll black voters

— In a historic effort to measure the pulse of African American voters, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) partnered with Howard University to conduct the first scientific poll of the Black community during the 2016 election cycle.

“The NNPA was pleased to join with one of the nation’s leading historically Black colleges and universities, Howard University in Washington, D.C., to conduct, analyze, and present timely and strategic findings that pertain to the political, economic, social interests of Black Americans across the United States,” said Benjamin Chavis, the president and CEO of the NNPA.

The NNPA represents more than 200 Black-owned media companies that reach an estimated 20 million readers every week.

“The Howard University/NNPA National Black Voter Poll is very important during this momentous season of political change,” said Chavis.

The 2016 Howard University/NNPA National Black Voters Poll covered a range of issues including racial inequality, criminal justice system, jobs and the economy, global trade, terrorism, education, immigration and environmental pollution. The poll was conducted by landline telephone and more than 420 people, who self-identified as Black, completed the questionnaire.

Rubin Patterson, the chairman of the Department of Sociology and Criminology, said that the 2016 National Black Voter Poll is of huge importance, not only because it is a collaborative product of two major Black institutions — Howard University and the National Newspaper Publishers Association — but also because it is the first scientific poll of the Black community concerning the 2016 election season.

“As a result of this poll, candidates and those who will be successful in occupying the White House and controlling Congress will know the prioritized issues and nuanced concerns of the complex Black community,” said Rubin Patterson, the chairman of the Department of Sociology and Criminology. “We hope that these findings will shape their policy and legislative agendas starting next year.”

The 2016 National Black Voter Poll is of huge importance, not only because it is a collaborative product of two major Black institutions — Howard University and the National Newspaper Publishers Association — but also because it is the first scientific poll of the black community concerning the 2016 election season.

Howard University faculty and students from multiple departments were represented including Economics, Political Science, Sociology, and Communications, Culture, and Media Studies.

“This multi-disciplinary team has drawn on its expertise to develop a comprehensive polling instrument designed to assess the opinions of Black Americans on the presidential candidates and other important issues facing the Black community and the nation,” said Terri Adams, the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Howard University.

William E. Spriggs, the chief economist at the AFL-CIO and an economics professor at Howard University, said that the national poll will let people see the motivation of registered Black voters to vote and the motivations behind their choice of candidates.

“Instead of hidden behind a mask of race as motivation, this survey will show how income, education, success in the job market, all act to motivate the Black vote,” said Spriggs.

Denise Rolark Barnes, the chairwoman of the NNPA, said that African Americans have a huge stake in this election and mainstream polls have often ignored their issues.

“This joint effort between Howard University and the NNPA shows just how much we care what African Americans think about the issues that will influence their voting choices on November 8,” said Rolark Barnes.

Rolark Barnes continued: “The Howard University faculty and students are to be commended for leading this historic and noteworthy effort. Their findings will show that Black voters will make a difference in the outcomes of this election in counties, cities and states where they live all across this country. It will show that Black voters matter and their votes do, too.”

According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in September, 93 percent of likely Black voters favored former Secretary Hillary Clinton in the presidential race; just three percent of likely Black voters favored the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

Chavis said that the HU-NNPA National Black Voter Poll is very important during this momentous season of political change.

Chavis continued: “The NNPA newspapers reach more than 20 million Black American readers every week and we know there is a hunger and thirst for the vital information and perspectives that the results of this poll will reveal.”

Black women will elect the next president

— Black women will play a key role in electing the next president, according to a recent report by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

The AFL-CIO is a national trade group and the largest federation of unions in the United States.

Carmen Berkley, the director of civil, human and women’s rights policy at the AFL-CIO said that the labor group wanted to provide context to the power that Black women voters have displayed over the past two presidential election cycles. In the briefing paper, researchers provided a case for why labor unions and non-profit organizations should be paying attention to Black women.

“Without Black women, President Obama would not have won the White House in 2012,” said Berkley. “Black women voters delivered in key battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida where President Obama picked up 67 additional electoral votes.”

Berkley continued: “If Black women had not turned out, President Obama would have been five electoral votes shy of winning the presidency.”

Denise Rolark Barnes, the publisher of The Washington Informer and chairwoman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) said that Black women voters could make a monumental difference in the outcome of the 2016 election, just like they did in 2012.

But Rolark Barnes also expressed concerns that neither of the presidential candidates have touched on the issues that are important to Black women and single parents, who are also the primary breadwinners in their families; issues like health care, education and the environment are very important to Black women and their families.

“I don’t think we’ve heard enough from the candidates about how they plan to address issues that affect Black and Latino families,” Rolark Barnes said.

Recently, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at a campaign rally in Durham, N.C., flanked by “Mothers of the Movement,” a group of Black women who have lost children to gun violence or during interactions with law enforcement. The group included Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis and Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland.

Clinton also delivered remarks at the Black Women’s Agenda conference in September, where she acknowledged that even though the contributions of Black women are “often missing from the history books — make no mistake — you are the change makers, the path breakers, and the ground shakers. And, you are proof that yes, indeed, Black girl magic is real.”

Berkley said that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said that he knows the Black community, but he hasn’t proven that he understands the impact that Black people, especially Black women, have on society.

“Black women drive turnout for the Black community,” said Berkley. “We care a lot about police reform, raising the minimum wage, protecting social security and we are economically liberal when it come to the government.”

Berkley also noted that Black women have been very reliable voters in the past two election cycles. In 2012 and 2014 Black women voted at higher rates than other women.

According to the briefing paper on the importance of Black women voters in 2016, “In 2012, 83 percent of registered Black women turned out, compared to 73 percent for all other women, a ten-point difference. Black women turned out at a higher rate than other women in 2014 as well. Fifty-five percent of registered Black women turned out in 2014, compared to 53 percent for all other women.”

Berkley said that Black women do more than vote.

“We’re very active in our churches, we’re very active in our communities and we’re very active in our unions,” she said.

According to a survey by Lake Research Partners (LRP), a leading public opinion and political strategy research firm, Black workers are far more likely to view labor unions favorably (77 percent for Blacks vs. 50 for all-respondents) compared to other workers.

Petee Talley, the secretary-treasurer of Ohio branch of the AFL-CIO, said that evidence shows that Black women union members have stepped up in remarkable ways.

“Not only are they organizing inside of their unions, they are organizing the Black community around vote registration efforts,” said Talley.

And when Black women take on leadership roles, they have the power to significantly affect elections inside their unions.

The briefing paper said: “As labor scholars Kate Bronfenbrenner and Dorian Warren found in their oft-cited study “Race, Gender, and the Rebirth of Trade Unionism,” unions won 89 percent of elections where Black women were the lead organizers compared with 53 percent for female organizers overall and 42 percent for male organizers.”

The report noted that Black women were more likely than any other group to skip at least on race on the ballot.

“By skipping down ballot races, Black women lose the potential to be a political force in local races, which arguably have a more direct impact on the day-to-day lives of Black people,” the report said.

The briefing paper said that as the labor movement grows, it should look to Black communities and Black women organizers as a potential base for power.

“This requires incorporating Black communities into long-term strategic thinking and lifting up the most progressive voice of the Democratic base,” the briefing paper said. “For organized labor and other parts of the political left, Black women are a smart investment, in 2016 and beyond.”

Rolark Barnes said that Black women hold the power of the vote and also have the influence in their households to make sure their families and friends get out to vote.

Rolark Barnes continued: “We need to come out strong, like we did before, and make the difference we know we can make in November.”

President Obama talks about the future of HBCUs, My Brother’s Keeper at North Carolina A&T

— During a recent town hall discussion at North Carolina A & T University in Greensboro, President Barack Obama said that historically Black colleges that are producing engineers, doctors and dentists serve as the foundation stone for building Black middle class wealth and success, and are also important to the entire nation.

President Obama answered audience questions about the future of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), his signature My Brother’s Keeper initiative and social activism at the event hosted by “The Undefeated,” an ESPN website dedicated to the exploration of sports, race and culture.

As the nation grows more diverse and educational opportunities that were once off-limits to Blacks are now more available, some have questioned the relevancy of HBCUs.

In 2011, the Obama Administration received sharp criticism after changes in the Federal Direct PLUS loan program, disproportionately affected Black students attending HBCUs, forcing many to either delay their dreams of earning a college degree or abandon them altogether. Three years later, the Department of Education issued updated guidelines that were praised by higher education advocates and included less restrictive credit requirements for the loan program.

Obama said that the challenge with the Parent PLUS program was that some of the loans offered were “particularly expensive” and left too many students deeply in debt without graduating.

“The notion was to try to improve the way in which young people were financing their educations,” said Obama. “Part of the challenge here is to make sure, not just that [students] enroll in college, but that [they] graduate from college.”

Obama said that HBCUs receive $4 billion a year from the federal government and noted that Pell grant funding to HBCUs increased by 150 percent, while he’s been in office.

The president also expressed concerns over state-level budget cuts to higher education that have had a significant impact on the financial stability of HBCUs.

“Unless state legislatures pick up some of this slack, there’s only so much the federal government is going to be able to do to fill the void through loans, because ultimately loans mean debt and it adds up and people can get into trouble,” said Obama. “If you’re really concerned about more resources for HBCUs then you better vote. If you don’t vote, you won’t have any say in the decisions that are made in state capitals or in Congress about the support that you receive.”

Obama also talked about the future of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative (MBK), a program that was launched to address the unique challenges facing young men and boys of color.

Obama said that the central principle of (MBK) is to have some adult who is taking interest in the young men, “to have somebody that is showing them here’s an alternative here’s a pathway here’s an opportunity that you can seize and you are worth something and you are important and you are a leader.”

Obama added: “It doesn’t take a lot to transform the lives of young men.”

MBK has partnered with organizations like the National Basketball Association and major corporations like Sprint have committed to make sure that one million young people have broadband Internet access to start closing that digital gap. Obama said that 250 communities and cities have launched local MBK programs.

“Some cities are doing better than others, some corporate citizens are investing more than others and we want everybody to get involved,” said Obama.

When asked about what it takes to manage the challenges of raising a family and a successful career, Obama admitted that balancing professional achievement and family is something that he and the First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama have had to wrestle with.

Managing those responsibilities is particularly burdensome on the mom, said Obama.

“There’s no doubt that Michelle carried a greater burden than I did, particularly, because the nature of my work required a lot of travel,” said Obama, adding that soon-to-be dads must understand the level of commitment required to balance work and family responsibilities successfully.

He said that it was important to understand, that if you’re going to have a real partnership, you have to give and not just take and you have to be there and present at home.

“On my deathbed I will not remember any bills I passed, I will not remember any speeches I gave, I will not remember getting the Nobel Prize,” said Obama. “What I will remember is holding hands with my daughters and taking them down to a park. That’s one thing I know, that on my deathbed, that is what I will remember and if you approach life with that attitude then you’re going to appropriately invest in what is most important.”

Black unemployment rate falls in August

— The unemployment rate for black workers improved from 8.4 percent in July to 8.1 percent in August, according to the latest jobs report from the Labor Department. Even though the black jobless rate has decreased more than one percentage point since last year (9.4 percent in August 2015), it is still nearly double the white unemployment rate (4.4 percent).

Nationally, the economy added 151,000 jobs in August, but the unemployment rate remained steady at 4.9 percent, the same mark set in July and June.

The labor force participation rate, which measures the share of workers that are employed or looking for jobs, was 61.9 percent for black workers in August, an increase from 61.2 percent in July and only a slight uptick from the black labor force rate last year (61.7 percent in August 2015). The participation rate for white workers was 62.9 percent in August, July and June and has only edged up slightly since last August (62.6 percent)

The unemployment rate for white workers was 4.4 percent in August, the same mark set in August 2015, and a slight increase from the 4.3 percent rate recorded in July.

The unemployment rate for black men over 20 years old was 7.6 percent in August, an improvement from 8.2 percent in July. The jobless rate for black women over 20 years old was 7.1 percent in August, which was a step forward from the 7.3 percent rate a month ago.

The unemployment rate for white men over 20 years old was 4.1 percent in August, the same as July. The participation rate, which was 72 percent in July showed no improvement. The unemployment rate for white women was 3.9 percent in August slightly higher than the 3.7 percent mark set in July.

The unemployment rate for Hispanic workers was 5.6 percent in August 2016 a step back from the 5.4 percent rate set in July.

According to The Hamilton Project, an economic policy think tank at the Brookings Institution, the economy would need to add 204,000 jobs every month until May 2017 to reach pre-recession employment levels.

In a statement about the August jobs report, Main Street Alliance, a national network of small business coalitions, noted that growth in the retail and restaurant sectors signals “increased consumer confidence and spending heading into the holiday shopping season.”

The Alliance also reported that Washington State led the nation in small business job growth and Seattle topped the list of metropolitan areas.

“With job creation and small business success widely attributed to consumer confidence and spending, it is hard to ignore Seattle’s rising minimum wage and the role boosting the wages of the lowest-level earners played in earning them the top spot on the list,” the Alliance statement said.

The Labor Department also reported upward trends in several service industries, including food services and drinking places.

Bill Spriggs, the chief economist for the AFL-CIO, a national group of 56 unions that represents more than 12 million workers, noted gains in fast food jobs and in health care in a series of tweets last Friday.

“Despite whining about minimum wage increases, fast food establishments gain 34,000 last month, 312,000 over the year,” Spriggs tweeted.

Spriggs suggested that the black unemployment rate likely decreased, “for right reasons,” because the employment-population ratio, which is the share of the population that is currently employed also improved from July (56.1 percent) to August (56.9 percent).

Spriggs also tweeted that black workers that earn associate degrees experience a 5.4 percent jobless rate, which is only slightly better than the unemployment rate for white high school dropouts (5.6 percent).

In a statement recognizing the importance of Labor Day, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), said that although America has made significant strides toward an economic recovery in recent years, too many working people are still going without the basic necessities.

“It does not have to be this way,” said Scott. “Ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to make a decent life for themselves and their families is the central challenge of our time. Whether we rise to meet that challenge will define us for generations to come.”

Black unemployment rate falls to 8.1 percent in august

— The unemployment rate for Black workers improved from 8.4 percent in July to 8.1 percent in August, according to the latest jobs report from the Labor Department. Even though the Black jobless rate has decreased more than a percentage point since last year (9.4 percent in August 2015), it is still nearly double the White unemployment rate (4.4 percent).

Nationally, the economy added 151,000 jobs in August, but the unemployment rate remained steady at 4.9 percent, the same mark set in July and June.

The labor force participation rate, which measures the share of workers that are employed or looking for jobs, was 61.9 percent for Black workers in August, an increase from 61.2 percent in July and only a slight uptick from the Black labor force rate last year (61.7 percent in August 2015). The participation rate for White workers was 62.9 percent in August, July and June and has only edged up slightly since last August (62.6 percent)

The unemployment rate for White workers was 4.4 percent in August, the same mark set in August 2015, and a slight increase from the 4.3 percent rate recorded in July.

The unemployment rate for Black men over 20 years-old was 7.6 percent in August, an improvement from 8.2 percent in July. The jobless rate for Black women over 20 years-old was 7.1 percent in August, which was a step forward from the 7.3 percent rate a month ago.

The unemployment rate for White men over 20 years-old was 4.1 percent in August, the same as July. The participation rate, which was 72 percent in July showed no improvement. The unemployment rate for White women was 3.9 percent in August slightly higher than the 3.7 percent mark set in July.

The unemployment rate for Hispanic workers was 5.6 percent in August 2016 a step back from the 5.4 percent rate set in July.

According to The Hamilton Project, an economic policy think tank at the Brookings Institution, the economy would need to add 204,000 jobs every month until May 2017 to reach pre-recession employment levels.

In a statement about the August jobs report, Main Street Alliance, a national network of small business coalitions, noted that growth in the retail and restaurant sectors signaled “increased consumer confidence and spending heading into the holiday shopping season.”

The Alliance also reported that Washington state led the nation in small business job growth and Seattle topped the list of metropolitan areas.

“With job creation and small business success widely attributed to consumer confidence and spending, it is hard to ignore Seattle’s rising minimum wage and the role boosting the wages of the lowest-level earners played in earning them the top spot on the list,” the Alliance statement said.

The Labor Department also reported upward trends in several service industries, including food services and drinking places.

Bill Spriggs, the chief economist for the AFL-CIO, a national group of 56 unions that represents more than 12 million workers, noted gains in fast food jobs and in health care in a series of tweets last Friday.

“Despite whining about minimum wage increases, fast food establishments gain 34,000 last month, 312,000 over the year,” Spriggs tweeted.

Spriggs suggested that the Black unemployment rate likely decreased, “for right reasons,” because the employment-population ratio, which is the share of the population that is currently employed. also improved from July (56.1 percent) to August (56.9 percent).

Spriggs also tweeted that Black workers that earn associate degrees experience a 5.4 percent jobless rate, which is only slightly better than the unemployment rate for White high school dropouts (5.6 percent).

In a statement recognizing the importance of Labor Day, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), said that although America has made significant strides toward an economic recovery in recent years, too many working people are still going without the basic necessities.

“It does not have to be this way,” said Scott. “Ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to make a decent life for themselves and their families is the central challenge of our time. Whether we rise to meet that challenge will define us for generations to come.”

The essence of the new black history museum is the true American story

— When the National Museum of African American History and Culture opens in September, Lonnie Bunch, the museum’s founding director said that it will not only tell us a great deal of information about Black folks, but “it will tell us even more about what America is and what it can become.”

Bunch, who previously served as the associate director for curatorial affairs at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. and as a curator of history for the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, Calif., said that, in some ways, the African American community has led the charge in forcing America to be America and broadening discussions around freedom and citizenship.

“When you look at any president, from George Washington on the number one issue they had to deal with at some point was African Americans,” said Bunch. “I really wanted people to recognize that this is all of our stories not just one community’s story.”

The decade-long search for artifacts that will live in the museum has been arduous, joyfully surprising and completely necessary for Bunch and his team of curators.

“Even if we took everything from the Smithsonian, it would only give us 20 percent of what we needed anyway,” said Bunch. “The Smithsonian is a place where so much of your credibility is based on the material that you have.”

Although Bunch and his team were dedicated to the search, he confessed that he wasn’t sure what he’d find.

“I was always struck by my own work early in my career and how I would go into a home and I would talk to an elderly woman or a young man and they would open a door and suddenly there would be wonders in front of me,” said Bunch. “So, I had to believe that there were wonders out there that I couldn’t even imagine that were sitting in people’s homes.”

Still, Bunch was doubtful when Charles Blockson, a famous collector and African American historian, reached out to him concerning personal items that had once belonged to Harriet Tubman.

“I just knew that he didn’t have anything,” said Bunch. Still curious, he travelled to Philadelphia, Pa., to meet with Blockson.

When he got there, Bunch said that Blockson opened a box and pulled out rare photographs from Harriet Tubman’s funeral, her personal hymnal and an amazing shawl that the civil rights heroine had worn before she died.

“While I was blown away by seeing this Harriet Tubman material, I was more humbled by the fact that he said, ‘and this needs to come to the Smithsonian for free,’” said Bunch. “He said, ‘I don’t want to sell it. I want people to engage with this material.’ And that kind of generosity makes all of this worthwhile. The realization that even if people don’t know it, they’ve been waiting for this moment, to be able to share that story.”

Bunch realized that every artifact couldn’t be the size of a hymnal.

After talking to a few “train people,” Bunch traveled to Chattanooga, Tenn., to meet with a collector who had a Southern Railways segregated railroad car from the 1920s. When it was running, three-fourths of the car was reserved for Whites. Black passengers walked through a swinging door that said “Colored” to get to their section. The railroad car was restored and lowered into the museum before exterior construction was completed.

“This is the kind of thing that will help people understand segregation in ways I don’t have to explain,” said Bunch.

The collection also includes a guard tower from the notorious Angola Prison, a pinewood slave cabin from South Carolina, George Clinton’s Mothership, a pair of Michael Jordan’s iconic Air Jordan basketball sneakers, a jumpsuit worn by the late Godfather of Soul James Brown, a letter signed by the revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture, and a training plane used by the Tuskegee Airmen.

The museum officials also wanted to spark conversations about the present-day challenges facing the Black community.

“A Justice 4 Trayvon placard and a Black Lives Matter T-shirt underscore the issues of persistent inequality and police brutality,” according to the New York Times.

Bunch said that he wanted visitors to the museum to realize that the waters of history have touched all of us and that even though you’re not famous, your family’s story is just as relevant.

“Often we think, ‘well, I’m not related to Frederick Douglas,’ or ‘I’m not Sojourner Truth,’ or ‘I didn’t break down this door in 1968,’” said Bunch. “So much of history is about the family that left the south for the north or the father who joined the union for the first time to get a job in Detroit.”

Bunch continued: “We’re not all Martin Luther King Jr., but we’ve all profoundly shaped what this country can become.”

When it comes to helping people to understand the historical and personal value of their family heirlooms, it’s less about what the museum collects, said Bunch, and more about what they’re able to preserve.

“Roots” remake targets younger audience

— Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose admitted that she questioned why Mark Wolper, the son of the producer of the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries “Roots,” would ever consider returning to that story.

The original miniseries, based on Alex Haley’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1976 novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” won nine Emmy awards and was watched by more than 50 percent of United States population. The miniseries inspired scores of families to trace their own genealogy, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

With the legacy and emotional burden of the original “Roots,” Rose said that she needed to understand the mindsets of the producers, their plan and what they were trying to accomplish with the remake.

When Mark Wolper sat down to watch the 1977 miniseries with his own son, then 16 years-old, he discovered that the pace and style of the original didn’t resonate with younger audiences. Wolper shared what his son told him with actors and producers. His son understood why the story was important, but similar to his father’s music, it didn’t speak to him.

After meeting with the producers, Rose came around.

“I think that this is a story that deserves to be told over and over again. As much as we hear about the Jewish Holocaust, we need to hear about our Holocaust. This particular American Holocaust. The second American Holocaust,” said Rose. “I hope that this is the beginning of the telling of the story of, you know, another America. Of the America that built America. I hope that we continue to tell this story from different angles.”

Rose continued: “We need to tell the story for new eyes, and a [younger generation] used to watching movies and television that move in a faster way and [speak with] a different language.”

Malachi Kirby, the English-born actor who stars as Kunta Kinte, said that the reboot was necessary to make the film more accessible. Producers for the 2016 miniseries relied on a host of historians and research that simply wasn’t available in the 1970s.

“[Roots”] was the best that it could be at it’s time,” said Kirby. “We’ve updated this now, hoping that it will the best that it can be at this time.”

“If there is something that’s keeping the younger generation from accessing that, then I believe we need to find a new way and I’m hoping that’s what we did with this [miniseries],” said Kirby.

Like Rose, Kirby expressed anxiety about appearing in the reboot at first.

“I felt extremely unprepared for this,” said Kirby. “I literally spent most of my time worrying about what I would do if I got the job instead of preparing for it. Then when I finally got it, I didn’t have a clue how to tackle this.”

Kirby turned to prayer to assist him in bringing his interpretation of Kunta Kinte to the screen.

“I came to an understanding that [Kunta Kinte’s] strength and his power would have come from the knowledge of himself and his spirit and so I decided I wanted to take time to get a bit deeper into myself, so I could play him and also strengthen myself in spirit,” said Kirby.

Kirby acknowledged that many people were left feeling very angry and very hurt after watching the “Roots” miniseries in the 1977.

Kirby hopes that the updated “Roots” sparks public dialogue about America’s history of racism and the legacy of slavery and that people gain some form of empowerment, healing and understanding in the process.

“There’s ‘Birth of a Nation’ coming out, there’s ‘Underground’ and [‘Roots’]. There are so many projects coming out about this same narrative, I don’t think that it’s a coincidence,” said Kirby. “There’s a discussion that needs to be happen. I don’t think that people really understand this period of time. I hope that this project brings about more understanding and clarity.”

Rose said that she hopes more Black filmmakers like Nate Parker with “Birth of a Nation,” will get the opportunity to tell stories about this part of America’s history.

The cast also includes Laurence Fishburne as the narrator Alex Haley, Forest Whitaker, Mekhi Phifer, Erica Tazel and the rapper Tip “T.I.” Harris. Mario Van Peebles directed the second episode. Will Packer, the executive producer of “Straight Outta Compton,” also earned production credits on the “Roots” remake.

Rose said that she’s excited that young people of color and others will be inspired to learn more about their own roots after watching the miniseries.

Kirby said that through the experience of filming “Roots” and conversations with actors and staffers on set, he learned the importance of self-knowledge and knowing where you come from.

Kirby, knew that his parents were from Jamaica, but he didn’t know any of his family’s history past his grandparents.

Kirby recently took a DNA test and learned that his roots go back to West Africa.

“Now, I can say it with confidence: ‘That is where I’m from.’ I can go to that land and know that is where my people are from. I can pass that down to my children and that’s just the beginning,” said Kirby.

Kirby continued: “It has already empowered me so much, just rooted and grounded me so much, that little information, and I’m just going to continue on that journey.”

Black men returned to the job market in April

— The Black unemployment rate ticked down from 8.9 percent in March to 8.8 percent in April and Black men showed gains in the labor market, according to the latest jobs report from the Labor Department.

The national unemployment rate was stagnant at 5 percent and the jobless rate for White workers hasn’t changed since December 2015 and was 4.3 percent again in April.

William Spriggs, the chief economist for the AFL-CIO, an organization that represent 56 unions represents 12.5 million workers in the United States, tweeted that April was “Another month Blacks with Associates Degrees have lower unemployment rate than Whites who are high school dropouts, but higher than HS grads.”

Spriggs also noted that the loss of jobs in the federal government and local public education were “big drags” on the labor market.

The unemployment rate for Black men over 20 years old rose from 8.7 percent in March to 9.5 percent in April. The jobless rate for White men, ticked up slightly from 3.9 percent in March to 4 percent last month.

The unemployment rate for Black women over 20 years old was 8 percent in March and 6.9 percent in April. The unemployment rate for White women increased from 3.9 percent in March to 4 percent in April.

In a blog for the Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) website, Elise Gould, a senior economist for EPI, wrote that, “Even with the downward revisions to March, job growth looks slower than first quarter of this year (averaging 203,000) or last quarter of 2015 (averaging 282,000).”

Gould continued: “While it is true that as the economy reaches full employment, job growth would be expected to slow, we are not nearly close enough to full employment to view this slow down as a positive move.”

While other adult worker groups declined in some key economic indicators in April, Black men returned to the labor market last month. The labor force participation rate (LFPR), which is the share of workers who are employed or currently looking for jobs, rose slightly for Black men over 20 years-old from 67.2 percent in March to 68.1 percent in April. The employment-population ratio (E-POP), which is the share of the population that is employed, increased for Black men from 61.4 percent in March to 61.6 percent in April.

Meanwhile the LFPR for White men ticked down from 72.3 percent in March to 72.1 percent in April. The E-POP for White men decreased from 69.4 percent in March to 69.2 percent in April.

The LFPR for Black women over 20 years-old fell more than a percentage point from 61.5 percent in March to 60.2 percent in April and the LFPR for White women slipped from 58 percent in March to 57.8 percent last month.

Gould also noted that the labor force participation rate for “prime-age workers” (25-54 years-old) also fell in April and the number of missing workers increased to 2.5 million.

“If the unemployment rate included these [missing] workers, who would be employed or looking for work if the labor market were stronger, it would be 6.5 percent, as opposed to the official rate of 5 percent,” said Gould. “In general, labor force participation has been on the rise (and the number of missing workers has been falling) so hopefully this is just a one-month blip in the data and next month we will continue will the more promising trends.”

Gould suggested that the economy needed steady gains in the labor force participation rate and stronger wage growth for a sustained period of time before economists can say that the U.S. job market is nearing full employment and a healthy economy.

In a statement about the most recent jobs report, Representative Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said that under President Obama and his Administration, we continue to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Scott blamed the Republican majorities in the United States House of Representatives and Senate for blocking a number of bold initiatives and policies crafted by the Labor Department that would “help protect retirees’ savings, workers on the job, and workers’ right to organize.”

Scott continued: “These attacks are a waste of the taxpayers’ time and money, and would be harmful to working families if they ever succeeded.”

Scott called for U.S. lawmakers to refocus their priorities and to support labor market reforms.

“Together, we can work on bipartisan solutions to boost wages, help workers balance work and family life, and level the playing field for American workers,” said Scott. “We owe it to working people to build on the economic progress we have seen these past 74 months.”