There are many factors that help determine the state of Black New Orleans, but none may be more jarring than the economy. According to a 2013 Lindy Boggs National Center for Community Literacy report, 52 percent of working-aged Black men in New Orleans are unemployed. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013 Labor Report notes the national number for the same demographic is 12.9 percent.
The Louisiana Justice Center’s President and CEO, Tracie Washington says taking just a three-block detour from St. Charles Avenue will give people the opportunity to see the real economic disparities of New Orleans. “When we talk about disparity, let’s tell the truth.” She went on to say if residents face the real facts about the city, they’d be able to tackle and resolve one problem at a time.
“When we talk about New Orleans and the things we love so much about the city, we overlook that Black men play a huge role in those things. We can celebrate rebuilding and moving forward, but these men are being overlooked and disenfranchised. The Big Easy isn’t easy for many people,” says Petrice Sams-Abiodun, the Executive Director of the Lindy Boggs center.
Ashleigh Gardere, the Senior Advisor for Economic Opportunity for New Orleans explains that it is imperative to focus on this group because focusing on the most vulnerable will ultimately help the entire city and that New Orleans cannot fulfill its potential with 35,000 Black men unemployed. However, increasing the employment numbers for Blacks in New Orleans is necessary, if those jobs don’t include a livable wage they don’t help much when 50 percent of Black children in New Orleans live in poverty.
Wednesday, the Urban League of Greater New Orleans released “State of Black New Orleans: 10 Years Post-Katrina,” a report that focuses on civic engagement, criminal justice, economic and workforce development, education, environment, healthcare and housing to help determine the quality of life for Blacks in New Orleans.
The report can be summarized in one excerpt, “The wealth gap continues to widen between African Americans and Whites, too many of us are paying unaffordable housing coasts, Black men are still targeted and disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, and health disparities continue to threaten the well-being of African Americans in the city.”
When so many stories tout a booming, bigger and more expansive job market in New Orleans, the question becomes “Who does this economy include and who does it exclude?” Writer and filmmaker Lolis Ellis Elie argues the recovery numbers don’t especially reflect the city’s entire population. “I think our measures of progress are based on how quickly the rich people are getting richer.”