Black Caucus Job Fair Misses Mark

AT&T Staffing Manager Angela Green gives a job seeker some points on applying for employment./Dennis J. Freeman

Congressional Black Caucus members receive an “A” for show, hype and effort in producing a series of nationwide job fairs geared to highlight the high numbers of black Americans out of work. Touting their “For the People Jobs Initiative,” the CBC, however, receive incomplete verdicts when it actually comes down to producing the number of jobs that many had hoped it would do. 

Attendees came from all over the Southland, packing buses and local rail systems, desperately hoping they would leave the grounds of  Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles employed. A small number may have struck gold but a whole more of the nearly 20,000 people who stood in the searing heat for hours looking for work that reality became just a pipe dream.

With more than 140 employers on hand, giving folks instructions on how to apply for a position online, a lot more people who left the all day job fair disillusioned and disappointed.

 People like Tiffanie Cross felt like the CBC and those promoting the job fair pulled a “bait-and-switch” number on job seekers by telling them what to expect and what they actually saw. Cross, who graduated from the University of San Diego in 2008, came hungry to land a job in the field of broadcast journalism.

In the three years since she left school, Cross hasn’t gotten a sniff of any type of employment in the media field. Cross was expecting big things from the job fair. Like many of those seeking employment, Cross had heard that the employers participating in the job fair, including Disney, CBS and NBCUniversal would be hiring on the spot.

What she got instead was a lot of referrals to apply for any type of employment opportunities online. This didn’t sit too well with the English and Media Studies graduate.

 “I don’t think it’s as successful as it could be because we were told that the employers were going to be looking to hire right on the spot,” Cross said. “A lot of the employers here today are the ones I have experienced. They have directed me to their websites, which is something I’ve been doing. It doesn’t seem as efficient as it could be. It’s a little frustrating…I try to keep hope all day.”

Most of those attending the massive job fair mirror the unemployment plight in America. The U.S. Labor Department just released employment statistics show that black Americans have now hit the highest unemployment rate (16.7 percent) that ethic group has had in 27 years. Black men out of work numbers are at a whopping 19.1 percent. For black teens between the ages of 16 and 19, the numbers are even direr.

According to the Labor Dept.’s August report, black youth in the 16 to 19 age group, have a staggering 45% unemployment rate.  

Congresswoman Maxine Waters talks about the high unemployment rate of African Americans at a Congressional Black Caucus town hall meeting in Los Angeles./Photo: Dennis J. Freeman

 Vernon Johnson, a clergy member at New Age Christian Center, said blacks supporting black-owned businesses could have a dramatic impact on the high unemployment numbers.

“I feel a lot of the black unemployment (rate) has to do with us not so much as the economy,” Johnson said. “You find other races that will patronize each other’s businesses. Mexicans patronize Mexicans. Whites patronize whites. Our problem is we can have a black (business) owner right next to another ethnic owner-we would rather shop with them than instead of us. What that has done to us is put us at the bottom of the totem pole because we’re spending with everybody else except ourselves.”  

Johnson didn’t come out to the job fair just to be a spectator, though. A longtime warehouse worker, Johnson admitted he came out looking for work in hopes of being able to relay whatever information he picked up back to his congregation. Johnson said he felt let down by what he saw and heard from potential employers.

“I came out here looking for employment,” Johnson said. “And had I found employment then I would have referred that information back to my congregation. So far, I haven’t had any luck. People are basically saying what we know already; go online. Ninety percent of the people here are telling us what we know already. I had my hopes up pretty high coming out here.

“If I would have known the results was going be to go online I would have came because I know that already. I thought that coming out here we would have hands-on contact and facial contact with people where we would get better results. Apparently, that’s not happening for me.”

Tiffanie Cross and Marlon Spears went to the CBC job fair with high expectations./Photo: Dennis J. Freeman

Things also weren’t working out so well on the day for Shakila McKinney, an aspiring makeup artist. McKinney felt like she was running into one brick wall after another during her job search. With potential employers brushing her off by not accepting and taking her resume and telling her to apply for positions through the Internet, McKinney felt she wasn’t able to sell herself to companies.   

“I feel like that everybody here is looking to be hired or at least we can give our resume,” McKinney said. “But the booths I have stopped at they’re not even taking resumes. They’re telling you to go apply online. I want to talk to somebody. I want to sell myself to somebody. That’s not happening right now. In that aspect, I would say it’s unsuccessful. It’s such a large crowd.

“It’s so many people here that maybe they feel like that if they try to interview everybody that it would be just too much. I’ve been to previous of job fairs and they have been nowhere near on a larger scale as this job fair. This is the largest ever. It says that this economy is really, really bad. But I’m also happy to see so many black people because I didn’t expect that. I’m glad we’re all trying to get it together and try to find some jobs.”    



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