I am posting an excellent essay by Michael Hureaux Perez from Black Agenda Report. I can really relate to this piece because he lives right down the street from where I lived for two years, in West Seattle where I still work and organize. Hureaux Perez and I are both teachers. I work at an alternative program for youth who dropped out of high school or skipped and need to catch up on their credits. I bet we’ve had some of the same students. In his piece he tells the story of Marleney, a young woman who could very well end up in my class because of all the issues she is facing. She’s behind in credits, her husband is undocumented and can’t find work, and she is also unemployed.
Marleny’s situation is not unusual. The other day in class I showed my students the 2000 census maps for West Seattle. Most of them come from White Center (Marleny and Hureaux Perez’s hood), Delridge, and High Point neighborhoods. When you look at the maps of Black, Latino, and Asian-Pacific Islander unemployment rates, these neighborhoods are like dark dots in a sea of white. 35th Avenue runs through West Seattle dividing the employed, white, college educated middle class from the unemployed and working class people of color. It’s like Seattle’s 8 Mile. When my students saw these maps they were beefing. And these were made before the economic crisis; it’s only getting worse now. I asked my students what should be done about this. A few said we should go rob the people living on the other side of 35th. Others said we should riot.
One of my former students decided to channel this anger into productive action. He and I did a study group over the summer and we just recruited our friends to start a new group called Employment Justice Action. We are demanding jobs, especially for unemployed youth of color who are hardest hit by the economic crisis. We’re starting by demanding that the local Walgreens hire more people from the neighborhood. They take money from the neighborhood; if folks can’t work there, why should we shop there?
Continue reading Fighting Unemployment, Not Each Other