Rolling out spoke with Andrea L. Zopp, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League, prior to the Chicago Urban League’s Summit 2011 that featured a keynote address by National Urban League president Marc Morial. –zondra hughes
Why are blacks having a tougher time recuperating during this rebounding economy?
African Americans were hit significantly harder than other groups. National unemployment was around 10 percent. African American unemployment has been as high as 15 plus percent in some sectors and, in some places, even higher.
The recovery is slow, and the jobs that are being created are in many of the fields that require skilled workers. So, health care, textiles, green jobs require training. If they don’t have access to the training or don’t have a high school diploma, that impacts a lot of African Americans, and they’re hardpressed to get the jobs.
What is it that job seekers can do to increase their odds of landing employment?
The main thing is to have the skill sets for the job, and, if you don’t have those skill sets for the job, seek out those programs where you can get them.
How are you facilitating change in your role as CUL president?
The Chicago Urban League has long been in the forefront for pushing for change, and we continue to do that.
We’re fighting to ensure that kids have access to a quality education and a decent education, so that our kids can compete for work. We’re advocating to ensure that job funding for job programs continues and that minority and business people and contractors have access to the work that is out there. So, we’re advocating with the city, the state and private employers, such as Wal-Mart, that is building in Chicago to ensure that minority and business people get access to that work.
What is your vision for improving the lives of Chicago’s working poor?
The Chicago Urban League has been around 94 years, and we really have been focused on building strong, sustainable communities and focusing on the components of strong communities — quality schools, housing that is decent and affordable and businesses with economic activities that support that community.
What is it that you need right now to bring your vision to fruition?
First, we need people to be engaged and connected to their community and the issues that affect the community. Recognize that we have to fight for the things that are important to us, and that’s across all sectors. Connect with the Chicago Urban League. We are working in all of those areas.