Last stop Los Angeles. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) concluded a month-long trek around the country, during the annual Congressional summer recess, engaging urban America around the issue of jobs.
The “For The People” jobs tour consisted of job fairs, continuing education and jobs skills sessions, press opportunities, and town hall meetings, making stops in Cleveland, Detroit, Atlanta, Miami, and Los Angeles. Thirty members of the CBC went outside of their own districts and joined over 500 employers to ultimately bring out over 30,000 job seekers to connect with potential opportunities.
WATCH REP. KAREN BASS’ COMMENTS FROM L.A.’s TOWN HALL:
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While it will take some time to determine the exact number of people actually hired, it is evident that the tour was not an empty publicity stunt, but a chance for the CBC to be more relevant as a body than its been since of the beginning of the Obama administration.
While the job fairs, which afforded the unemployed, and even the employed looking for better opportunity to engage employers, were the focus of the tour, it was the town halls that served as its personality. Each town hall meeting was as different as the congressional representatives hosting them. Cleveland, Atlanta, and Miami were relevant, but were very polite considering the unemployment rates of each city.
The audiences were no less concerned about the issues facing their city and the country, but they followed the rules set by the CBC. Submitting written questions, seldom lifting vocal concern beyond the note cards and tweets they directed to moderators like myself. Detroit however was a different beast altogether, serving as the site of the most vocal and controversial location on the tour.
With unemployment numbers that many have argued are up to 50 percent, who could argue with public outbursts challenging everyone from local officials to President Obama to do more to stimulate job production and growth in urban cities like theirs. Los Angeles was less like a town hall and more like a BET Walk of Fame tribute to Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
The bulk of the evening was dedicated to everyone from actor/singer Tyrese to local Crenshaw community members giving testimony to the Congresswoman for always being available to them. Jobs may have been the reason for the gathering, but the real focus was Congresswoman Waters.
And it was Waters, with her pointed statements at the Detroit town hall about the president, that made news here on theGrio and in newspapers and television stations around the country. Observers hailed her as the real star of the CBC ensemble cast.
Her direct, albeit not hostile words (depending on who you talk to) for the president, put the CBC Tour on center stage and truly gave this body of legislators a chance to push an agenda that America could get behind.
But the real question is, what’s next? What will the CBC do now that the tour is over? How will they take all that they have learned from constituents and been presented with over the last month and quantify it for the purpose of providing their congressional colleagues and even President Obama with well thought out policy recommendations that come directly “from the people”?
I would hope that the president receives a letter from the CBC, that in plain language reflects what they have seen, who they have talked to, the recommendations they have gotten from urban America, and how the president and Congress can work together to address and help the, elderly, young, recently incarcerated, long-term out-of-work-but-want-to-work or get into training, educational opportunities, support and most importantly work.
If the CBC fails to make this happen, I question how they can look not just their fellow representatives and the president in the face, but more importantly how they can go home and look the people in the face. Congressman Cleaver and the CBC have a great opportunity before them, and I for one hope for the sake of millions of urban Americans that they make their next step, the right step.