More than 60 grantmaking representatives learned about the harsh realities facing Black workers during a funder briefing event hosted by the Southern California Black Worker Hub for Regional Organizing held in June. Through the event, Southern California’s Black Job Crisis: Stories and Data to Power the Movement, funders heard why there is an urgent need to support workers and workforce development efforts to ensure an equitable COVID-19 recovery: one that supports Black workers to secure quality jobs and resources to elevate their standard of living and that of their families and communities in the long term.
During the virtual event, Déjà Thomas, Program Manager of the UCLA Center for the Advancement of Racial Equity (CARE) at Work, discussed the recent findings of the Essential Stories Report, which documents the challenges faced by nearly 2,000 Black workers in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report’s researchers found that it will take a decade to address critical issues facing Southern California’s Black workers if state officials do not promptly intervene given the heightened unemployment, underemployment and unsafe conditions that exist in a regional workforce plagued by a long history of systemic racism.
Following the report’s findings, a thought-provoking panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Jasmine Hill, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Sociology for the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The panelists included two Black workers who courageously shared their experiences struggling to maintain employment during the pandemic. One of the workers was Andrea Dudley, a single mother of three children, including a son with special needs. “Support and resources during the pandemic were in such despair, it sent me into a state where I felt I had no one. I couldn’t work part-time because I had to make sure I was there taking care of him,” said Dudley. “Joining the Inland Empire Black Worker Center and their water works program was a Godsend. They made sure I was able to get to and from the program as I did not have childcare for my special needs son. I’m going to continue in the water industry after this program and possibly get an externship.”
Another worker, Brian McNeil, shared about the need for supporting Black worker protections. “We need funding and support toward prevention,” said McNeil. “Let’s put more systems in place for Black people treated unfairly in the workplace. Black worker justice is mandatory.”
The Black Worker Hub highlighted the importance of cultural competence when opening and closing the briefing by inviting Yardenna Aaron, Board Chair of the Earthlodge Center for Transformation, a Hub allied and anchor healing justice organization, to share words and culture by drumming and highlighting the need for trauma informed approaches for Black workers. “At this point, a Black worker getting a job isn’t enough. We need wellness and trauma informed services to address and heal the mental, emotional and physical damage from systemic racism, exclusion and retaliation,” said Aaron. “How ‘good’ is a good job if the ‘isms you experience there end up traumatizing you and even making you physically ill from stress, high blood pressure and much worse. We need both rights and wellness in the workplace.”
The Weingart Foundation, which served as an event partner, was represented by its CEO Miguel Santana, who discussed why the organization considers the fight against workforce racism a necessary part of their mission. “It’s important that we do research to capture how anti-Black racism manifests in our community, particularly in the workforce. It’s important that we also provide the community the tools to change those situations,” said Santana. “We are committed to social justice, and we’re proud to stand with all of you who are doing this work in the community.”
By hosting the event, the Southern California Black Worker Hub for Regional Organizing hoped to educate the philanthropic community about critical issues facing the region’s Black workers and how funders can make a real, sustainable impact on Black communities. The Black Worker Hub also extends its gratitude to the Weingart Foundation and SoCal Grantmakers for their support of the event.
The Southern California Black Worker Hub for Regional Organizing advocates for the economic empowerment of Black workers throughout the region by supporting Black Worker Centers in Los Angeles, the Inland Empire and San Diego as they fight for economic inclusion and opportunity for the region’s Black workers. By serving as a resource for all three worker centers, the Hub is advancing Black economic opportunity throughout the region, creating a more equitable Southern California. For more information about the Hub, please visit the organization’s website here. To donate to the Hub, please visit here or email Hub Regional Organizer Alyce Monet at [email protected].