Life for black Americans is difficult. Life for black Louisvillians is, as well. In a report released last week by the Louisville Urban League, president and CEO Sadiqa Reynolds described the pressure on black citizens as “aspiration-crushing.”
The first State of Black Louisville report packs a series of personal essays from scholars, preachers, journalists, activists and others into 172 pages designed to “own our own voices,” Reynolds wrote. Contributors wrote about jobs, justice, education, health and housing.
The document was inspired by the National Urban League’s annual State of Black America, Reynolds said at an event celebrating the report’s release last Friday at the Speed Museum.
“We did not want to do that in a vacuum, though. We understood that there were so many experts in this community, working hard, trying to change people’s lives, every single day,” Reynolds said. “We wanted to hear the voices of everybody.”
Here are some of those voices from the event.
Jackson is a senior vice president at the Louisville branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. She spoke on the topic of the racial wealth gap, saying, “Median black wealth levels are about 90 percent lower than median white, yet median income levels are about 40 percent lower. Most black families have some wealth, but one in five black families have zero or, even worse yet, negative wealth.”
(Disclosure: Nikki Jackson is a Louisville Public Media board member.)
Owens is a Louisville activist and community organizer who discussed the gaping disparities between America’s elites and its downtrodden. “Ordinary people — white, black and brown — don’t believe the economic indicators pertain to them because their lives are not improving,” he said.
Former Courier Journal columnist Betty Bayé spoke about the importance of media’s portrayal of people of color.
“Our children cannot have bright skies and clear dreams when we are always depicted as the ones from the broken schools, the broken families, the fathers that don’t care, the mothers that don’t do this,” she said. “Why should we have to fight to have good news stories every now and then?”
Murphy is a criminal defense lawyer and political cartoonist at Courier Journal. He called for empathy and said undue focus on personal responsibility while ignoring life circumstances is “a new racism.” He said, “this is our generation’s redlining.”
Dr. F. Bruce Williams
Louisville pastor F. Bruce Williams spoke about the white evangelical church’s complicity in white supremacy. “I suppose it’s because their parishioners are the beneficiaries of a system that favors whites over others, and as a consequence, on the whole, white evangelicals have not been a part of the struggle for racial justice,” he said.