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Report on Louisiana livable wages released

LOUISIANA WEEKLY — Having a full-time job does not guarantee economic security, according to the updated ALICE Report for Louisiana published by the United Way

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By Fritz Esker

Having a full-time job does not guarantee economic security, according to the updated ALICE Report for Louisiana published by the United Way.

ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. The report was a collaboration between The Louisiana Association of United Ways and 11 Louisiana United Ways.

“The ALICE data shows that the economic benefits of low unemployment, increased productivity, and a booming stock market are not reaching all residents,” said ALICE report author Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D.

The report states that low-paying service economy jobs have increased but other job opportunities have decreased. Most jobs in each state now pay less than $20 an hour, but in Louisiana 66 percent of jobs pay less than $20 an hour, as of 2016. The majority of the jobs in that percentage pay less than $15 an hour (equivalent to $30,000 a year, full-time). Twenty-nine percent of jobs in Louisiana pay between $20 and $40 an hour and only four percent pay $40-60 an hour.

“The reality is wages haven’t grown as fast as the costs of basic needs (like rent, childcare, etc.),” said Michael Williamson, president and CEO of the United Way of Southeastern Louisiana.

When accounting for age, the youngest households in Louisiana (those headed by people under 25) were the most likely to be in poverty. However, the households most likely to fall into the ALICE category were both the youngest and the oldest (those headed by people 65 and older).

In the 2016 ALICE report, the United Way highlighted the story of Ashley Durand, a young single mother working in a coffee shop. Durand released a prepared statement in a press conference for this year’s report. She has received help from the Earned Income Tax Credit and is now pursuing an associate’s degree in nursing. But she said it is still important for ALICE families to tell their stories, even though many Americans are taught to always “pull yourself up by your boot straps.”

“So many ALICE(s) are silent because they feel like they should try harder and not complain,” Durand wrote. “If others’ experiences are like my own, I can say that we are trying our best, but sometimes we need a break to change our circumstances.”

Williamson echoed Durand’s sentiment, stating that many people at the ALICE threshold are full-time workers average Americans see every day: grocery store cashiers, nursing home caregivers, and fast food workers.

“These are individuals that are working…They are doing all the right things, but they just aren’t earning the wages that would allow them to meet the needs of their families,” Williamson said.

In Orleans Parish, 53 percent of the city’s 154,355 households are at or below the ALICE threshold (29% were at the threshold and 24% were in poverty). That percentage has increased since 2010, when 46 percent of the city’s households were at or below the ALICE threshold.

Families with children are struggling to make ends meet in Orleans Parish. Eighteen percent of married families with children are at or below the ALICE threshold. Seventy-nine percent of families headed by a single mother and 60 percent of households headed by a single father are at or below the ALICE threshold.

Race affects a person’s likelihood of being at or below the ALICE threshold. In Orleans Parish, 58,558 African Americans (68.7% of the city’s African-American population) is at the ALICE threshold or in poverty. Meanwhile, 16,547 white residents are at or below the ALICE threshold (29.7%).

Stats from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development included household survival budgets for Orleans Parish. These numbers, also from 2016, indicate what it would take for someone to simply survive in New Orleans, not including any savings. A single adult would need $22,176 a year and an hourly wage of $11.09 to get by at a minimal level. A family of four would need $60,732 a year.

Williamson said the answer to these problems is not an either/or one. He said wages need to rise to reflect the increased costs of living, but there also needs to be more job training programs like those the United Way offers. Williamson said if workers are given more marketable skills, it can make employers want to pay them more.

The full Louisiana ALICE data can be found online at www.launitedway.org/ALICE.

This article originally appeared in the Louisiana Weekly

Art

City Selects Ayodele Nzinga as Inaugural Poet Laureate

As poet laureate, Nzinga will make an inaugural address, partner with the city’s youth poet laureate Myra Estrada on a reading series, deliver four readings in Oakland, and write a poem that commemorates the city.

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Oakland first poet laureate Ayodele Nzinga, author of “SorrowLand Oracle” and “The Horse Eaters,” in an undated photo. (Photo courtesy City of Oakland).

Poet, playwright, and community activist Ayodele Nzinga was selected as Oakland’s inaugural poet laureate, city officials announced on June 11.

Nzinga is the founding producer and director of the West Oakland theater company Lower Bottom Playaz, established in 1999. She’s also the founding director of Black Arts Movement Business District Community Development Corporation, which produces BAMBDFEST, an international arts and cultural festival celebrating the arts in the Black community.

“Her decades-long commitment to Oakland’s art scene will feed the richness of her storytelling as she nurtures creativity in others,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement.

Nzinga is the author of at least two books of poetry: “SorrowLand Oracle,” a collection of spells, incantations, prayers, and “The Horse Eaters,” which is described as an origin tale, a reclamation of memory and a movement toward wholeness in thought.

Nzinga said she is “overjoyed” with her selection as Oakland’s first poet laureate.

“I look forward to representing ‘The Town’ and the honor of bringing poetry to the people!” she said in a statement.

As poet laureate, Nzinga will make an inaugural address, partner with the city’s youth poet laureate Myra Estrada on a reading series, deliver four readings in Oakland, and write a poem that commemorates the city.

“Whether in the visual performing arts, music or literature, the talents of the Town’s artists are world-renowned and deserve recognition and financial support,” J. K. Fowler, cultural affairs commissioner and chair of the poet laureate selection team, said in a statement.

City officials closed nominations on May 19 for Oakland’s inaugural poet laureate and five members of the city’s literary community selected Nzinga from other nominees based on five criteria.

That included their poetic work, and among other things, their understanding of civic stories around belonging, culture, and equity.

Nzinga will serve a two-year term until May 2023. Her selection comes with a $5,000 honorarium.

The date for the inaugural address by Nzinga has not been set.

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Community

West Oakland Food Giveaway Event a Success Through ‘Comm-Unity’

Common Unity is more than a slogan. It is the actual showing of what it means to be as one with the promise and actual example of itself. As one volunteer known as” Mr. Fab” said, “Community is nothing but common unity.”

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Photo Courtesy of Calle Macarone from Unsplash

First and foremost, I thank the Most High for making the June 5 “A Day of Giving,” a food and necessity giveaway a success. It was quite amazing to see all the sectors of our Oakland communities come together to make this event a fruitful and worthwhile effort at Ralph Bunche School and de Fremery Park in West Oakland from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

It was a volunteer-inspired effort that I describe as ‘Comm-Unity,’ which simply means common unity because it matters not what part of town you’re from. Whether a volunteer identified as a Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Catholic and or as a non-believer, it only mattered that they all had one reason and one common goal, which was to just serve others in need.

What was remarkable was the participation of those who were formerly incarcerated. Some members of this segment of the community showed up with their families and children and showed out by volunteering along with businesspersons and clergymen to help feed needy families.

The lines of vehicles stretched for more than one-and-a-half miles. More than 900 vehicles that had presented the Post newspaper coupon or had registered at the website address were presented with boxes of food and supplies. More than 200 volunteers loaded each vehicle after giving each driver a choice of a selection of the 52 different food items and household cleaning supplies on various pallets. Deliveries were also made to some elderly residents who did not have vehicles. The remaining food and supplies were distributed to non-profits that serve the needy.

A special shout out to the Oakland Post Newspaper Group, Trybe, Deeply Rooted, Ronald Muhammad, Ear Hustle, John Ya Ya Johnson, Missy Percy, Jamil Wilson, Attorney Anne Wells, ROC’S Richard Corral, Lee Oliveres, Jesus P. Peguero, Ricky “Styles” Ricardo, Paul Redd, Savior Charles, OG riders Arnold Torres, Gabe Zuniga, Rudy Yanez, Rolando Coffman; Janelle Marie Charles of Epsilon Phi Zeta, Mrs. Marsha Woodfork of Zeta Amicae of the Epsilon Phi Zeta, the Black Firefighters Association, Felicia Bryant, Mr. Fab’s Dope Era Clothing Store, Cesar Cruz’s Homie’s Empowerment, The Oakland Gumbo Cultural Group, Amina Nicole, Queen Johnson, Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, Walter Culp and the entire staff of West Side Missionary Baptist Church, who helped with organizing, rental/warehouse space,  equipment rentals, insurance expenses, obtaining  permits, food donations, refrigeration vans and donation of funds, and purchases such as walkie-talkies, pallet jacks, forklifts, portable toilets, laborers, social media posts and recruitment of volunteers.

Several elected Officials, including the District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife, clergymen, community leaders, community investors and local entertainers lent their support by volunteering to serve our community families in need.

We will continue to work with the Oakland Post Newspaper Group, to make June 5 “A Day of Giving” event a model for future giveaways of necessities that included boxes of oatmeal, fruits and vegetables including corn, green beans, pinto beans, chili beans, peas, pears, mixed peas & carrots, potato chips, gold fish and animal crackers, zoo crackers, Cheez-Its, cups of mixed fruits, granola bars, mac and cheese, Welch’s fruit snacks, canned pears, canned peaches, gallons of olive oil, whole chickens, varieties of luncheon meats (roast beef, turkey, sliced cheese), mixed nuts, Belvita breakfast cookies, Ritz crackers, canned chicken, spaghetti, whole wheat and white pasta, dry pinto beans, cases of bottled water, canned tuna, impossible burgers, masks, gallons of bleach, laundry detergent, surface cleaners, large rolls of toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap, toothbrushes, baby wipes, dishwashing liquid, body wash, dental floss and boxes of peanut butter.

I was moved by the tears and shouts of joy from some families and children when they were showered with boxes of food and cleaning supplies that literally loaded down their vehicles. One mother said she was accustomed to receiving one bag or a box of food that could last for a day or a week, but she never dreamed that she would be given enough food and cleaning supplies to last for months.

I pray that this approach of providing a sustainable amount of food that was inspired by the leadership of Mrs. Egypt Ina Marie King will shine as the beacon of hope, pride and promise before our God Almighty. Nothing is greater than the powers of God and when our hearts are focused on freely serving others, we then are giving praises to God.

I thank Rev. Ken Chambers and the Interfaith Council of Alameda County (ICAC) for coordinating a pop-up, drop-in clinic in a tent to provide COVID-19 vaccination shots during our food give-away.

Common Unity is more than a slogan. It is the actual showing of what it means to be as one with the promise and actual example of itself. As one volunteer known as” Mr. Fab” said, “Community is nothing but common unity.”

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Business

Go Fund Geoffrey’s

Whether it was Paul Mooney, Faye Carroll, Sugar Pie or Jay-Z performing or whether it was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Elihu Harris, or Kamala Harris along with many of the Bay area’s elected officials they too have come to bask in the limelight of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle.

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Geoffrey's Inner Circle

For more than 30 years Geoffrey Pete ‘s business, Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, has been a cultural hub because of its full-service restaurant, live entertainment, nightclub parties, jazz music and community special occasion events. Faith-based organizations have also rented the spacious facilities for services and concerts. Their full-service restaurant, bar and live entertainment business along with their tenants and multilevel event rental spaces have been severely interrupted and devastated by the COVID 19 lockdowns and restrictions.

Whether it was Paul Mooney, Faye Carroll, Sugar Pie or Jay-Z performing or whether it was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Elihu Harris, or Kamala Harris along with many of the Bay area’s elected officials they too have come to bask in the limelight of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle. Now those lights are dimmed due to the economic conditions that have descended on high intensity people-contact businesses.

Thanks to a group of customers and supporters a Go Fund Me page has been opened for the public to contribute to support Geoffrey’s Inner Circle https://gofund.me/b2541419.

The Post newspaper has notified the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce that regular articles concerning the needs of Geoffrey’s and other Black-owned Businesses will be published weekly.

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