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NEW YORK NEW YORK: Joblessness hurting West Indian Blacks


Tony Best

NEW YORK NEW YORK: Joblessness hurting West Indian Blacks

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As a Bajan manager at a large prestigious Manhattan department store interviewed the 26-year-old Jamaican immigrant, she couldn’t help but think of the Wall Street protesters.
“Sitting before me was a graduate of the University of the West Indies with a liberal arts degree and training in customer relations, the kind of person one would expect to find as a prospective executive in the financial district,” said the woman.
“The trouble was she couldn’t find a job and was eager to take a position that pays minimum wage. It’s something she wouldn’t have considered, had it not been for the tough economic times. Although she didn’t have any experience in the retail business, she was so articulate that I decided to hire her. The hard part was that she would be paid less than $8 an hour. But she was eager. This woman is a victim of the financial debacle, the high unemployment and the greed of the Wall Street bankers. That’s what the protesters are inveighing against. I support them silently and in my way of hiring victims.”
With millions of people unemployed, attendance at job fairs in New York and elsewhere by university graduates, some of them from Barbados and other parts of the Caribbean is on the rise.
As the economic recovery sputters in the United States, and the European financial crisis shows no signs of abating making the economic situation throughout the world even worse, there is considerable anger and frustration. And that in turn has energized the protest movement which has spread to 80 countries, befuddling Wall Street financial institutions and annoying New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“The mayor’s emotions, all negative towards us, run the gamut from anger at the protesters and petulance to a feeling that he doesn’t know what to do to keep the young people off the streets and out of the parks,” said Herman Peters, an unemployed West Indian in Queens whose jobless benefits are running out and he doesn’t know where to turn.
Job losses are the highest in black communities where West Indians live and where foreclosures have reached record levels.
Although most Caribbean leader didn’t pinpoint the Occupy Wall Street movement in their statements to the UN, St Vincent’s Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves did.
Gonsalves said recent events in the streets of major cities may have answered Langston Hughes queries when he asked in his immortal poem: “What happens to a dream deferred?”
His assessment raised the obvious question: will young people, say, at the UWI Cave Hill campus or the Barbados Community College, and the army of the unemployed in the Caribbean islands and coastal states be next on the list of those showing symbolic support for the protesters around the world?

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