Governor Wolf stops in Erie today sitting down with local elected officials and the African American Community discussing racial disparities.
After last year’s USA Today article claiming Erie as the worst city for African Americans, the conversation on how to change that continues, the governor coming to Erie today saying he wants to hear directly from the people of Erie about the issues.
Today, a complete panel of African American community members, business owners, and religious leaders met with Mayor Joe Schember, County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper, and Governor Wolf. The panel discussed racial disparities and challenges facing the African American Community in Erie.
Some panelists say Erie’s Black Community faces significant challenges regarding poverty, median income, and unemployment. Danny Jones, CEO of GECAC, says funding for his program to provide GED training has been cut in half. He has applied for the grant, but this year will not make a major impact.
“We still got work to do to get our own house in order… yes…” Terry Carson, a young black professional gets applause at the roundtable. Carson calling out the African American Community to create a stronger relationship together. “We want these conversations to continue,” Carson says. “We don’t want the governor to go back to Harrisburg then we go back to our own thing. We need to get together more and have these conversations without the government officials in the room”.
Carson says his thoughts on how to make a change may differ from the older generations. “We have all identified that there is a gap and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that as long as we have identified it and we can start to work to close that gap”.
Captain Stephen Bell, a US Army Captain, speaks from the audience, stressing the importance of mentoring and how much of an impact that made in his life. “I had someone who fortunately told me that there were other paths and how to forge them that how is a big thing in why our youth a lot of times are lost”.
As Erie leaders make it a priority to identify strategies to reduce reported racial inequalities, the governor highlighted his job training and economic development initiatives, but pointing out funding will not always be the answer. He says, “I think, inevitably, there is always a need for funding and programs that work, but I think that it’s also opening hearts and mind and businesses and doing the right thing”.
Other suggestions from the audience included awarding large government contracts to minority-owned businesses, stronger recruitment methods to get African Americans to apply for jobs and re-establishing successful programs to provide confidence and self-esteem.
The governor says it is a long road, but this is one of many steps to move Erie in the right direction.