Leaders discuss racial disparities in Erie

Local News

Financial website 24/7 Wall St. crowned Erie number one among the “worst cities for Black Americans” to live. 

According to the November article, Erie’s poverty rate for African Americans is 47 percent, which is double the national level for blacks (23.9 percent) and quadruple the rate for whites in the city (11.9 percent).

The dubious distinction has been met with questions about methodology. Some people call it “unfair” or “inaccurate.” Meanwhile, a number of people say there are known disparities plaguing the city’s black population that need to be addressed.

“That article in the Wall Street 24/7 was embarrassing,” said Mayor-elect Joe Schember before an audience at the Jefferson Educational Society on Thursday.

As Schember co-hosted the lecture with Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper, he said it was an opportunity to have discussions about racial inequity and how to move the city forward.

“In my mind, there is nothing more American than diversity and inclusion,” he said. 

Dahlkemper said education and employment were priorities to level the playing field. She said Erie County’s Summer Jobs and More program, her support for the establishment of a community college, and development of the Idea Lab at the Blasco Memorial Library are some of the steps that the county are taking.

“But I look at all municipalities, not just the City of Erie, and how can we make sure that we lift all up,” she said.

Kerry Kirkland, Deputy Secretary of the Bureau of Diversity, Inclusion and Small Business Opportunities of the Pennsylvania Department of General Services, said, “If there is anything I would highly suggest you take a look at is trying to create an entrepreneurial spirit, and how we can see the growth of entrepreneurs here in the Erie region.”

Kirkland added, “It’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of collaboration, a lot communication, a lot of policy redesign, a lot of commitment; but most importantly, it’s going to take a lot of courage.”

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