Black leaders call for Macomb to hire more minorities

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

A coalition of minority community leaders is urging Macomb County officials to offer more opportunities for African-Americans in county government jobs.

The Black Opportunity Matters Coalition raised the issue of what they called the “lack of employment and upward mobility opportunities for African-Americans” in Macomb County in a letter to County Executive Mark Hackel.

The community leaders are requesting a meeting with county officials to discuss job opportunities for African-Americans in the county, they say citing a 2012 New Macomb County Report, has a population that is 11 percent black. Macomb’s population, according to the U.S. Census, was approximately 96,400 in 2014.

They also pointed out the 2012 report noted African-Americans make up 5.8 percent of the Macomb County government’s workforce and of that number, less than 1 percent, or 20 out of 2,164, earn more than $55,000.

Eric Herppich, the county’s human resources director, said the county couldn’t verify the group’s numbers and hadn’t reviewed the letter, and said his office has worked to improve its hiring practices for county jobs.

“If there’s another group out there that wants to have a conversation with us and discuss those ideas, we are happy to have a conversation with them,” he said.

The coalition said a lack of jobs for African-Americans limits home ownership, income and educational attainment.

“We cannot emphasize enough the urgency of this issue. We must consider reforms to recruitment, hiring and promotion policies to address the employment issue for African-Americans in Macomb County,” the coalition’s letter said.

The unemployment rate for African-Americans in Macomb County is 22 percent compared to 12 percent for other racial groups, the group said, citing New Detroit: The Coalition’s 2014 Metropolitan Detroit Race Equity Report.

“Whether rooted in institutional racism or benign neglect, the obstacles for so many people of color in Macomb County in achieving their aspirations threatens to hamper prosperity not only of those individual lives but also the county as a whole,” the coalition said.

The Rev. Alex Minor, who is identified as the leader of the coalition and a county resident, could not be reached for comment Monday.

The Macomb County Board of Commissioners plans to discuss the issue at its meeting Thursday, said spokeswoman Karin Armbruster.

“The Macomb County Board of Commissioners believes in the value of diversity,” Chairman David Flynn said. “We are going to take this issue very seriously and look to see how we can expand the workforce in Macomb County to reflect the community.”

Flynn said Monday he had not yet read the letter, which was also sent to the members of the board.

Black Opportunity Matters Coalition members say they have been unsuccessful in scheduling meetings with county leaders this year. They said the lack of action from Hackel’s office has been “frustrating and disappointing.”

Among coalition members who signed the report were the Rev. Terence Standifer of the Macomb Ministerial Alliance; Ruthie Stevenson, former president of the Macomb NAACP; and Charles Jackson Jr., an East Detroit Public Schools board member.

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