Leaders React to Damning Article That Erie is the Worst City in - Erie News Now | WICU & WSEE in Erie, PA

Leaders React to Damning Article That Erie is the Worst City in America for African Americans

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Leaders of Erie's African American community are responding to a damning article, that claims Erie is the "Worst City in America for African Americans."

The article was published in USA Today and written by 24/7 Wall Street. It used statistics like poverty, unemployment, education and income; citing high poverty and unemployment, and lower incomes among blacks.

According to the statistics in the article:
Erie, Pennsylvania
> Black population: 7.2%
> Black median income: 43.2% of white income
> White unemployment: 4.0%
> Black unemployment: 24.6%

The article went viral. Erie News Now did some digging and came up with some different statistics that showed the situation may not be as grim at the report makes it seem.

But local black leaders say despite any discrepancies, there is a gap between white and black Erieites and they've come up with a plan to try to close that gap.

Erie's NAACP held a news conference at Saint James AME Church Monday, alongside politicians, activists, and leaders of Erie's African American communities, in response to the article.

"I saw it (the report) as a blessing from God, to focus attention on an issue highly-charged and critical, in a way that many of us feel, to give us an opportunity to provide a solution," said NAACP President Gary Horton.

Erie Mayor-Elect Joe Schember was bothered by the report, "I was embarrassed, I was upset, I could not believe that this is what's happening in Erie and it just made me commit with all my heart and soul, that we're going to change this as quickly as possible," said Schember.

While there are discrepancies in the statistics the article uses, which questions the accuracy of the article, local leaders say the report brought to light the issues they're well aware of in the minority community, and they've come up with solutions to address inequality in Erie.

Horton says "community benefits agreements" are key.
Meaning minorities need more opportunities to be a part of Erie's growing economy, "We've got a billion dollars worth of work or more underway in our community, and if we can connect the needs and challenges and aspirations of the lowest achieving people in our community, to the horse that's going somewhere, then we can grow together with the development that's underway in Erie," said Horton.

Horton says African American leaders have been working on a plan well before the USA Today report was issued, for about 17 months now.

And he's hopeful with new leadership at Erie city hall, their plan, or at least part of their plan can become a reality, "I think a new mayor who has a sense of how important the voice of the people are, and a new city council that has women voices, that is laying the groundwork for a better Erie," said Horton.

Schember says when he takes office in January, the now very public issue of inequality, will be a priority, "No matter what the exact numbers are, you can argue the numbers, but if it's a third versus half of a population that's living in poverty... that's still way too high, we need to do something about that, I think everybody understands we have a problem, we need to start working on it and change it," said Schember.

To learn more about the solutions to address inequality in Erie, visit www.eriecountyunited.org

Click here to read the original article on USA Today.

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