The African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) on June 24th and 25th hosted its first virtual Summit, The State of Black New Jersey 2020 Economic Summit, themed “Accountability, Opportunity, & Equity.”
The objective of the annual conference was to have an open dialogue with state representatives of various agencies, legislators, faith and community organizations, and main street business owners on the economic standing of African Americans in New Jersey, especially in this COVID-19 environment and the social unrest and civic engagement that has been mobilized throughout the nation and across the globe.
The summit provided a platform to analyze data, which illustrated the socio-economic standing of blacks in New Jersey, and measures to mitigate adverse structural impediments in communities of color statewide.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a very devastating effect on the over 1.1 million black residents and over 80,000 businesses in the state, the data revealed. Prior to which, blacks had the highest level of poverty and unemployment; 93% of black businesses were sole proprietorships, seeking daily to obtain their fair share of opportunities.
The information also revealed that despite making up only 13% of the US population, African Americans represent 30% of the deaths from the coronavirus, despite the narrative, this is a direct result of these “pre-existing conditions” that people of color have less access to quality healthcare, are more likely to have a pre-existing health condition and suffer greater exposure to air pollution that puts them at higher risk of asthma. They also make up a disproportionate share of frontline workers, are less likely to be able to work from home and more likely to rely on public transportation and are hit hardest by poverty as layoffs continue to rise.
“This summit is the beginning of a process to make New Jersey more equitably inclusive for Blacks statewide; it provides a perfect opportunity to listen and respond to how we can collectively contribute to improving conditions for Blacks in New Jersey,” said John E. Harmon, Sr., president and CEO of the AACCNJ.
The summit assembled a diverse group of thought leaders who are engaged in everyday activities that affect the lives of the over 9 million New Jerseyans. It included a discussion with both Democratic and Republican legislators regarding proposed policies to address the various socio-economic disparities for blacks in New Jersey and how they have been exasperated during the COVID-19 pandemic and what remedies can be derived to better position blacks for a more equitable share of New Jersey’s economy.
In addition, participants included representatives of various government agencies, corporate representatives, faith based and community organizational leaders. Also speaking were various main street business owners who were forced to close due to the current environment and who are dealing with the uncertainty of whether they will be able to reopen.
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