The inter-faith nonprofit umbrella organization Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild — POWER — will brief the flock of its member congregations and the community at large on various economic issues facing minorities during Saturday’s “African American Employment and The Struggle for Economic Justice” Forum.
The town hall-styled meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Nation Constitution Center’s F.M. Kirby Auditorium, 525 Arch St. POWER is one of several co-sponsoring organizations, and POWER leader and Sweet Union Baptist Church Reverend Zach Ritvalsky will be one of the panelists.
“We’re in partnership with these other organizations for this forum to really talk about African-American economics, which is critical to a city like Philadelphia, which is primarily populated with people of color,” said POWER Executive Director Bishop Dwayne Royster. “This forum will speak of that experience, but it will also help formulate a vision to move forward.”
Other speakers include TWU Local 234 President John Johnson Jr., U.S. Department of Labor’s former assistant secretary Dr. Bernard E. Anderson, National Domestic Workers Alliance Director Ai-Jen Poo and Philadelphia Job Commission Chairman Robert C. Nelson.
A good portion of Saturday’s forum will focus on the economic impact of the looming airport expansion project, a massive effort that is estimated to cost more than $5 billion and will add thousands of temporary and permanent jobs.
The airport expansion, which will occur over the space of several phases, should be complete by 2025.
“When looking at the overall economic state of the African-American community, the airport is critical because it is one of the largest economic engines in the city,” Royster said, noting the expansion should create roughly 40,000 construction jobs, and should result in the addition of 3,000 permanent jobs once the project is completed. “We have said consistently that the airport expansion is a great thing, but it has to be done correctly, and it has to impact the communities that have been hardest hit by the economic downturn, and those that have been historically marginalized.”
POWER has held several economic forums and meetings in the spring and summer with the expansion project as the main focus, and even held a prayer rally at the proposed location of the expansion. “We need policies that ensure that the least, the last and the left out share in the prosperity and get fair access to wealth being created by economic development,” said Harold O. Davis Baptist Church Pastor Bishop Kermit Newkirk during one such meeting. “We have elected officials who call themselves public servants, but who do not serve the people.”
According to Royster, all of these meetings and forums will lead to a more tangible blueprint on how POWER and its affiliate congregations plan to move forward.
“While Saturday’s meeting will cover the current state of economic affairs, it all points to campaigns that are about getting people back to work,” Royster said. “We want people to get jobs, and within the next few months, we’ll be coming out with a policy statement about the problem.
“We want to be a part of the process.”