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Real Talk: She Works Hard for the Money

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Over the weekend, Washington Post columnist Courtland Millory wrote about the effect of the economic crisis on Black women. “In a sad irony, the Obama administration’s first cheery news about a drop in the nation’s unemployment rate had resulted largely from the broken spirits of Black women,” Millory wrote.

Millory’s conclusion comes as a result of a recent study by WOW, about 42 percent of women -- including 62 percent of African-American women and 66 percent of Hispanic women -- do not have enough income to pay for basic household expenses.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also found while the overall unemployment rate in the United States declined last month, the unemployment rate for Black women increased, from 12.6 percent to 12.9 percent. Even worse, more than 150,000 Black women stopped looking for work last month.

“The jobs report was like an onion,” said Donna Addkison, President and Chief Executive of Wider Opportunities for Women. “Peel back the layers and you start crying.”

On NPR.org, the website for National Public Radio, Robert Siegel took a close look at how Black America is dealing with the economic recovery in “Black Atlantans Struggle to Stay in the Middle Class.” You can guess from the title that the findings were grim.

“There's no question that the Great Recession has meant hard times all around, but from 2007 to 2009, it sent Black America into an economic tailspin,” Siegel wrote.

He interviewed Nancy Flake Johnson, president of the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, who noted that the bad economy has been devastating for Blacks, including college graduates. "We've lost a third of the Black middle class," she told Siegel, citing a recent Urban League study.

Siegel headed to Fairburn, Ga., “a cul-de-sac and two-car garage suburb” of Atlanta, where he found the Brittans. Teja Brittan, a hairstylist whose business went slow, and her husband Eric, formerly and armed security guard who now works at Home Depot for half his previous salary. Like several of their neighbors, the Brittans fell behind on their mortgage and are currently facing foreclosure. They estimate that another five to eight families in their subdivision are in the same predicament.

Back in Atlanta, Siegel found Blacks who were turning to family to get by. He spoke with Okeema Garvin, 56, who lost her job of 20 years at Bell South, then later found work at a mortgage company. She lost that job when the housing market collapsed, and she, along with her husband, who retired on medical disability, moved out of the home they had lived in for twenty years, and in with Garvin’s mother.

"I'm right back where I started from," Garvin told Siegel. “I never imagined that I would come back, not under these circumstances. But one thing I can say: I'm glad that I have a place to stay. I'm glad that she opened her door to us."

How are you and your family dealing with the recession?

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk
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