ONE DC has been preparing to transform the basement of the United Black Fund into a fully functional and permanent space for the new Black Workers Center. United Black Fund CEO Barry LeNoir has graciously offered to allow ONE DC to use the space for free. LeNoir first heard about ONE DC while we were organizing for the Marriott Marquis Jobs Training Program, and began following the group’s activities when ONE DC began protesting a lack of enforcement of DC’s First Source hiring law. He says he especially appreciates the relationships that ONE DC fosters in the community, because they form networks of committed individuals working collectively for change.
Now, LeNoir says that he is “honored” to provide ONE DC the space for the District’s first Black Workers Center. He says that the United Black Fund is “prepared to support the movement in whatever way possible.” According to LeNoir, the United Black Fund’s location makes it the ideal space for the DC Black Worker’s Center. To him, Ward 8, the ward with the highest unemployment rate, is experiencing an “unemployment nightmare,” and the Black Workers Center “goes right into the heart of the challenge.” That is why he permitted and encouraged ONE DC to host planning meetings for the Black Workers Center starting in 2015.
The Black Workers Center space will be comprised of two rooms-- one for conference space and one for desk-based community learning and jobs training. ONE DC intends to install computers and redecorate the interior of the space. ONE DC envisions a constant stream of local residents, many of whom have already committed to be volunteers. The goal is to build power with Black workers and begin reversing what LeNoir called a “flow away of wealth from longtime DC natives and residents.”
This “flow back” will occur through the achievement of the Black Workers Center’s five main goals. Our members envision:
- A center for finding and creating positive, dignified Black work and training.
- An incubation space for alternatives to low-wage work, such as worker cooperatives, collectives, and small businesses created, owned, and operated by Black workers.
- A place to openly discuss the intersection of race and work, particularly what it means to be "working while Black," as well as a place for Black workers to positively recognize their Blackness.
- An environment to challenge bad employers who exploit, cheat, & steal from their workers.
- An educational space to talk about ways to work safer and for more money and benefits.