GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Rev. Jesse Jackson stopped in Grand Rapids on Wednesday night aspart of a statewide bus tour focusing on economic recovery.
Jackson chose Michigan because so many people are out of work,he said.
This year, unemployment for African Americans is projected toreach a 25-year high, according to a study released by an economicthink tank, with the national rate soaring to 17.2 percent and therates in five states exceeding 20 percent.
His focus is economic recovery for all Americans, he said to apacked house at New Life Church of God in Christ.
"The issue is not about black and white -- it's about dark andlight," Jackson said. "We must turn the lights back on for theAmerican worker... turn the lights on."
In an audience comprised of many ministers and black electedofficials, Jackson's message was tailored to the African Americancommunity. He spoke of the continuing struggle to find equal andsufficient housing, transportation and education; the unequaldistribution of stimulus dollars and the reluctance of banks toloan money after benefiting from a bailout.
"We now need to bail out the people," Jackson said. "We need astimulus part two. We focus on rebuilding jobs at the bottom andstudent loan debt forgiveness, then we're well on our way toeconomic recovery where it matters."
Also in attendance was a group living Jackson's message: theHERCO Company, which is an apprentice program taking AfricanAmericans from jobless to employed -- many of whom wouldn't haveotherwise had the opportunity.
"Some have been incarcerated over the years," said PhyllisLoudermill-Watson, one of the project coordinators. "We have somethat have had issues with school, and some have issues in decidingwhere they want to go."
Through partnerships with Muskegon Community College and localunions, these young men are on their way back to work with usefulskills in the construction trade.
"In the black community, there's a lot of guys that just can'tfind employment -- (they're) getting into trouble, staying in thestreets," apprentice Brian Paschal said. "And this is an avenue toget people trained and back into the workforce."
Jackson's tour wraps up with a march and rally in Detroit onSaturday.
A fire damaged a vacant house in Kalamazoo, and the cause is being ruled as suspicious.
A man is in police custody following an hours-long standoff in Grand Rapids.
A gallon of unleaded gasoline is being sold for less than $3 at some stations in West Michigan.