The black community should focus on producing goods and not consumerism, one man said. Another said that before black males are taught entrepreneurial skills, they should be taught basic business skills.
But first of all, another man said, black men must teach black boys how to become men, and then the business skills will be learned more easily.
An array of opinions on black male unemployment and the lack of black males in entrepreneurial positions were voiced yesterday during a public forum on black male employment at the City Temple of Baltimore Baptist Church at Eutaw and Dolphin streets.
Sponsored by the employment and economic development subcommittee of the Governor's Commission on Black Males, the forum was the first of two such events for the community to share opinions on employment for black males.
Earl El-Amin, of the Baltimore Urban League, said young blacks need to see black role models in leadership or entrepreneurial positions.
"Children have to see something to buy into it," Mr. El-Amin said. "Let him have an internship where the person there looks like him. He sees Slick Willie on the corner so he buys into Slick Willie."
Mr. El-Amin said many schools feed black boys "abstract" concepts which the youths cannot grasp. Some of what the youths are taught is not relevant for them in the business world, he said.
Willie Harry, the owner of the Harry's Afro Hut barber shop on York Road, said many black youths are unemployed because they simply don't understand the importance of work.
"I've stood behind my chair for 16 to 17 hours a day to make [his business] what it is today," Mr. Harry said. "It was hard work but I did it."
Mr. Harry said that he has seen many young black men unwilling to put in hard work and long hours at a job. Since June, he has fired 22 black men at his shop because of a poor work ethic.
According to the subcommittee's report, a national study of all workers found blacks were overly represented in low-paying jobs, overly represented in manufacturing jobs which are at risk in the new economy, and disproportionately represented in clerical jobs.
However, the subcommittee also found that blacks were well-positioned in occupational areas such as technicians, health care technology, health care workers and computers.
Eric El-Amin, who works for the city health department, said many blacks have an image problem with their jobs and do not want to accept their current job.
"Some would rather have a white-collar image than a blue-collar job," Mr. El-Amin said.