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Why Black Chambers of Commerce

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Hardy L. Brown
In Juanita Barnes’ column, Eyes & Ears of Moreno Valley, she referenced questions asked by city council members Robin Hastings and Bonnie Flickinger centered on why there is a need for a Black Chamber of Commerce in Moreno Valley or anywhere else for that matter. City council members believe there should only be one chamber with greater participation if we all came together. Others have asked similar questions of why the need for Black-owned newspapers, colleges, NAACP, NCNW and other institutions in America. I want to thank Juanita for including those questions in her article because they point to the heart of many of our economic struggles for Blacks in America.

These questions are asked over and over again by people who refuse or do not remember the history of our society when it comes to full participation of Blacks trying to integrate into mainstream society.

Without giving a complete history lesson, White Americans created this “Separate but Unequal” apartied system during and after abolishing slavery in America. They made sure we stayed in separate communities, went to segregated schools, sat in the back of the bus apart from Whites, Blacks were not allowed to swim in public pools, vote or when they could vote could not run for public office. It was only in 1963 in California that we passed the Rumford Act to ensure fair housing laws when it came to selling and renting to Blacks and Hispanics. The lingering effects still exist today in cities throughout California.

It is because of past discriminatory laws and perceived stereotypical views by society that has created this climate of separate institutions for us to survive.

I would like to know why the mainstream community finds it so hard to do business with Black and Latino businesses.  Chambers all over America advocate supporting one another yet one of the major complaints from Black business owners who join the chamber is lack of support from other chamber members . I know we support White owned businesses because we buy their products and even support their community causes by donating to the United Way. We support our government with our tax dollars only to have that same government not support our businesses when they could purchase the service or expertise.

A question to the council members is what does the city of Moreno Valley do when it comes to doing business with the Black or Hispanic community? At your next council meeting ask the city manager for a report of who you do business with and how much in dollars by race and gender. This is not to embarrass the city but hopefully to start policies of inclusion when it comes to spending public dollars. In addition, it should help answer the question ‘why the need of separate organizations?”

I noticed on the chamber’s website that the main chamber gets lots of support from companies like Kaiser Permanente, Waste Management Company, Visterra, Supervisor Marion Ashley and Riverside Physicians Network. This is great yet these same companies have established similar barriers but not doing business with our community. All of these companies are “thriving” with much help from Blacks and Latinos in Moreno Valley, while we suffer from lack of support from government or the chamber.

I will ask another question of the council members: with the federal stimulus money, how many dollars are you planning to spend directly with these two communities?  According to the U. S. Census Bureau survey of the city of Moreno Valley in 2007 the population was 180, 835 citizens of which 31, 574 (17.5%) reported themselves as Black or African American and 91, 724 (50.7%) classified themselves as Hispanic or Latino. Also from that same department Moreno Valley has 1, 061 Black owned firms in the city and Latinos have 2, 176. In my opinion the city governing body can go a long way in showing leadership seeking out and doing business with these two groups that make up 68.2% of the population.

So maybe the question to all of us is: what can all of us do to help reduce the need of separate chambers so we can all thrive in our business?

Supervisor Derry Says “We can’t Police Ourselves”

So Supervisor Neil Derry of San Bernardino County wants to establish an Independent Ethics Commission because in his own words; “It is clear that we cannot police ourselves and that we are only going to be able to root out corruption and unethical behavior through the establishment of an independent ethics commission. ” To me, therein lies the main problem with Derry. Derry is admitting he is prone to unethical and corrupt activities, therefore needs to be in counseling all the time. He admits they cannot police themselves so he wants non-elected commissioners to do what he took an oath of office as an elected county officer to uphold.  Apparently Derry wants someone to have told him not to have hired Jim Erwin and Jeff Turner on his staff. He knew Erwin was under investigation for unethical dealings in the county but he hired him anyway. Erwin later resigned after admitting guilt to accepting illegal gifts as a county officer.  He knew Jeff Turner was and still is on the watch list of hate groups like the Neo Nazi and KKK yet he hired him anyway.  He said Turner was to write press releases but I only see Turner’s name on emails stating the supervisor wants you to have this and if you need more information contact George Watson.

Derry states further down in his request to establish this commission that: “It is imperative that we give them all the hammers and flashlights they need” as though the commission needs to go searching. All Derry has to do is turn the lights on the floor of his office. I guess the hammers will be used to shut the doors closed to his office.  I can see it now after the commission is established; along comes these unethical supervisors who can’t help themselves offering perks to members if they will just turn their heads. I can see members of the commission arguing both sides of the situation while the public is left scratching its head wanting to get rid of the commission and supervisor.  I think the voters would be better served by electing officials who do not have those tendencies or lack the inability to police themselves. This way we can save the taxpayers a half million dollars a year to babysit adult decision makers.

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