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Small Businesses Must Be Included in the California High Speed Rail Project

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Black Voice News Publisher Hardy Brown says, “Blacks cannot afford to be left standing at the station,” in regards to who will pay and who will build a high speed rail system in California (November 10).

Indeed this is a concern. I believe, however, that our concern is for an even wider constituency: the small and disadvantaged business community. According to the Press Enterprise, “Businesses with fewer than 100 employees are responsible for creating two-thirds of the jobs in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.” (1-13-10) As a small business owner myself, I understand that small businesses are often left out of the bidding process.

The highspeed rail project is projected to cost $98 billion. In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 1A bonds to provide partial funding ($9 billion). Prop 1A also specified that no taxpayer subsidies will go to operations and maintenance of the operating system. Other funds are expected to come from the federal government, although the amount and timing of these funds is not certain. Private investment is expected once the first phase is operative in 2033. This means a big payday for somebody, but California workers and California businesses may be left out of the picture.

The California Assembly has been active in introducing legislation to encourage the purchase of high-speed train rolling stock and related equipment that are manufactured in California, and to encourage the participation of small businesses in Rail Authority contracts. Good legislation that did not make it out of committees in 2011.

There is recent news with the potential to become good news for small businesses in the Inland Empire. The High Speed Rail Authority approved an addition to its business plan: a new Small Business Policy outlining contracting requirements that will include the participation of Small Businesses, Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises, Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and Micro-Businesses in the Authority’s procurement process. The policy requires the Authority to meet an overall 30 percent Small Business Participation goal. The Authority’s intent is to ensure that firms that participate in the construction of the high-speed train system reflect the diversity of the business community in our state.

I recently co-sponsored the Inland Empire Procurement Expo, along with the California Public Utilities Commission and ADF Networking Consultancy, Inc. We learned that to do business with public agencies, small businesses must be certified. This can be done online at www.getcertified.dgs.ca.gov. The High Speed Rail Authority’s website has a section dedicated to small business resources. You can access it at http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/sb-resources.aspx. The resources include links to Small Business Certifications and State of California Disadvantaged Business Certification; help with Surety Bonding; the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, U.S. Department of Transportation.

I encourage small businesses in our region to become involved in the small and disadvantaged business opportunities for contracting with public agencies. The economic recovery is slow and incremental, we are told. And in our region, we see evidence of this slow recovery every day: home foreclosures; long lines at food pantries whose shelves are bare; and shuttered businesses. The time line for the High Speed Rail Project extends into the next two decades; economic benefit will not be revealed immediately. But together, we can begin to include small businesses in the recovery and to create the jobs that hold our families together and create communities.

Standing with the Occupy Wall Street Movement

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(NNPA) I have been noticing a number of commentaries that in looking at the Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Together movement (OWS for short) conclude that African Americans are not particularly interested, or that this movement is irrelevant to the Black Experience. I disagree.

The OWS movement has been an exciting development on the US political stage. It has shaken this country in ways that it needed to be shaken raising the matter of wealth and income inequality and the depravity of the rich. It has called into question the policies of Wall Street, but also the political allies of Wall Street--both Republican and Democrat--who are more concerned with protecting the rich than they are with the common person.

Yet, it is true that these "actions" have been largely white. My first response: so what? I am actually quite pleased to see white people challenging a system that is crushing us all.

But my second response is a bit different. The reality is that spontaneous movements in the USA tend to be unbalanced racially. The student movement against the Vietnam War in the 1960s, for instance, was very white. This did NOT mean that Blacks were absent. What it often meant, however, is that African Americans formed their own organizations through which they participated in the student movement and/or the anti-war movement.

Where I have seen this play out differently, however, is in some sections of organized labor. I have seen some serious trade union demonstrations and actions that are very multi-racial/multi-ethnic. But part of what makes this possible is that there is a critical mass of a particular group--in our case, African Americans--who can see themselves in the actions. In other words, when they look at an action, they see a critical mass of us.

In OWS many of us, regardless of whether we support the cause, do not necessarily see ourselves represented. While some of us will nevertheless participate, others will sit back and support from the sidelines. My suggestion is that we need to organize our participation. Here are a few examples. We could ask our minister, priest, Imam, etc., to organize a delegation from our religious institution to participate. What the OWS is doing is completely consistent with religious doctrines that overwhelmingly speak to the poor and the dispossessed. A second thing would be to have one of our organizations, such as the NAACP, a black student union or a chapter of a labor union in which we are active, to participate together.

There is something else that we can do. We can organize our own actions that protest not only the income inequality but the growing RACIAL inequality that is crushing working people of color.

Let's stop worrying about whether white people reach out to us. We have our own reasons to be integrally involved in movements like OWS.

Sound like a plan?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of Solidarity Divided. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

Making Minority Business Programs Effective

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(NNPA) “A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.” Ecclesiastes 10:19. King Solomon never lied and the Bible is the answer to life. What he said thousands of years ago still applies today. We know how to party and make liquor and wine companies successful through our drinking. Yet, we lack money, i.e. economic empowerment. Money, good clean money, is a blessing. It buys your basic needs and guarantees a safe and prosperous future. You make that money through jobs and jobs are created by entrepreneurs. Successful entrepreneurs eventually become wealthy even though they may struggle and fall a few times along the way. Thus, business growth is the key to prosperity for Black communities. It is that business growth that was stymied through Jim Crow and constant discrimination from our government and rival communities.

When the Civil Rights Struggle ended in victory, the damage of past discrimination was addressed. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 addresses that. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act addresses discrimination in contracting. This is the basis for all minority business programs administered by federal agencies. The key is to get it fully enforced which has yet to happen. Corruption and discrimination are first cousins in business. Both are engrained into the federal procurement system and are the challenges of minorities, including Black businesses. These programs started rolling out in 1982 and, still, have yet to be fully effective. That money King Solomon was talking about has yet to find its way into our communities on a level that is fair and impartial.

These programs are clumsy at best. Because of that many mean thinking groups have challenged them saying that they are reverse discrimination. That is laughable as these programs may provide no more than seven percent of the total procurement and that is divided among every ethnic group other that white male contractors including white females who naturally get most of that seven percent. Many times they are just representing their male counterparts and are used to thwart any real minorities from getting their just amount. This is probably the biggest problem of these programs. They are in need of being corrected and providing business growth and jobs into our communities in a way that would make a noticeable difference.

Despite their anemic effectiveness, these programs have been challenged via lawsuits from white organizations such as the Associated General Contractors and ultra conservative think tanks. The United States Supreme Court has made two major decisions regarding minority contracting programs. One for local governments and it is known as The Croson Decision. The other is for federal contracting programs and it is known as The Adarand Decision. Many minority business activists cringed at these decisions. However, when you study them they simply explain what must be done to do it right. Both say the same thing. The agency or government entity running the contracting program must do a study to understand the full impact that discrimination, if it exists, has had on specifically which groups. These are called Disparity Studies. Most states and large cities are doing them on a regular basis. You do your first and then update it approximately every five years.

If you do this right, the study will show the level of discrimination for Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, etc. The report should also address white women as they lobby to get into these programs. The fact is that white women are not discriminated in a fashion that would be identical to those ethnic groups. Studies will show this but the problem comes when you try to implement a program to offset and correct the discrimination of the past. What white women lobbyists will try to do is “lump” all the groups into one goal as opposed to separate goals for each group. When this happens white women will exploit whatever the goal is at the expense of Blacks, Hispanics and others.

This ignores what the Supreme Court has said. The programs must be narrowly tailored to address the specific discrimination as noted in the study. The federal government has yet to do these studies. President Clinton pledged to do them for each of the ten federal regions. He stalled and never did it. President Bush did not do them and now President Obama is trying to ignore this responsibility. In 2012, we must make this a campaign issue. We want every candidate to pledge to perform Disparity Studies and address discrimination at the federal level within the first two years of the next administration. If we do this right, contracts will start flowing to our businesses like never before. Jobs will be created exponentially and the money will “answereth things”. After all, it says it in the Bible.

Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

Penn State: How Many of the Victims Were Black?

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By Danny J. Bakewell, Jr., Contributing Editor
Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel –

(NNPA) The molestation of a child (any child) is a sick and heinous crime. The allegations against Gerald “Jerry” Sandusky the long time coach at Penn State University and founder and primary fund raiser behind The Second Mile Foundation has captured the attention of the worldwide media and has brought an end to the face of Penn State University (Joe Paterno) along with the school President, Athletic Director, many of its assistant coaches and for the most part its entire football program. However, while the allegations of sexual abuse and child rape sicken almost everyone who is within an ears shot of this scandal. The resulting cover up or veil of secrecy which has been ongoing for the past 12 years may be more heinous then the alleged crimes themselves. While state and federal law prohibit the identity of a sexual crime victim from being released (no matter what age) it is interesting that no one is discussing the race of these young victims. Which also leads one to ask if these boys would have been young white males would the code of silence and veil of secrecy remained so strong and so quiet for so long?

The Second Mile Foundation was started as a Group Home in the State College Area (home of Penn State). According to both the grand jury report as well as the Second Mile website as “a program to work with troubled boys and grew into a charity dedicated to helping children with absent and dysfunctional families”. What has not been disclosed or a topic of conversation is that many of the alleged victims are African American. According to Pennsylvania foster care records 48% of all children in out-of-home care are African American and 53% of all children in foster care are males with an average age of 11-years-old. Aubrey Manuel, President of the California State Care Providers Association (CSCPA) stated that, “These percentages are very similar to California.” The likelihood that the majority of these children are African American is overwhelming. “Particularly given that these kids were in a program, that the state foster care population is over 50% African American Males and that the Second Chance Foundation client base is poor, underprivileged and foster children and that the coach (Sandusky) used sports as a major recruiting tool to get close to the victims it would not be a risk at all to believe that at least half of the Penn State victims were Black Boys. The victim population most likely reflected that of foster care population.”

Throughout the grand jury report are stories of young boys between the ages 9 and 12 years old. All recruited and involved with Sandusky through the Second Mile Program. Furthermore, in almost every account someone saw lewd and lascivious acts being conducted upon children ranging from oral sex, to actual anal intercourse between Sandusky and these children. Much has been discussed about the graduate assistant coach Mike McQueery actually witnessed the anal sex act and later reported it to then Head Coach Joe Paterno. Joe Paterno did report the allegations to Athletic Director who later interviewed McQueery and then reported back that “they had taken away Sandusky’s keys to the locker room”. McQueery was never questioned or interviewed by campus or city police.

But what about the report or failure to report the instance by then elementary school wrestling coach Joseph Miller who witnessed an incident one evening in 2006 or 2007 but failed to report it for almost 5 years. Or Steven Turchetta an Assistant Principal and head football coach at a local high school who testified that “Second Mile program is a very large charitable organization that helped children who are from economically underprivileged backgrounds and who may be living in single parent households.” Turchetta testified that he witnessed on more than one occasion Sandusky removing the boy from class and ultimately heard of the sexual assault allegations by the boy’s mother, who called the school to report the sexual abuse.

Sandusky and Penn State are both considered culpable in these sickening crimes. Sandusky because he not only used his relationship with Second Mile to gain access to the boys and preyed on the very vulnerability that The Second Mile Foundation was supposed to be assisting these boys with overcoming and making them stronger men. As well as Sandusky used his relationship with Penn State to give these children access to a football program known worldwide and is an icon in Pennsylvania and in College Park in particular, which is where Sandusky lured these boys with gifts, trips and access that grown men would be overwhelmed with let alone 9-13 year old boys from impoverished homes and foster care facilities.

Penn State, because they knew about these allegations and improper events and actions almost 15 years ago, did nothing but turn a blind eye. It is outrageous and sickening that this 67-year-old man is alleged to have done to a few as 9 and now allegedly up to 23 boys, all who came from broken homes in the poorest parts of the community who were only looking for guidance and someone to look up to.

 

Race Realities Persist in America

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(NNPA) The reality is that race still matters in America in 2011. For all of those who would rather not prefer to admit this fact, it important to continue to keep stating the truth that institutionalized racism is alive and well in the United States. Yes, there has been remarkable progress attained as the result of a very long, difficult and protracted struggle for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment. We should all be proud that we now have President Barack H. Obama as the President of the United States. Black Americans, in particular, however should avoid falling into the anti-reality pitfall that we are now living in a “post-racial” society and world.

My purpose is not to dissuade or discourage anyone. I just do not think it is healthy for Black people to not face the hard facts that we still have a long struggle ahead of us to ensure that the next generation of Blacks in America, and African people throughout the world, will have a better quality of life in the future. The world is changing but race remains a determinative factor in too many areas where social and political decisions are made on a daily basis.

I have posited before that the “hop-hop generation” has done much to transcend and dismantle racial prejudice in the mindset of millions of people. Of course hip-hop culture arose out of the crucible of African American and Latino American struggle against abject economic, racial and social oppression in the South Bronx more than 40 years ago. Today hip-hop is a global cultural phenomenon that has united more than a billion youth who share common aspirations for freedom and empowerment beyond the boundaries of race, ethnicity, nationality, language and geography.

But the fact of the matter is that racial discrimination and injustice in the United States glaringly persist in employment, housing, education, environment, finance and criminal justice. In other words, the systems of injustice are still in place even though there has been some progress and social change for the better. The entire pseudo theory of a “post-racial” society in America is itself ahistorical and at clear variance with reality. The progress that has been attained should be an indication that we need to keep on fighting for freedom and to not stop prematurely. Yet reform sometimes creates an illusion that the goals and objectives of the movement for change have been realized without verification from facts and relevant statistics. Numbers are important, but this is really about the quality of life in our communities. Today there are too many of us who live in poverty, who are in prison unjustly, and who are unemployed with a sense of hopelessness. Thus, this is not the time to consider lowering our voices or actions away from demanding the changes that will be necessary to advance the political, economic, social and global interests of our families and communities.

Even within the growing “Occupy Wall Street” movement throughout the United States, there are noticeable tendencies where the various and sometimes different public utterances of opinion are given a range of value by the established media based on the race or class-orientation of those who are routinely called on to issue public statements about the intentions and goals of that “diverse” movement for social and economic change. The point is Blacks and Latinos should willingly continue to join other diverse multiracial and multicultural coalitions for social change. But we should not permit the interests of Blacks and Latinos to be triaged in those broader coalitions. We have to vigilant and remain focused on those key issues and objectives that will bring about the greatest progress for the largest number of those who continue to cry out for a better way of life in our communities.

You can be assured that the forces of opposition against the re-election of President Barack Obama will be using racial stereotypes and racism in all of its disguises in an unsuccessful attempt to derail President Obama. The politics of race cannot summarily be replaced by the politics of class, particularly in a nation with a history of racial oppression and discrimination. The current actions in many states to suppress the Black and other minority vote in 2012 through requiring new voter ID cards in addition to other forms of state-issued identification is just the latest examples of how far we have not come toward full and complete racial justice for all people.

I am optimistic because I am witnessing a generation of young, courageous and conscious African America leaders emerge on the streets and college campuses across the nation who know what time it is and who will be active in helping once again to get the largest young voter (18-30 year-olds) turnout in American history for the November 2012 national elections. Yes, race still matters in a positive proactive sense if we do our homework, roll up our sleeves and continue to fight for freedom, racial justice and equality for all.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is Senior Advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and President of Education Online Services Corporation and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN).

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