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Why the Federal Government Lacks Black Business

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(NNPA) The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. We are going into 47 years of this great law but the memo has never been circulated around to federal employees who deal with the massive procurement system of the federal government. From one presidential administration to the next nothing of substance seems to happen in terms of Black businesses winning procurement dollars. There is a lot of corruption, discrimination, and bullying that disallows a small Black business to get a foothold. There needs to be a massive overhaul in how diversity in federal procurement should be set up. Here is some food for thought to change this pitiful state of affairs.

Forty-seven years and we cannot do more than two percent of the total for Black owned businesses in any given fiscal year. There is a lack of accountability. Growth and robust activity should rest on the shoulders of agency secretaries – the President’s Cabinet. It should affect their bonuses and annual evaluations. Likewise, Deputy Secretaries should bear the same burden. If this were to happen you would see a great amount of attention given to the issue. Procurement officials would be pushed into good performance and pitiful performance would not be tolerated.

The Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) is at every agency. However, I have been in D.C. for 19 years and may have met eight of them at best. They hide behind their desks and just count the years before their retirements. This position should change from a career type hire to a political hire. Each OSDBU would have four to eight years to make his mark and set his legacy. The political hires should have a good amount of entrepreneurial experience and understand what the Black business owner is going through. Laziness and corruption should not be tolerated and the Secretary of each agency must watch and measure the activity of his respective OSDBU.

“Small Disadvantaged Business” (SDB)? I was shocked when my sons requested a SDB certification application for one of their companies. The Small Business Administration (SBA) wrote them back saying that they no longer certify companies for SDB status. Their reason was that SDB’s probably wouldn’t win any federal contracts anyway. Isn’t it confusing that we have an office there in each agency to help SDB’s and the SBA is eliminating any certification for them. Thus, they are going to rely on self-certification and that will open the door to mass fraud and corruption. It will contaminate the reporting process.

In regards to reporting, there is much room for updating. The SBA and federal agencies love to aggregate their contracting numbers. They want to hide the paltry performance they do in Black business procurement. They don’t want to directly answer any inquiries about Black business procurement by announcing or reporting what minorities per se are doing. “We are doing 10% with minorities or 15% with minorities and are meeting our goals.” We want to know exactly what they are doing with Black firms not Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians, etc. They love to hide their anemic performance with Black firms.

Then we need to stop the games played by major federal contracting firms. How much SBA is in on this is yet to be determined. Are they that corrupt or that stupid? Contracts, many of them no bid, are let out in amounts of billions of dollars. Before the contract is awarded the SBA comes in and does a review of the subcontracting list for utilization of small businesses inclusive of minority and disabled veteran owned businesses. The prime contractors will go out and verbally agree with Black businesses to utilize them on the massive contract. The SBA comes in and sees the printed list of small and minority owned businesses and approves the contract. Funny thing, after the prime contractor has the contract he never speaks to the Black contractor again. It was all a written sham. Does the SBA include these forecasted numbers in their reports like they actually happened? Right now I have two such complaints against Lockheed and Fluor corporations on Department of Defense projects. We may file suit, if the SBA won’t “buck up”.

One of the worst agencies is the Department of Transportation. An example would be their Federal Highway Administration that does less than 1.2% with Black businesses (their figures). We can’t get business at airports like we used to and the new high speed rail they are proposing will not have a minority business program at all. Yet, the SBA awards this agency with their “Agency of the Year Award” for the last three consecutive years. What are they thinking?

The above would be a start to improvement. What if the Congressional Black Caucus would form a taskforce and analyze quarterly reports from each agency? Would Pelosi put them in “time out”?

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

Young People Falling Behind Economically

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By Marian Wright Edelman, NNPA Columnist –

(NNPA) While there is a lot of talk today about jobs, there has been far too little attention paid to the job prospects of young people. A new report prepared for the Children’s Defense Fund shows young people have lost more ground economically than any other age group during the last three decades. Dr. Andrew Sum, professor and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, and his colleagues paint a grim economic picture for the futures of young workers and young families, and Black young people and young families fare the worst. The widening income inequality and declining real incomes of young Black families with children raise serious questions about the economic and social futures of their children. The American Dream for poor young people and their children is vanishing on our watch.

Why does employment for these young people matter so much? The researchers have pointed out that what might seem like “just” a first job is much more important: early work experience is a form of “human capital investment” that influences the future employment and annual earnings of young adults. But, employment rates for teens and young adults often decline at above average rates during economic recessions and jobless recoveries. The number of teens and young adults ages 16 -29 who were “underutilized” in the labor market grew substantially between 2000 and 2010. These are young people who were unemployed (jobless but actively looking and available for work); not actively looking for work (but still wanting to work); or underemployed (in part time jobs but wanting to work full time). Black young adults, and especially Black males, had the highest labor underutilization rates, at 40 percent and 43 percent respectively. As the Children’s Defense Fund re-launches the Black Community Crusade for Children to strengthen our children’s futures, these vanishing employment opportunities are one part of the huge crisis for which we need to find solutions.

Dr. Sum and his colleagues found the young people who need applied work experience most were the least likely to receive it, with negative consequences for their own future school retention, employability, wages, and earnings. Between 2007 and 2010, the number of young people 16 to 29 officially unemployed rose by nearly 80 percent. Education levels make an enormous difference in the employability of young people. Black high school dropouts 16 to 29 were four and a half times as likely to be underutilized as Black young people in the same age group with master’s or higher degrees. Employment rates of the nation’s 20-24 year olds ranged from a low of 49 of every 100 high school dropouts to a high of 85 of every 100 bachelor’s degree holders. The deteriorating labor market has also resulted in another problem—a rise in “mal-employment” among young college graduates, meaning more of them are holding jobs in occupations that don’t require much schooling beyond high school. And, this ultimately hurts younger and less educated workers too, as mal-employed college graduates often displace their less educated peers from these jobs. These gaps based on educational attainment widened between 2000 and 2010, reducing the opportunity for young adults without post secondary schooling to form households, marry, and support their children in young families.

Along with the decline in employment opportunities, family income inequality has risen for young families, and the median real incomes of young families have declined—once again, taking an especially great toll on young Black families. The median income for young Black families in 2009 was slightly under $20,000—a decline of 24 percent over the last three decades, and only 45 percent of the level for White families. Once again, education levels mattered: the median family incomes of young Black families ranged from under $9,000 when the family householder did not have a high school diploma to $17,000 for high school graduates and to nearly $65,000 for those headed by a householder with an advanced degree.

Overall, 55 percent of young Black families with children were either poor or near poor, and nearly three-fourths were low-income. Three of every four single mother families with a head lacking a high school diploma were poor in 2009. The gap in young families’ income has risen so dramatically that children in the bottom half of the distribution are falling backwards.

What does all of this mean? It means no discussion of continued economic recovery and how to add jobs can be complete without a special focus on how to help young workers—and no discussion on ending child poverty or securing the futures of our nation’s children, especially Black children, can be complete without special attention to the economic status of young families. Creating more employment opportunities for younger workers and making sure young people graduate from high school and move on to higher education are essential to address the needs of young families and their children. Their children’s economic and social futures depend on it.

To read the full report, Deteriorating Employment Rates and Incomes Threaten the Future of Young Workers and Young Families: Black Young People and Young Families Fare the Worst, visit the Black Community Crusade for Children’s Web page.

Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.

Are Black Voters Volunteer Slaves?

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“In my career I guess I saved 1,000 slaves. I could have saved 1,000 more had they only known they were slaves.” Harriet Tubman at her retirement ceremony.

(NNPA) It is incredible how Black power has gone in reverse in terms of political empowerment. Gone are the days when we had mayors in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver, Chicago, New York, New Orleans, etc. As we rose up, we soon turned around and started going in reverse. The Democratic Party has masterfully engineered us into a slave mentality which many of us can’t realize or gain enough courage to fight against. We are put into a subservient role and smile. It is as if we want this role versus moving ahead with progress.

To paraphrase G. Carter Woodson’s The Miseducation of the American Negro: If the colored door becomes closed and all can go through a main door, the Negro will feel uncomfortable and try to reopen the colored door. He will ram and bump that colored door in the back of the building trying to reopen it. If he surmises that the door can’t be reopened he will then bring a saw and hammer and build a new colored door as he is convinced that his destiny is servitude and indignity.

What is happening now in cities where we have the demographics to gain political power is a servitude to the White operatives of the Democratic Party. They are picking the candidates for us and most times they are not of our ilk or race. Woe to a people who let another entity pick their leaders.

The best example of this is Chicago. Chicago had one of the best mayors in history, the Honorable Harold Washington. They have not had the organization or courage to come up with an equivalent since. The demographics of this city tell the story. There are 601,674 Black registered voters in Chicago which is 52.2% of the total. Hispanics have 200,000 registered voters and Whites have 350,000 registered voters so Blacks could defeat them even if they combined their votes together. In addition to that, the greatest growth in registered voters is coming from Blacks with a growth of 5.25%. That seems like a slam dunk for Black political empowerment in Chicago. However this city cannot get itself to vote in a Black mayor since the early 1990’s. They await the anointment from the White Democratic Party and bow to it. They are indeed volunteer slaves. They cry about low contracting with Black businesses and terribly high unemployment but yet don’t seem to realize that the solution is right in their own hands. They are building that door in the back.

Gone are the days when giants like Willie Brown, Thomas Bradley, Wellington Webb, Harold Washington, Coleman Young, Michael White, David Dinkins, Marion Berry, Maynard Jackson and other great mayors made it imperative to create Black millionaires that would provide thousands upon thousands of jobs to our communities. Their legacies are locked in. I can take a business trip starting at the Baltimore Thurgood Marshall Airport directly going to the Thomas Bradley LAX airport. From there I can go to the Maynard Jackson airport in Atlanta and then decide to visit some family in Mississippi via the Medgar Evers Airport in Jackson, MS. That is testimony to our heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. What is lacking is the follow up to all of this courage, blood, sweat and tears. We have turned it over to one political party and they have assigned “party punks” to placate us. My people, we are no longer slaves and it is long overdue for us to act accordingly. We must select our own leaders and put them in office and hold them accountable. The Chicago example is replicated throughout our nation. If we don’t wake up then it is on us.

There is another poison that is going around. They are trying to mold our opinions. Yes, trying to influence our thoughts through printed press. The first thing they want is to kill our own media. Our radio, TV and printed media are the lifeblood of our culture. Thus, they want to destroy them and replace them with “front” entities who try to substitute as our media. They bought out BET along with Emerge magazine. Now they want to kill all of the Black newspaper publications. The weapons of choice are coming from publications sponsored by NBC, the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post. These purely White corporations are trying to mold our opinions and control our thought via parading as “Black” publications. Don’t go for it. If they aren’t of our kind they cannot rule our mind. Support our Black press – the real Black press as the others are of ill intent. Stop being a volunteer slave as we have been free for 150 years. Fight the power!

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

2012 Hip-Hop Vote: Determining the Future of America

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(NNPA) In less than 10 months from now the final countdown to the next national elections in the United States will be begin. The future of America and to a large extent the future of the world will be at stake. During the next year there will be millions of new young voting age persons that will have to be registered to vote and mobilized to go out to the voting polls across the nation.

It is a well-documented fact that it was the number of voters that turned out for the national elections in November 2008 between the ages of 18 and 30 that provided the margin of victory for President Obama in the key swing states of North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado. Overall voter turnout for the 2008 election was the highest in the last 40 years and President Obama received the most votes for a presidential candidate in American history. It was the “Hip-Hop Vote” that made the critical difference in the outcome of the 2008 elections.

In 2012 there be the potential for a greater number of youth voters to be registered and to vote in the next national elections. But, this youth voting potential cannot and should not be taken for granted between now and 2012. There is no question that the use of Internet technology and social media were effectively utilized in an unprecedented manner in the 2008 elections by the Obama Campaign.

But, the winds of regression and negative campaigning against further inclusive political empowerment in the United States are blowing stronger today than ever before and these right-wing forces are now also using Internet technologies and more social media to mobilize what appears to be their growing constituencies nearly in every state. Thus, the difference in 2012 will not be determined just by the technology use factor. It will be determined by an effective, protracted grassroots campaign to register and mobilize millions of youth voters who love hip-hop music and culture. Thus it will be the “Hip-Hop Vote” in 2012 that will help to shape the future of the world.

Timing is important here. We should not wait until it is too late to get all of this work done. It is going to cost money, time, and energy. I am always amazed to witness so-called progressive and liberal political forces to waste valuable time when it comes to galvanizing and re-activating the potential progressive political base in America. There is no effective substitute for grassroots organizing precinct by precinct in every Congressional District, city by city and state by state. The truth is that in 2008 there was a last minute scramble to get out the youth vote in many key states. That mistake should not be repeated. The time to make the difference is now for the mobilization of the youth vote.

In the hip-hop community, we all know that you make progress whether you are in a studio, a corporate suite or in a street organization by how well and consistent that you “grind” or work tirelessly until you have perfected your gift and talent to share with the world. We must start grinding to get the Hip-HopVote now and keep grinding until we set another historic record of the highest youth voter turnout in American history in November 2012.

The states with the largest number of electoral votes: New York, California, and Texas are showing a significant increase in the number of persons that have become 18 years of age since November 2008. A national campaign needs to be properly organized, funded and systematically launched in all the states, especially in those states where there are clear margins where the youth vote is determinative.

2012 will present the most decisive election in American history in terms of whether or not the United States will move forward in the 21st Century as a pluralistic, inclusive democracy or begin to move backward to the old divisive, racial, and elitist politics of the past. Hip-Hop transcends race, class, and other social divisions. Hip-Hop is the cultural phenomena that represents the transformative character of youth consciousness and responsible social action. Let’s work to ensure that both the opportunity and the challenge of the youth vote is taken seriously for the remainder of 2011, as we prepare for the battle of 2012.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is the Senior Advisor for the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and the President of Education Online Services Corporation.

Green Empowerment Zones Mean Jobs for Communities of Color

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“To ignore the potential contribution of private enterprise is to fight the war on poverty with a single platoon while great armies are left to stand aside.” Robert Kennedy

It is time for policy makers on both sides of the progressive-conservative divide to stop debating and start enacting policies to create jobs, especially for those suffering the most from the persisting great recession. One way to do that is to create green empowerment zones that would generate urban jobs, promote clean energy, and enhance American competitiveness in the global shift to green technology. An empowerment zone generally is an economically distressed urban area that is eligible for government tax breaks as a way to spur business investment, small business growth and jobs. The concept has been embraced by Republicans like Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan as well as Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Last week, as part of the National Urban League’s new 12-point Urban Jobs Rebuild America Plan, we called for the creation of green empowerment zones in urban areas where at least 50% of the population has an unemployment rate that is higher than the state average. Manufacturers of solar panels and wind turbines that open plants in high unemployment areas will, for a period of three years, be eligible for a zero federal income tax rate and a zero capital gains tax rate under the condition that they hire at least half of their workforce from the local high unemployment area, and retain those workers for a minimum of three years.

This proposal has been on the table since 2009, when the National Urban League convened a Green Jobs Summit in Washington to develop recommendations to ensure that urban America has a central role in the Green Jobs/Clean Energy revolution. A number of mayors, including Thomas M. Menino of Boston, have adopted the approach. New Congressional Black Caucus Chairman and former mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, Emanuel Cleaver has also used stimulus funds to create a Green Impact Zone in that city. But, we can do more.

Green Empowerment Zones and the other 11 job-creating proposals in our plan send a strong message to the President and the Congress: Hard-pressed urban communities suffering unemployment rates nearly double the national rate of 9.4 percent, need jobs now – not six, or eight or 10 months down the road.

The old adage that “a rising tide lifts all boats” means nothing if you haven’t got a boat. The truth is, double-digit unemployment has been a reality for African Americans since August 2008 and for Latinos since February 2009.

Urban League affiliates across the country are on the frontlines of this crisis every day. We see the human toll it is taking on millions of urban families.

President Obama, who has recently focused on the role of business in job creation said, “Our job is to do everything we can to ensure that businesses can take root and folks can find good jobs and America is leading the global competition that will determine our success in the 21st century.”

Green Empowerment Zones is a businessfriendly approach that will boost American competitiveness, create jobs and help ensure that communities of color are not left behind.

Marc H. Morial is the President and CEO of the National Urban League.

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