By Hazel Trice Edney, NNPA Editor-in-Chief –
WASHINGTON (NNPA) - The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. emerged from separate meetings with new General Motors CEO Edward Whitacre Jr. and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner full of hope this week. But he is still looking forward to major forums next week, where the heat will be turned up and strategizing for economic justice will continue.
Jackson, CEO of the Chicago-based Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, believes that new levels of Black business participation are on the horizon as activists continue to press for economic inclusion and fair share in hiring, contracting and advertising dollars.
“This is the time to apply the affirmative action laws, Title 6 and executive orders,” says Rev. Jackson in an interview with the NNPA News Service. “We want parity in employment, parity in executives, in entrepreneurship and in business."
An initial public offering worth billions, plus $300 million in fees to begin managing the public resurgence of General Motors, must be subjected to affirmative action and racial inclusion laws or the federal government will find itself in violation of economic inclusion mandates, according to Jackson and based on a recent executive order issued by President Barack Obama.
Jackson points out that 60 percent of GM now belongs to the U. S. federal government.
Jackson met with Whitacre and Geithner, making clear the need and the demand for fair share for small and Black-owned businesses, including the 200 members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.
On the heels of his own Rainbow/PUSH convention June 12-16 in Chicago, Jackson will be among the keynoters on a “Crisis in Black America” panel at the NNPA 70th Anniversary Convention in New York, where he says he will discuss further the plan for unrelenting Black inclusion. NNPA conference information is available at www.nnpa.org. Rainbow/PUSH conference information is available at www.rainbowpush.org.
“We want fair share to go to NNPA,” says Jackson, who has fought alongside NNPA Chairman Danny Bakewell for inclusion in advertising dollars for NNPA Newspapers and economic parity for small and Black-owned businesses in general. As a long list of White-owned newspapers have gone out of business during the economic crisis of recent years, most Black-owned newspapers have survived, but under great duress – largely because of longstanding race discrimination.
Both Jackson and Bakewell have argued that this would not be the case if federal dollars, such as the $300 million in fees and the general budgets of publicly-owned companies , were adhering to affirmative action laws.
At Jackson’s conference, these issues will be discussed in forums with officials from the Small Business Administration, the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) and the Treasury.
U. S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a foremost Black business advocate in Congress, among other congress people, as well as Bakewell will also be at the Rainbow/PUSH convention.
The discussion will continue among civil rights leaders on a Friday panel at NNPA’s annual summer conference to be held June 16-19.
Bakewell, this week, pointed to an executive order issued by President Obama two weeks ago that set forth plans for small businesses to benefit from federal dollars.
“Our president should be given credit for that significant move,” Bakewell said.
The president’s memorandum directed the heads of all executive departments and agencies to develop more opportunities for small businesses to participate in the Recovery Act. The memo specifically calls for heightened participation of businesses owned by minorities, women and economically disadvantaged individuals in the $500 billion in federal purchases made annually. "The Federal Government has not consistently reached its small business contracting goals," the Obama memo asserts. "Small business contracting should always be a high priority in the procurement process."
The memo establishes the Interagency Task Force on Federal Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses. Geithner, the Peter Orszag, director of the Office of management and Budget, and Karen Mills, administrator of the Small Business Administration will serve as co-chairs of the Task Force.
"Obtaining tangible results will require an honest and accurate accounting of our progress so that we can have transparency and accountability through federal small business procurement data. Additionally, we must expand outreach strategies to alert small firms to federal contracting opportunities," the memo states.
Ken Smikle of Target Market News, a foremost authority on Black business inclusion, said in a news story published last week by the NNPA News Service, that Obama’s “memo addresses many of the issues on which Black media owners have been seeking action from the White House. It includes directives that were addressed in Executive Order 13170 issued by President Bill Clinton in October 2000. That executive order required all executive branch agencies, including the military, to engage in affirmative action to include minority owned businesses in the procurement of advertising.”
Smikle wrote, “Groups, including the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters and the National Newspaper Publishers Association, in April called for enforcement of the Clinton executive order in the allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal advertising.”
A goal of the Obama memo, as stated, is “improved collection, verification, and availability of Federal procurement data and provide accurate data on the Federal Government's progress in ensuring that all small businesses have a fair chance to participate in Federal contracting opportunities.”
It continues, “In developing its recommendations, the Task Force shall conduct outreach with representatives of small businesses and small business associations …This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of any necessary appropriations.”
The President is also pressing for public accountability for the group, calling for the creation of a Website within 90 days that will monitor the progress of the Task Force and "that illustrates the participation of small businesses, including those owned by women, minorities, socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and service-disabled veterans of our Armed Forces, in Federal contracting."
GM filed for bankruptcy protection June 1. The company will now become two parts, a "new" GM and an "old" GM. The former will hold on to plants, dealers and brands that the company will drop or divest. The new GM will acquire the assets the company desires to keep.
Although Jackson is hopeful, he is determined to fight until tangible results appear.
Beyond the conferences, “We must keep applying pressure. That’s what we must do. Civil rights strategy is that we expose contradictions and keep applying pressure. That’s what we do.”