A+ R A-

News Wire

Federal Contracting with Blacks has Declined

E-mail Print PDF

By Ron Busby

NNPA Columnist

The timing could not have been more perfect. While we were in the middle of finalizing plans for our second annual United States Black Chamber School of Chamber Management, Bloomberg News reported that federal contracting with African American and Hispanic-owned businesses declined in fiscal Year 2011 for the first time in a decade. According to the Federal Procurement Data System, compared to fiscal year 2010, contracts to Black-owned firms dropped 8 percent to $7.12 billion and decreased 7 percent to $7.89 billion for Hispanic-owned businesses. It’s never good news to learn that federal contracting opportunities for the business men and women we work hard to represent are shrinking, but our upcoming School of Chamber Management (SCM) will provide the perfect opportunity to arm our leaders with the tools to reverse the trend. Based on our five pillars of service – Advocacy, Access to Capital, Contracting, Entrepreneur Training and Chamber Development – the School of Chamber Management will ensure that chamber leaders from all across the country will be more effective advocates for their members on local, state and federal levels. Among other critical issues important to chamber operations, they will learn how important it is to sift through mountains of data and federal, state and local regulations and policies to craft a winning message and approach to business development for their members.

We believe that our first effort at building the knowledge base for Black chamber leaders – held last summer – was a huge success. We are absolutely certain that our second SCM, July 24 – 28 at the Georgetown University Conference Center, will be even better. With a solid line-up of nationally recognized presenters and a growing list of corporate supporters, this year’s school is sure to live up to its theme, “Promoting Chamber Growth, Efficiency & Influence.” In the meantime, as you might imagine, the USBC has received a barrage of requests for comment on the recent Bloomberg report. Well, as I’m fond of saying, “I’m glad you asked…” It is disheartening to learn that prime contracts awarded by the federal government to African American vendors and suppliers have declined. We are still digging through the numbers to learn whether subcontracting dollars followed the same trend. To be blunt, we are not happy. We have diligently maintained contact with (it seems like hundreds of) federal agencies – including the White House – which makes news of this decline particularly disappointing. My service on the SBA’s Council on Underserved Communities has been a great platform for keeping USBC’s agenda on the minds of those charged with expanding access to contracting and procurement. But the numbers don’t lie and clearly there is a need for some solutions. Here are a few of our solutions to address this concern:

Connect with the Black Chamber in Your Community or Region – Chambers exist to support small businesses and have the resources and relationships to help small businesses become more successful.

Leverage Bonding Options to Access More Capital – the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc. recently partnered with an entity that has an innovative national platform with a solid bid management system and bonding program to assist capital constrained contractors. We will officially announce the new partnership at our upcoming conference. Consider Teaming Opportunities – Seek ways to collaborate with other prime and sub-contractors to increase scale, acquisition fulfillment, and sustainability.

I’m sure a good part of our White House Business Leaders Briefing on July 27be spent receiving assurances from administration officials that there is some plausible explanation for the dip in spending with African American owned businesses. We – along with representatives of the Top 100 Black-owned businesses from across the country – will be there to press our case. If America is to reduce the devastating African American unemployment rate, it will occur because African American enterprises have increased business and the money to expand. The 8 percent drop in federal contracting opportunities for African American prime contractors represents about $570 million in sales, or enough to move more than 16,000 folks out of the unemployment line. And while that 16,000 may seem insignificant against the nearly 3 million Black folks out of work, try telling that to one of the lucky 16,000.

All of a sudden, you get the picture… Yes, the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc. is dedicated to improving the performance of local African American business organizations. When we are successful, we will change lives and communities. When Black businesses grow, more African Americans will have the opportunity for improved education and healthcare and housing choices. We’ll buy more groceries and pay more taxes, too. That’s why we’ll be working so hard during our upcoming School of Chamber Management. Advocacy is at the core of what organizations such as ours represent. And while others are content to point fingers and make noise about how dreadful the decline in federal contracting is, we’ll be busy arming business leaders with the tools necessary to reverse the trend, both locally and nationally.

It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. If you’re serious, you can join us. As my grandmother used to say, “We could use more hands.”

Ron Busby is president of the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc.

A Chance Meeting With Rodney ‘Glen’ King Neckwear designer Don Griggs recalls the bond ignited by a court date

E-mail Print PDF

Chris Levister

The morning after Rodney King’s death, police officers maintained a presence outside his modest Rialto house, mainly to keep bystanders and reporters at a distance. The house is quiet, its curtains drawn. No visible markers proclaim "this is where Rodney King died"; no candles, flowers or makeshift street memorials.

It apparently reflects the way King whose beating by Los Angeles police in 1991 was captured on videotape preferred to live, under the radar, after circumstance thrust him reluctantly into the spotlight more than 20 years ago.

Over the years, King struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, was arrested several times and went to prison for robbery once. He ended up on the reality TV show "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew."

Thursday April 8, 1999 King pleaded innocent to three misdemeanor counts in a Fontana court. He was released on $6,850 bail in an incident involving the alleged beating of his 16-year-old daughter and her mother. It was his date with the judge that brought King to the men’s department at upscale Nordstrom’s department store in Galleria at Montclair. “He walked in with his cousin, a young female. He said ‘I need a suit for court – I need it in two hours’.”

That’s men’s clothing specialist and renowned neckwear designer Don Griggs. “I recognized Rodney King but we didn’t go into a lot of introduction. I just remember saying to myself – the clock is ticking – we’ve got to select a suit and accessories have him fitted, get the garment tailored and get him out the door in time for his court date,” recalls Griggs, then manager of the store’s men’s department.

“Knowing who he was and what he had gone through I wanted to make sure we selected a garment that was not only appropriate, but one that exuded confidence and dignity – nothing flashy or trendy.”

Griggs said although King looked familiar, his colleagues and patrons in the store didn’t readily identify who he was. As the threesome scrambled to select a suit, Griggs remembers King’s cousin referring to him as Glen – his middle name.

“From then on I called him Glen which made it a lot easier to serve him while preserving his identity. He seemed to appreciate the anonymity,” said Griggs. “We chose a classic gray suit that he liked very much. He seemed so excited, almost childlike. We hurriedly got him in to see the tailor. My message was ‘we needed this done yesterday’.” Meanwhile Griggs and his charges went about selecting accessories. “It just so happens that Nordstrom carried my signature line of Afro-centric silk neckties,” said Griggs.

“We selected a gray-crimson pattern tie along with a crisp white shirt. We got him outfitted and ready to go with time to spare.” “When he emerged from the dressing room he presented an image of sharp but understated,” said Griggs. “He was happy.” “Fitting”, Griggs said for a man bearing the visible and invisible scars of America’s ugly underbelly.

“During my interaction with him, I could tell he had a few struggles – He walked with a limp. At times he had trouble with attention. His cousin wrote out the check for payment, he signed it.” Griggs said his relationship with the famous man known to him as Glen did not end with that 1999 chance meeting.

“Occasionally he would come in the store. If I was busy he would nod and go to my department, sit down read a magazine and wait for me to finish.” He was a patient, humble man of few words. Griggs said. While the two never talked about the police beating, Griggs remembers the poignant moment when King shared his love for what would ironically become the final stage for his life of tragedy, triumph and final tragedy. “He came in the store one day and said ‘Don I need a shirt’. I said where are you going? He said with a big grin, ‘I’m going surfing’.”

Griggs recalls, “I kind of gave him the look. He said ‘come have a look’. Sure enough he had a surfboard strapped to his sport utility vehicle. He was headed to the beach at Dana Point.” He said, “Don, man - when I get out there in those waves – I’m at peace. I’m away from everybody and everything. It’s just me, God and the water. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Summer Must-Read

E-mail Print PDF

By Jordan Brown

“Friend Me” and “Besties” are novels by Author Cathy Hopkins. They are in the teen fiction drama. These novels include books one through six of the Mates, Dates series. Cathy Hopkins’ novels are enjoyable and fun to read real page-turners. When I read these novels, I couldn’t stop reading. I know reading a book is not normally on a teen’s summer to-do-list but Cathy Hopkins “Mates Dates” series are a summer must read.

The books are about three best friends, Lucy, Izzie, and Nesta and their struggles with being teenage girls. Hopkins has a moral for each story, like in Mates, Dates and Designer Diva’s it’s jealousy. Nesta gets jealous and almost loses her friends. The girls are trying to “find themselves” and doing different things like trying to “fit in” and make friends are helping them on this quest.

There are seventeen “Mates Dates” books in the series. Cathy has written more than 50 books. She started writing in 1986 and started writing teen fiction in 2000. This year Cathy was nominated for the most glamorous book awards called the “Queen of Teen.” It is to congratulate her and other author’s amazing work in teen fiction.

Summer Advice

E-mail Print PDF

By Jordan Brown

I know summer can be a fun filled fest, but you don’t want to get rid of all the knowledge you’ve gained during school.

Summer has endless possibilities; you could find something you really love to do. Research keeps the mind fresh and you could be doing many things on the internet, since multitasking is so popular. I suggest playing a game of Word Dynamo on dyamo.dictionary.com. It tests you on the words you know by giving clues to find the definitions of interesting words.

Its fun style might have you playing for hours. You also want to exercise this summer because being a “coach potato” is not healthy. The First Lady, Michelle Obama has a program called “Lets Move” it gets kids moving and she says to “play for at least an hour every day.” Get up and play or maybe take a walk or try Beyonce’s let’s move dance. It’s fun from ages 3 to 93.

So what ever you choose to do this summer, don’t forget about school in the fall. Keep your mind sharp and ready to learn. Have fun this summer. Remember you don’t have to “work” everyday. Get up and have fun!

Obama Needs to Run Against Congress

E-mail Print PDF

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

NNPA Columnist

If President Obama wants to win in November he will have to run against the Republican Congress. He will actually not need to spend his time on Romney. When you have people like former President Jimmy Carter suggesting that Romney is not that bad, you have a message problem and one that may not be resolvable in the short-term. On the other hand, as a few people have suggested, if the obstructionist, wealthy Republican Congress can be tied around Romney’s neck, it could quite possibly undermine Romney’s campaign.

What does running against the Republican Congress mean? It means taking a message to the public about what sort of economy we need. It means picking up on the themes raised by the Occupy movement and hammering away at the policies of the Republican Congress and their support of the upper 1 percent. It means walking the streets of our devastated cities and speaking with the unemployed, and particularly speaking with those who have been out of work for years, people who fear that they may never be able to work again. Obama needs to become the voice of the voiceless. President Obama needs to remind people about the economic policies that got us into this mess. This is something that the White unemployed and precariously employed need to hear time and again. Too many of them seem to be ready to go one more round in the Republican economic fun-house.

If there was one thing that Obama needs to do, and I am not sure that he is prepared to do it, it is to encourage protests and action among the bottom 99 percent against economic injustice. I don’t particularly care that he did not show up in Wisconsin to support the anti-Scott Walker recall movement. Wisconsin needed to be about Walker, not Obama. That said, the people at the base need to hear from Obama the way that we did in January 2009 when he supported the demands of the workers at Republic Windows & Doors in Chicago when they occupied – no pun intended – their factory. When was the last time that we had heard a president of the USA take such a stand? We now ask, why was that the last time we heard this from Obama? We also need President Obama to stop trying to out-Republican the Republicans when it comes to national security. One of the best ways to demoralize segments of his base can be found in the continuing attacks on civil liberties that have been underway during his administration. ”Whistleblowers” have come under attack. Peaceful, non-violent protesters – d such as the anti-war protesters in Minneapolis and Chicago – have not only come under surveillance but also have faced various legal charges. Look, we voted for a president we hoped would expand democracy rather than contract it.

We also voted for someone to end these senseless wars. Well, points go out to President Obama for ending the Iraq occupation, but we are still in Afghanistan and these drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen do nothing but inflame local tensions and create more enemies. To win, Obama needs an “Obama Doctrine” for the 21st century, a clear, non-rhetorical statement that situates his campaign in the hearts and minds of the 99 percent. We do not need any more feel-good speeches. We need change that we can see.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar at 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.

Page 171 of 354

BVN National News Wire