Under the leadership of the Honorable Viola Harris, the Alliance of NC Black Elected Officials (the Alliance), has recently given its enthusiastic support and go-ahead for the Inclusion Coalition to initiate a campaign to promote equity in public spending. The Alliance will serve as the oversight organization for the initiative and the Inclusion Coalition. The Inclusion Coalition is chaired by the Honorable Richard Hooker, immediate past chair of the Alliance. It will serve as the planning and outreach task team.
Black elected officials have a long-standing commitment to creating economic justice and through the Alliance has sponsored ongoing disparity studies under the leadership of A & T Professor, Forrest Toms and the North Carolina A & T University Department of Leadership studies. The release of the “Guide” prepared by Dr. Toms and his doctoral students is coming soon, as is a website dedicated to the activities of the Inclusion Coalition. The Coalition task team is loosely composed of political, business and civic leaders from around North Carolina.
Commissioner Harris commented, “I was surprised by Dr. Toms initial report about unequitable spending on new building projects in my county.” “It opened my eyes and made me start asking questions. Our minority businesses must be given access to participate in bidding on projects.”
Fortunately, the Honorable Carolyn Coleman, Guilford County Commissioner and 1st Vice-Chair of the NC Conference of the NAACP, is a member of our Inclusion Coalition task team and will be asking the NAACP to make this initiative a part of its historical quest for economic justice.
Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I serve on the Inclusion Coalition task team and will be making some observations and projections based on personal knowledge.
Many Coalition planners recognize that our ultimate success will depend upon support of the NAACP and its local branches. We must have grass root activists involved in our efforts. There is a growing consensus that for our success, the NAACP will need to embrace this initiative and employ its report card strategy to measure the level of support that elected officials are willing to commit to “Economic Equity.” Hopefully, it will take this on as a project and encourage their branches to hold annual “town halls” and invite elected officials to report to our voters on their equity in public spending efforts.
Candidates that depend on an inspired turnout by voters of color must make jobs and economic opportunities highly visible parts of their campaigns. Too often, the economic needs of people of color have not been spoken to with any specific plans, if spoken to at all.
Many of our readers know that I’ve promoted the idea that voters of color should “vote their economics.” I’ve written that candidates seeking votes from people of color should pledge to ask the public body that they seek or on which they serve, to adopt Diversity Plans that call for equitable hiring and spending on contracts for goods and services for people of color as well as equity in hiring.
The American economic system is not working and has never worked for far too many Black voters and communities. Economic justice has been the pursuit of Black Americans for more than 400 years. For many of those years its pursuit was subordinated to our pursuit of freedom. Since 1865, the end of the Civil War Black Americans have experienced marginal gains in freedom, safety and economics opportunities. However, in today’s world we are continuing to subordinate our aspirations for economic equality to our aspirations in elective politics. As Black leaders, we should all pledge to end this practice and give economic justice on the same priority that we give elective politics.
As a Coalition task team seeking pathways to economic equity for Black businesses and communities, we have identified NCGS § 143-128.2, Minority Business Participation as, arguably the most important legislation in North Carolina that professes to promote economic equity for HUBs (Historically Underutilized Businesses).
This legislation will have limited benefits unless our elected representatives make economic equity a priority and systematically promote NCGS § 143-128.2 as a component of a larger community effort to create jobs and economic opportunity in our communities. This is quite doable if voters require it as a prerequisite to voting. What is required is the leadership of our activist and elected representatives and local community organizations holding periodic “town hall” meetings to review reports from their public entities. Everyone should also help develop new strategies for use in pursuing economic equity in the public and private economies.
It appears more likely than not, that our public spending initiative will provide Black communities a more viable economic objective to vote than we had in the past. Of course, for it to have the effect that our candidates need, it will require very aggressive promotions. Without those efforts, sad to say, many of our favored candidates are going to lose.
Until economic justice receives the same level of attention as voter rights, voters of color will not be sufficiently motivated to aggressively participate in elective politics.
Prior to last year’s elections the Rev. Jesse Jackson, wrote a column entitled: Make this election about economic justice. This is advice that we would do well to follow in every election.
Although we applaud the selfless efforts of voter rights activist, we must also recognize their responsibility to educate our voters regarding the economic benefits of voting. I continue to invite those with ideas that contradict or complement the observations that are made in my columns to share their views.
Lastly, it should go without saying, but I’d be remiss if I don’t say it. All members of the Black community, business and otherwise, should be financial, card carrying members of the NAACP.
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Peter Grear, Esq. writes for Greater Diversity News with a primary focus on political, social and economic justice. To support our efforts, to unite our politics and economics, please “Like” and follow us at www.facebook.com/greaterdiversitynews, “Share” our articles and post your ideas and comments on Facebook or at our websites www.GreaterDiversity.com. He is available for radio commentaries upon request. Follow Peter on twitter.com/yourrighttovote. Finally, please ask all of your Facebook “Friends” to like and follow our page.