200+ Men Launch Economic Justice Plan to Combat Disparities

16 Dec 2012 7:16 PM | Valencia Jowers (Administrator)

The Hampton Roads Committee of 200+ Men hosted Mr. Anthony A. Lewis, President Verizon Mid-Atlantic Region at its Samuel Dewitt Proctor Forum on Saturday, December 8th, at the Fort Norfolk Plaza Medical Building in Norfolk, VA. The forum, sponsored by the organization’s Economic Justice Committee, was entitled: “The Board Room, C-Suite, and The Front Door-The Disparity Crusade Continues!”. Mr. Lewis emphasized in his remarks that keys to success are exercising good judgment, willingness to take risk, going the extra mile and recognizing customer needs and the changes in technology that can meet those needs.

Mr. Lewis participated in a panel that included Ms. Brenda H. Andrews, New Journal & Guide Newspaper Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, Mr. JR Locke of the Hampton University Business Incubator and Project Inclusion and Mr. Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones, II, former analyst with Goldman Sachs. They provided a riveting discussion regarding the disparities in terms of African Americans in corporate board participation, executive management positions and municipal contracting. Details of the organization’s Economic Justice master plan to combat these disparities were also presented.

Although more African Americans, women and other minorities lead major U.S. Corporations, occupy board of directors’ seats, and hold various mid- to upper-level corporate positions, they remain woefully under-represented,” said Vincent Carpenter, organizer of the forum. “In a tight economy, our community continues to be “the last hired and the first fired” and corporate spending with our businesses continues to lag.”

In late 2011, 200+ Men launched its Municipal Disparity Initiative Strategy by issuing a resolution to elected officials in 15 municipalities in Hampton Roads. The resolution strongly encouraged them to follow the example of the City of Hampton and Portsmouth Public Schools by conducting third party studies to measure the level of procurement disparities in their purchasing practices with minority and women owned firms. This type of study is required to devise legally defensible strategies to correct disparities where identified.

The organization’s Municipal Disparity Initiative Strategy continued in this last election cycle. In the Virginia Beach and Portsmouth city council elections, support for conducting procurement disparity studies was a campaign issue. Most of those elected or reelected indicated support for such a study individually or in cooperation with other cities.

“Having each city in Hampton Roads conduct disparity studies is crucial to obtaining true economic justice in the use of our community’s tax dollars in the acquisition of goods and services,” said Bruce Williams, 200+ Men Economic Justice Committee Vice President. “We will be encouraging each council, city-by-city, to adopt and implement these studies.”

Portsmouth Public Schools, which just completed such a study, has recently issued policy changes designed to reduce the procurement disparities it discovered in its purchasing practices with minority and women owned firms. The City of Hampton has approved ordinances designed to reduce disparities its study discovered and is in the process of conducting a new study.

“This event and our initiative are part of our organization’s Strategic Plan which includes our Scholars Breakfast, Brother 2 Brother Camp, Caravan to Richmond, and our Scholars Academy program Booker T Washington HS designed to provide economic opportunities for our youth,” said James Gray, 200+ Men President.

“Dr. Cornel West has stated: “When we make Black America better, we make all of America better”. The Economic Justice Committee has tailored this mantra for our region with the sentiment: “We make all of Hampton Roads better when we improve the quality of opportunity and the quality of life for African-Americans within Hampton Roads,” said Williams.

Published in The New Journal & Guide, Norfolk, VA
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