I was in attendance at a meeting convened by the state of Pennsylvania. The focus of the meeting was the fact that the state of Pennsylvania has failed to have a viable system that would afford Black-owned businesses to share in all state contracts, not just construction. The state awards contracts from toothpicks to trailer trucks, etc. The word “Black” is no longer used, it has been replaced with the word “Minority” and minority is inclusive of a dozen categories, but does not highlight American-born Blacks.
The legal argument against implementing contracts that would afford Blacks the opportunities has always been, “Where is the proof that Blacks are being denied their fair share?” The main argument is, has there been a disparity study done recently…a study may cost as much as $200,000 and is only binding for 18 to 24 months.
As I sat and listened to those who sponsored the meeting, I reflected on a press conference convened by Gov. Tom Wolf a few months ago where he stated that it had just been brought to his attention after two years of being the governor that Pennsylvania did not have a viable diversity program; in fact, there was not a program at all. The statement was an absolute shock to me and should have been to you, because with the number of Black members of the PA House of Representatives, they should have informed him. The governor’s statement clearly indicated that those Black representatives had failed to enlighten the governor about the dismal state of providing Blacks with contracts or opportunities.
The meeting can best be described by those who testified at the hearing, two Black men in particular, who described themselves as successful, stated they have done very little, if any, business with the City of Pittsburgh or the state of Pennsylvania. Also, they only came to hear what was being said but no real expectation of anything concrete. There was an ongoing discussion about a Diversity Study, and if my memory serves me well, this is an ongoing discussion that originated in 1983, some 35 years ago.
There was a suggestion that maybe there were Black companies from out-of-state who might have contracts, but how is that determination made? If, for example, a Black contractor is awarded a contract, and 90 percent of his subs are White, what percentage of the contract is the Black owner given credit for?
There are those of us who have fought the fight since the 1950s and the fight must go on. “Because MUCH HAS CHANGED, AND MUCH REMAINS THE SAME.”
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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