Wednesday, January 17, 2007

In the Black- 2006 In Review

Black politics revived. In the city of Fresno , we had black candidates in almost level of office from County, City to school districts. Cynthia Sterling made history in 2002, as the first African-American woman elected to the Fresno City Council and in 2006 as the only the second African-American to be re-elected to the City Council (Les Kimber was the first). Cal Johnson defeated Luisa Medina, to the glee of many, to represent the Edison Area on Fresno Unified School District . Being the 4th largest district in the state, Johnson has his work cut out for him from healthcare cost, dealing with a system producing one of the highest drop-out rates in the nation especially amongst black students, and much more. Dorothy “Dottie” Smith was re-elected to the State Community College District that includes Fresno City College (lead by Dr. Ned Doffoney- the first and only black college president in the Central Valley ). Activist Rev. Floyd Harris gave incumbent Eubanks a run for his money in the race for the Fresno County Board of Education.

Black Political Council- Change in leadership. Since January 2006, Audrey Redmond was elected to take the helm of the organization founded by the late Dr. Jackie Hodges. While the organization has not been without controversy (what would you expect, it’s a political organization!), people are again talking about it. During this past election cycle, the Council successfully received several written pledges from candidates—now elected officials that they would hire blacks within their offices. I hope the Council will hold those officials accountable to those promises.

The Fresno Black Caucus…. a new black think tank? The concept of the caucus is to be informal clearing house (no plans to develop a new 501c3) for addressing issues pertaining to education, economic prosperity, health and confronting Fresno ’s black community. The group included community heavyweights in all sectors and walks of life that are posed to bring resources and expertise to help tackle issue outlined in Smiley’s Covenant with Black America. Because the group is in its infancy, it’s too early to judge its product.

Hanford recognizes MLK Day. The civic pressure imposed on the Hanford City Council that resulted in them observing the Martin Luther King’s birthday as a paid holiday for city employees was the combined effort of multiple organizations and agencies in and out the Central Valley. I was proud to see the collaborative efforts between branches of the NAACP ( Fresno and Hanford ), the National Action Network and several others that helped the make the often discounted black voice of the South Valley heard.

Allensworth smothered by cows. One of the few locations that has a black historic value in the state might have get use to its new next door neighbor— 7,500 cows. In their wisdom, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors voted to issue a permit to Sam Etchegaray, a local dairyman to develop a tour-crushing 320 acre dairy adjacent to the Allensworth State Park . Etchegaray states the 60 jobs and the $20M boost will “usher impoverished minorities into the middle class” (LA Times, Dec. 8, 2006 ). Question: how many of those jobs will benefits residents of that community? You expect me to believe that I would walk in that dairy in find Latino and Black managers, agriculturists, and animal health specialists with benefits, 401Ks, and health care plans? The State Parks system is in negotiation with the owner to purchase a percentage of the land to provide a buffer between the two planned dairies and the park.

The Police. Wait before you just scroll through this one. I know there are many sides to police in the black community, especially in Fresno . From Block Parties to unnecessary force, we face the many ‘issues’. Allow me to paint a picture with statistics taken the quarterly demographics data report published this October 2006. I’ll let you do the interpretation:
City of Fresno Traffic Stops

Traffics Stops
1 for every 20 residents
1 for every 33 residents
Vehicle Searches because of traffic stops
1 for every 8 stops
2X more likely than Whites
1 for every 16 stops
Arrest resulted from stop
3 for every 100
1 for every 100
Source: City of Fresno Police Department- Crime Statistics, Traffic Stops Demographic Data (Qtr 3, 2006)
Some believe that a Police Auditor would put the City on the right track towards a resolution surrounding racial profiling and the highly publicized police-citizen incidents occurring in West Fresno. Others see the effectiveness of community policing tools used in southwest Fresno through the “Bringing Broken Neighborhoods Back Together” Block Parties with neighborhood churches. The jury is still out.

Black businesses excluded from Journal’s top list. As an avid reader of the Business Journal, the Central Valley’s premier business publication and publisher of the “Book of List” (also a great resource for fundraising, networking, new clients), I recognized no black businesses listed amongst the hundreds included. Even on the short minority-owned business list- no black businesses are indicated. Is this by design or are we just not taking advantage of this marketing opportunity? In speaking with the staff, they specifically desire to diversify the list to include black-owned but the Lists are composted by participating businesses. We have to participate. Metropolitan Fresno or Fresno MSA (Fresno, Clovis and Madera) black businesses contribute $60M (US Census- 2002 Economic Survey) to the region’s economy through payroll alone (this doesn’t include black sole proprietors, entrepreneurs or self-employers). The Book of List data is collected during the summer and published every October. For more information contact Robin Ogle at The Business Journal, 490-3400 or .

Black-On-Black Lending. In 2006, the African-American Coalition for Capital Access was launched with the help of Valley Small Business Development Corporation ( Fresno West Coalition for Economic Development ( and the San Joaquin Valley Black Camber of Commerce ( acted as the lead organizations to start the pilot program. According to Travis Smiley Covenant with Black America, one of the fundamental avenues for building community wealth is through entrepreneurship and micro enterprise. A major hurdle to that is capital—the funds, dollars, greenbacks, ‘scrilla’, paper, however you describe it—to start the business or take it to the next level. The program was launched as a peer-to-peer program that coaches businesses during and after the process with the intention to lead them to market credit worthiness. The program has successful approved four (4) so far and the word is getting out.

BlackXchange rearranging the way we communicate. Dwayne Ferguson is a bold brother. He officially launched in February that has grown from a handful to over 1500 member-businesses and organization across the country. He then bought an expandable RV to promote the virtual business network designed for blacks and took it across the state and nation. Dwayne didn’t stop there and it taking it to the next level with a 5000+ sq. ft. black business incubator near the Fresno Yosemite Intl. Airport . Oh and by the way, he and his wife own and operate Overcolor, a web/design and printing company. Dwayne isn’t alone. He is just one of the brothers and sisters under 40 making a mark on the community by helping us “learn, grow and Xchange” TM.

Republished with the expressed permission of In the Black e-newsletter

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