Members of the Board of Directors report the Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce is now under the leadership of CPS Energy’s Dr. Eddie Kirby; Maria Williams was also confirmed as the new 2nd Vice President. After leading her chamber to celebrate their 80 year anniversary and relocating the organization to St Phillips College, Chairwoman Deborah Omowale formally resigned on December 4, 2017.
Speaking for myself, Omowale’s advocacy as a Black business owner will be missed. Most recently our chamber introduced a new Lift Fund initiative announced to help Alamo City Black chamber members with improved financing terms after completing an education requirement. This was negotiated between LiftFund CEO Janie Barrera and Omowale. This important step probably would not have occurred if Omowale was afraid to address the perceptions of lack of access to capital and quality funding mechanism for African American businesses.
In less than a year, Omowale would regularly speak truth to power – and she ensured the politically elected leadership of Bexar County and San Antonio understood that vital importance Black businesses play in San Antonio. Not always searching for permission, she also addressed the 300 Commission, and asked the important questions about the inclusion of Black businesses in the city’s spend plan. On the surface it appears that Black businesses have been shut out of the city’s largest celebratory period.
For some, Omowale was probably too outspoken, especially as she stood with the strong advocacy leaders of the Fair Contractor Coalition. It was my observation as a chamber member, that the rest of the chamber’s board just didn’t get it. It? The fact that Black businesses are dying and tired of receiving crumbs and other company leftovers.
Black contractors and business owners mention to me that whenever public companies are in charge of the Black chamber, the chamber acts very conservative – more less imitating the companies they represent. It will be interesting to see if Kirby led Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce will continue to stand up for economic injustices and work with the FCC as the coalition organization.
Chairman Dr. Kirby will be challenged with his grassroots appeal. Will he make himself available to the needs of the chamber community located in the worst parts of our city?
I want my readers to remember, CPS Energy received a D Grade from the FCC (which again included his Alamo City Black Chamber). CPS Energy leadership pledged to improve – so we anticipate Kirby is a part of the improvement plan.
It is the San Antonio’s Observers hope, the chamber will continue speaking up for Black businesses. Kirby falls in line with previous corporate leaders charged with running the Black Chamber – H-E-B’s Wayne Terry, and Valero’s Theo Guidry also have chaired the chamber.
As I publish this note, I am preparing for a meeting to discuss with CPS Energy why it is important to do business with my company and why it is important to support Black newspapers and media. I have been on hold for almost a year for this meeting that came out of the unveiling of the Report Card. Back in the day, when Mr. TC Calvert ran this newspaper, we received tens of thousands of dollars from CPS Energy to make sure our community received the news. Today, we have sporadic and dismal participation. With the decline in traditional newspapers, the blanket objection is people don’t support reading newspapers. Our story as a Black owned newspaper is far from that truth. We have week in and week out provided hundreds of thousands of free newspapers to the public. Our meeting is very important as a chamber member under Dr. Kirby’s leadership – not certain he is even aware of the vast problems and issues from W.W. White to E. Commerce.
In the end the community talk is becoming the same, is the chamber going to increase the pressure for the support of San Antonio's Black businesses? If so, what is the Kirby Plan to do this? As lifetime members of the Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce and most recently the 2017 Texas recipients of the Richard Nelson Black Press Award, we know our work is valuable. By working together, we can continue to provide positive impacts to our community. In isolation, the community will fail. We hope the chamber will continue to communicate with us as we are both geared to help the Black business community of San Antonio!