San Antonio – The other week the San Antonio Observer reported the Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce is now under the leadership of CPS Energy’s Dr. Eddie Kirby who was appointed chairman of the board. After hearing of the community loss, Founder of the Fair Contractor Coalition, TC Calvert announced the FCC would be co-chaired by Deborah Omowale to keep the focus on Black business progress in San Antonio and Bexar County. Calvert noted on February 12th the decision was made because Omowale made tremendous progress with lifting the voices of Black business owners.
In less than a year, Deborah Omowale addressed critical issues important to the 3% to 4% of San Antonio's Black business population. She took on a major issue of access to affordable capital with Liftfund's CEO Janie Barrera. What came out of her discussion was a new program the Alamo City Black Chamber members will benefit with a lower financing rate contingent on completing education class requirements.
Omowale's efforts tripled the chamber's membership. She recruited 6 new board members to take part in the advocacy of the chamber. She promptly regained corporate sponsorship for programs that needed support. What we like is she restored relationships with media partners, like the Observer, Tha1Radio, and TAAN TV.
Omowale penned a historic agreement with the Black Contractors Association for African American Business Enterprise (AABE's) with Bexar County, an area under much criticism over the years. She renewed the chamber's EPIC leadership program as the program went dormant in 2016.
Deborah addressed inequities with the 300 Commission as she saw a lack of inclusion of Black businesses with the celebration of the birthday of the City of San Antonio. Likewise, she weighed in and formed close partnerships for vendor benefits with the City of San Antonio, Alamo College District, GoRio, and VIA. Deborah is most proud of putting a financial accounting system online with full transparency and checks and balances. She worked hard with no pay.
After succeeding H-E-B's Wayne Terry's term, Omowale found herself under an expiring lease agreement with Zachry in St Paul Square. Omowale and the renewed support of USAA, with the allignment of the chamber and the veterans at the Good Samaritan Veterans and Outreach Transition Center at St. Philip's College was applauded throughout the community. President Adena Loston, board member of the chamber, really championed the 80-year organization to relocate on her campus. The organization appeared to be moving on up.
It was only a month ago, Omowale was featured in the San Antonio Business Journal as the face of San Antonio chamber women selected to lead business interest typically reserved and addressed by men. Omowale was the future of the chamber's advocacy.
Young business entrepreneur, Veronica Leno said, "I look up to Omowale as a symbol of hope as a Black business owner who had the battle scars and continued to fight and motivate my generation. As a native of San Antonio, I will follow her where ever she goes."
Members of the chamber still have not received or necessarily understand why the resignation of Omowale occurred. While board members are privileged with the information, the board members we reached out to said they declined statement or couldn't discuss personnel matters.
The collective sentiment however remains we cannot afford to lose great talent such as Deborah Omowale.
The SA Observer pointed out that the chamber's Executive Board, where all the major decisions are made, are made up of mostly corporate or public agencies. SAWS, CPS Energy, control a major position to how well Black businesses perform in the chamber and in San Antonio.
As an active participant of the Fair Contractor Coalition, Deborah was effective in all aspects of her service. The membership of the FCC called TC Calvert to make sure the talent of Omowale was not lost or misplaced.
Greg Jackson, FCC Member and advocate says, "It's a great access to the team to acquire the talents of Deborah Omowale. We can definitely use her expertise working with others across party line."
Businessman and founding member of the FCC, Ken Lowe indicates, "Black business growth is dependent on Black business owners who know what we face day in and day out. Black business owners who have paid a payroll and know that lives depend on their success or failure is the type of leader who gains respect. Deborah has done that and more."
While the FCC is made up of a coalition of minority and Christian chambers of commerce, a person doesn't have to be a member of a chamber to be a member of the FCC.
TC Calvert adds, "the decision is necessary as this movement is to advance this generation of business owners and the next generation is too important. Deborah understands the complex nature of the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, SAWS, CPS Energy, and all of the public agencies we have met with to improve their report card scores. We cannot afford to roll back progress with actors who have not sat at the FCC table. We are in the continuous position to educate what diversity and inclusion really means to the leaders elected or appointed by the people. I am glad Deborah introduced me to support our Black Chamber. Her advocacy as co-chair will continue the advocacy we desperately need in San Antonio."
I wrote last week, for some, Deborah 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.
I repeat this week, 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.
Christopher Herring, chairman of TAAACC notes, "the Alamo chamber will rally under Dr. Kirby's leadership. He was one of my recruits to be on the board years ago. Deborah and Eddie came on at the same time. They both are very good team players and I expect as we get closer to our statewide business conference in September, we will be working together as one team to continue to advance Black businesses." He adds, "I am particularly excited Deborah forged a relationship with my mentor at Junior Achievement to enable the chamber to start a summer program for middle and high school students to teach financial literacy. I was told this starts in mid June. This is where the business legacy and opportunity begins for Dr. Kirby and the Alamo City Chamber."