|Same ol' (Durham) bull|
|Published Tuesday, June 23, 2020|
As the coronavirus and protests against systemic injustice have dominated the news cycle, 2020- 21 fiscal year budgets are quietly being passed and adopted all across the country. At the same time as organizations announce their commitments to racial equity, highlighting new plans to do things differently, some organizations continue to carry on with business as usual.
Many will need to be creative to find resources to support their verbal commitment with financial resources, but many others who have resources will not back their stated commitment with any meaningful investment. This failure to fund the changes communities seek will be commonplace across the region, but we take this opportunity to highlight the case with Durham County.
Durham County should be a leader in common sense reform and progressive ideas, and one of the easiest places to enact legislation. The county is diverse, well-resourced, and only has one city. Durham County government is dominated by the Democratic Party.
However, this "progressive" town has failed to lead the way in delivering on many progressive ideas with inclusive and equitable solutions. To note, even though there are black commissioners and a black county manager, black organizations remain far on the outside of the design, development, and delivery of services to the county's constituents.
This is the certainly the case with the economic development. For many years, the Greater Durham Black Chamber of Commerce has lobbied Durham County for a contract to work alongside the Durham Chamber to ensure that the county's economic development is both inclusive and equitable. This would guarantee that Durham's economic development goals and plans aren't only focused on bringing high-growth, high-impact biotech firms to Research Triangle Park and remote areas of Durham, but also recruiting and delivering firms that match Durham's population.
There have been numerous meetings and emails exchanged. However, the county manager and county commissioners have failed to take up the matter in their work sessions, include it in the budget or bring the matter to the floor for a discussion and vote.
Durham is one of the few counties in the state that enjoys the presence of a black chamber of commerce, giving the area a strong opportunity to engage with historically disadvantaged businesses to create inclusive and equitable solutions. Instead, the county's leaders choose to ignore this advantage and deny economic development access to the black business community, rendering their announced commitment to inclusive and equitable economic development nothing but lip-service.
In nearby Wake County, without a black chamber of commerce, there has already been a financial commitment to inclusive and equitable economic development. Wake County brags as having created the first equitable economic development manager position in the state. Across the country, we find examples like Austin, Texas, where the local African American, Hispanic, and Asian Chambers of Commerce are all funded as economic development partners.
So, as organizations make verbal commitments to racial equity reform, don't simply take their word for it. Take a look at their budget and ask them what financial resources are they committing to, to promote change. What historically marginalized institutions/organizations are they partnering with and empowering to co-lead this change.
Larry C. Borders is the chairman of the board and CJ Broderick is the president/CEO at The Greater Durham Black Chamber of Commerce.
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