Minority Enterprise Development Week Greenville, NC.
Minority businesses important for growth,
Julianne Malveaux, president emerita of Bennett College, was the keynote speaker during the MED Week Conference luncheon at the Convention Center on Tuesday.
The Daily Reflector
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
An economist and businesswoman who spoke in Greenville on Tuesday said progress has been made in business when it comes to hiring or awarding contracts to minorities, but it’s important to remember the past while looking ahead.
Julianne Malveaux spoke to a crowd of local minority and women business owners, city officials and community members who gathered at the Greenville Convention Center on Tuesday for a conference, one of several Minority Enterprise Development Week events. The week also will include a Thursday evening event for the MWBE Newcomer’s Club and a Friday night City Crawl-Restaurant Edition.
Malveaux, president emerita of Bennett College in Greensboro and an author and political commentator, delivered the keynote address, titled “The Value Proposition,” and discussed the economy, race relations and the importance of minority business.
Issues like racism and hiring bias come into play in the workplace, Malveaux said, and it’s important to remember our past while building our future.
“The challenge that we have is we don’t know our history,” she said. “And if we know our history, we will get why we still have historically black colleges and universities and still need them… will get why we have to celebrate this week.”
Malveaux said minorities saw a breakthrough when Richard Nixon during his presidency signed two orders that created the Minority Business and Development Agency. Malveaux said one of the executive orders expanded the reach of the agency and allowed the possibility of awarding grants to cities and states to augment their minority business efforts.
“Nixon had his challenges, but in terms of economic participation, he got it: that you cannot have a thriving economy unless you make room for everybody,” she said. “Once upon a time we would talk about engaging minority businesses as a moral imperative, but at this moment in time it’s an economic necessity.”
Malveaux said economic growth will stem from small and medium-sized businesses, international engagement and the growing sectors of the population, which she referred to as the “blacks and browns.”
“We can’t afford to sideline anybody when we start talking about growth and development,” Malveaux said. “We want everybody sitting at the table, we want everybody to have an opportunity to play. Unfortunately, all too often what we end up with is what I call the narrow white occasion, and we just do it this way because we’ve been doing it.”
Contracts for businesses should represent the population, Malveaux said. She suggested that if the city is half black, contracts for businesses should be, too.
“The whole notion of racism is not southern; it’s endemic,” she said. “Exclusion is not southern; it’s endemic.”
Malveaux said scalability has to be discussed if the goal is to develop intergenerational wealth and create jobs.
“The question you have to ask bankers is who am I giving loans to and how?” she said. “We don’t have enough minority businesses and so we really have to grow more.”
Looking ahead to the future and how to improve the economy, Malveaux discussed inclusion for race, gender, and language, which she said are becoming increasingly important with globalization. When it comes to young people, Malveaux stressed the importance of education and understanding how businesses work.
Malveaux encouraged people in attendance to be excited about progress but to focus on what else needs to be done to ensure that minority businesses increase and that their role is recognized.
Business is not the only place minorities experience bias and racism, Malveaux said, mentioning Charlotte, where protests continue after a police officer fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old black man.
“Your know that Charlotte is not going to get better until white folks get as loud as black folks do about this stuff, until white folks are as outraged as black folks about this stuff,” Malveaux said.
“You must know 160-plus black folks being killed by police officers is wrong,” she said. “You must know we have to talk about race and racism in our society. You must know that we must deal with unconscious bias. Some people are experiencing it on the street, but guess what? Some people are experiencing that bias every day as they attempt to do business, so dot the I’s and cross the T’s of our economic groups to ensure that prosperity continues.”
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