The Negro has been inflicted with 244 years of slavery and 100 years of segregation. And so with the legacy of these two unjust systems facing him, it is only natural that he is way behind. And he has been out of the mainstream of American life, he has been on the periphery of American life for all of these years. And it would really be a miracle, that history hasn’t seen for someone to start exactly 344 years behind in a race and get ahead or catch up—unless something special is done. We’ve had special treatment in the negative sense for 344 years. Now we’ve got to get special treatment in the positive sense, in order to catch up and improve these lagging standards.
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1964
By Doni Glover, Publisher
(ANNAPOLIS – March 5, 2023) – Congratulations to Herman Taylor on a “SOLD OUT” MBE Night in Annapolis.
In “Black entrepreneurs and elected officials gather for MBE Night in Annapolis”, I think Megan Sayles did a great job for the Afro Newspaper in capturing the general particulars of the recent MBE Night in Annapolis. Anytime attention is being placed on Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) is a good thing, especially in this freshman year for the new and first Black governor, Wes Moore.
Gov. Moore is noted as stating multiple times how the State of Maryland is nowhere near the goal of 29% full MBE participation. For Black businesses in particular, that number is in the single digits.
In my work with the Black Business Empowerment Commission in Harlem, New York, we’ve toiled arduously to bring attention to the fact that while Blacks comprise 22% of New York City’s population, Blacks only get about 2% of the municipal contracts. This tends to be the trend across the country, including here in Maryland. It makes one wonder if MBE efforts are actually worth it. The grueling MBE certification process with the Maryland Department of Transportation has left many Black business owners questioning the process of having to prove that one is Black.
Historically, white women-owned MBEs tend to get the lion’s share of MBE contracts, and unless the procurement process is better monitored, this practice will only continue. Frankly, that’s what I loved about both the Ehrlich and Hogan administrations: they focused on business. Because they knew they had to prove themselves to Black business owners, their administrations worked extra hard to help Black-owned businesses far beyond the elementary scope of the MBE realm.
On many occasions, former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele and former Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford worked diligently behind the scenes to help Black business owners. It quite often entailed a phone call. Historically, Maryland Democrats have failed to help Black businesses. Sure, there is always the window dressing with the buzzwords like diversity, equity, and inclusion – but at the end of the day, Black businesses are left high and dry.
This governor, however, seems to grasp this history. Recently he told an audience at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum during Black History Month that he has given his procurement officers 60 days to come up with a plan to reach the 29% goal.
This news organization is extremely optimistic that we will see a new day in Maryland for Black-owned businesses.
As M&T Bank’s Jim Peterson was quoted in Sayles’ column, Black businesses are indeed “the lifeblood of any state.” These businesses, which include Black-owned businesses, are a key ingredient in the backbone of Maryland’s economy and must therefore be embraced and supported. This is particularly meaningful to Black-owned businesses in both Baltimore and Prince George’s County, Maryland’s two largest Black centers.
Among the “key takeaways” from MBE Night article was informing Black business owners that they need to get certified on the federal and state levels in order to be considered for contracting opportunities. Another point highlighted was the significance of one’s creditworthiness; without good credit, one will struggle to find access to the capital that is necessary for a business to grow. Stanley Tucker of Meridian Management Group is noted for saying, “You can’t have capitalism without capital.”
Further, the article noted how the US Small Business Administration is an excellent resource that can provide small business owners with technical assistance and help in qualifying for loans.
Several hundred Black business owners showed up, according to reports. In addition to Gov. Moore, Comptroller Brooke Lierman attended, as well as other elected officials.
BMORENews.com was not in the building for what seems like a marvelous event, unfortunately. We were hosting a Black Wall Street event in Baltimore at Terra Café Bmore at the time. Had we known about MBE Night sooner, we would not have scheduled a Black business event at the same time. We would have attended just like we did when former Delegate Herman Taylor hosted the very first MBE Night years ago during the O’Malley administration.
Apparently, BMORENews was not the only Black business advocacy organization not invited to Taylor’s MBE Night.
Some have the belief that this event was merely a stunt by Taylor, who was not a Moore supporter. In fact, Taylor worked against the Moore campaign and fell on the sword for the loser, Peter Franchot.
During the campaign, Franchot had a list of priorities for the Black community, including MBE efforts. However, it fell on deaf ears because it was learned that his entire Black platform was written by Joe Gaskins, a Black business advocate based in Prince George’s County. Gaskins ended up shifting his support to Wes Moore when Franchot’s campaign chose its Lt. Governor candidate.
In short, the MBE/Black business community was not feeling Franchot one iota. While he had some Black support, the vast majority of Black business owners knew that Franchot was going to be a throwback to “Django”, “Roots”, and slavery if he were elected governor. Sure, people like Taylor would have gotten some business. But, the rest of the Black businesses in Maryland would have been left hanging on the vine to whither and die.
And that’s why I was compelled to say something about a topic that I’ve cut my teeth on since BMORENews first began two decades ago. Folks, we have to look beyond the glitz and glamor of the cameras to see the substance of what is really happening.
Taylor used MBE Night to attempt to feather his own nest. Taylor overlooked the real Black business advocates who work with Black businesses all year long, not just over the course of one evening. The really sad part is that these Black business advocates have helped Taylor in the past “like it was nobody’s business.”
MBE Night has a stellar reputation because of, more than anything, the spirit of unconditional love that’s typically present – not the usury that unfolded on Tuesday night in Annapolis. It was poorly planned and poorly advertised. It was exclusive instead of being all-inclusive. Given the thousands of Black-owned businesses across the state, Taylor’s event was totally self-serving. The Black-owned businesses in Maryland clearly deserve better than this.
When we think of a Parren J. Mitchell, a Maynard Jackson or a Marion Barry – what comes to mind is the image of strong Black men who had principles that they followed. DC Mayor for Life Marion Barry made sure that Black millionaires were created on his watch. Some say that Prince George’s County would not have as high a median income if it were not for Barry. And because of Barry, a Wayne Curry would rise up. Curry was a great negotiator who knew his abilities and who used his gifts and talents to create opportunities for Black business owners in Prince George’s County.
These leaders had testicular fortitude and they led. Barry even took a bullet. They didn’t do what they did for themselves. They served their people because they first loved their people. New Jack wannabe politicians like Taylor demonstrate the meaning of spineless. Then they want to smile and take a picture for Instagram as if they are really “ride of die” for the people. It is an insult, to be honest.
Individuals like Herman Taylor love themselves and will use whomever and whatever to do it.
What’s going to change for Black businesses as a result of this event? What are the tangible results?
One major thing that needs to change is the term MBE. When then-Congressman Parren J. Mitchell first pushed the Federal 8(A) program, it was to help Black-owned businesses specifically. States like Maryland jumped on board with their own program. Why? Because of the riots in ’68 that left White America fearful, Let’s just be honest. So, the thought was to give up some concessions – like allowing Black people to move to the counties that gave the promise of better schools. All kinds of Affirmative Action efforts fell in place because America had to appease Black people because Black people were mad and had the propensity to react. Truth be told, the Black Panthers made American law enforcement scared.
So, given that America has shown it understands the plight of Black-owned businesses, isn’t it time to be more deliberate? Isn’t it time the language matches reality?
Frankly, I think that all a Black business owner ought need to do is show up at an office with his or her Black skin, show their business is in good standing, and that should be it. Instead, a small business owner is tasked with a litany of steps that eat up time, energy, and money all to prove that one is a minority.
Anybody in business will tell you it is labor-intensive. Many have walked away from the process altogether.
So the question I have is if it is time for legislators to take another look at what makes sense. Do the MBE efforts matter? Do they make the desired impact?
And suppose that I just want to compete with other prime contractors as a regular business. Is MBE necessary? Well, that’s tricky. The State of Maryland wants certified MBEs for one main reason: they need data for the next disparity study. That’s the only meaningful reason I can gather.
Meanwhile, the state puts out billions of dollars in contracts, and Black businesses, for better or worst, are still in the single digits.
Maybe, we are going around in circles instead of just making the necessary changes. If this is about helping Black-owned businesses, the whole realm of MBE is not enough. In the end, the numbers don’t lie. Man may lie, but the numbers do not.
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