CBC Members Vow to Escalate Protests

Hazel Trice Edney | 12/14/2009, 12:06 p.m.

The 10 Black members of the powerful House Finance Committee are still being applauded this week for boldly boycotting a committee meeting in order to force a $4 billion allocation to benefit the Black community.

They have told the NNPA News Service that they plan to escalate protests if lawmakers continue to ignore the suffering of their constituents, including advertising discrimination against Black newspapers.

€We€re out of the box, we€re full speed ahead and we are not going to sit back and watch our communities suffer in silence,€ says U. S. Rep. Maxine Waters, the ranking Congressional Black Caucus Member on the Committee, who led the Dec. 2 boycott.€The 10 African-American members of the Financial Services Committee have cooperated with the leadership, we have cooperated with the administration, we have supported the bail out and now we€re saying, what do we get for all of this cooperation? What are we delivering to our communities? And the answer is little or nothing.€

Describing horrid conditions in their districts that clearly illustrate disparate suffering in the African-American communities, each of the 10 members €" in separate interviews - described what their constituents are dealing with and told why they must continue to act.

€Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are being bombarded with requests for assistance by minority businesses that have no capital,€ continued Waters.

€The banks won€t lend them any money. They€re either closing down or threatening to be closed down. The joblessness is off the scale. Not only do we have long lines seeking unemployment, but on Thanksgiving Day around the country - including the scenes that came out of Atlanta and Los Angeles €" there were thousands of people standing in line for turkeys and turkey dinners.

In Los Angeles, I walked a four-block square place where they were giving out baskets. In that line were the disabled. One lady was 94 years old.€

Joblessness, frustration, hopelessness €" the sentiments are synonymous from state to state.

€They€re going through a tremendous, tremendous desperation effort,€ said Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.). €Even if you look at all of your own newspapers, advertising dollars are not there. We sit here as Congress people with tremendous leverage and power. It was so important for us to use that leverage.€

What the 10 Black members did was boycott the committee€s final vote on a broad-sweeping financial overhaul bill. Instead, they were over at the White House trying to obtain greater funding for economic advances in the Black community.

The vote passed narrowly, but the CBC€s action effectively forced $4 billion to the table to go directly toward helping people keep their homes after they€ve lost their jobs.

In addition to the needs of Black businesses, home owners and the jobless, a news release describing the boycott specifically sighted the importance of spending federal advertising dollars with Black newspapers.

€Like other businesses, access to capital has been a challenge for this industry as well. With declining ad revenues, newspapers everywhere are struggling to survive,€ the statement said.

Danny Bakewell, chairman of the 200-member National Newspaper Publishers Association, was credited by several members for helping to spark the protest by his firebrand lobbying around Capitol Hill. Bakewell said he is delighted at the stance taken by the CBC, but much more must be done to recognize the power of the Black Press to the nation.

€We have been the backbone and the foundation on which America was built. And in this case, what we are realizing is that we continue to be the foundation on which many of these corporations make their profits and develop their brands throughout the country and we€re not going to continue to sit idly by and let them do that while the very fabric of our community is crumbling from within.

We€re serving notice on General Motors, Ford, Toyota, and other automotive companies and the automotive industry that there will be no more business as usual.€

Bakewell and NNPA Foundation Chair Dorothy R. Leavell have begun a series of meetings with corporations and have already made inroads.

€We€ve met with AT&T. They have been very receptive. They represent what we believe at this point we can say is a good corporate citizen,€ Bakewell said. €We€re not asking for a bail out or a hand out, we€re asking for reciprocity and respect.€

Bakewell explained that the Black community, Black newspapers included, are being shortchanged for the dollars they spend with businesses and corporations.

€We€re asking what percentage of the market share do we represent a company€s business, their profit margin? If we represent one percent, we don€t expect to get anything more than one percent. But, if we represent 50 percent, we expect to have 50 percent of their resources and their effort going to strengthen their brand and building their brand in our community.€