Its potential influence at the legislature is exactly what our community needs now
In this column we will discuss the recent issue surrounding the Council on Black Minnesotan’s (CBM). The mission of CBM according to their website is to ensure that the needs of all Minnesotans of African descent are clear to the policymakers who impact their well-being by providing equal protection of the law and guaranteeing that this community receives and has access to state services and programs.
In other words, the CBM’s main purpose is to advocate for policies that protect the interest of African Americans in Minnesota and to inform the community about those policies.
The CBM is set to disband in 2012 as the legislation that created it will sunset. The CBM has been in existence since 1980. The H.I.T. started examining the CBM in detail after there was a serious conflict that had taken place at one of the board meetings.
We had been hearing rumblings for a while that the CBM was not fulfilling its mission to the Black community. Individuals had stated that the only thing the CBM did was to organize the state MLK parade every year.
Looking at the CBM from an objective standpoint, one would have no choice but to agree with that sentiment.
Recently the longtime executive director of the CBM was fired, let go, allowed to resign or whatever — all we know is that he is no longer there. Immediately after the executive director was let go, people began to publicly criticize the organization and its former director. Some were even calling for the disbandment of the organization.
I would caution those who are doing so, because if used as it was intended the CBM could be of great benefit to the community.
The CBM has habitually not had policy experts on their board — no offense intended to those who have served or are serving now. This could not be more evident than by the CBM website failing to list any policy initiatives or policy issues on the horizon that may have an impact on the community. The most detailed information on the website has to deal with tobacco education.
The CBM has for too long been in lockstep with the DFL. As a result, we have found that this association has been the greatest hindrance to the success of the organization. The CBM has not been able to advocate for Blacks because such advocacy would often conflict with the wishes of the DFL.
One has to look no further than the crisis at MNDOT in terms of hiring people of color over the last three decades. The CBM’s greatest failure was to advocate for and/or enact legislation that would have ensured that MNDOT hiring practices were fair to Blacks.
How many millions of dollars has the community been cheated of and how many jobs lost by this failure? CBM staff members are paid lobbyists, but unfortunately they failed to lobby effectively for the needs of the community. By doing so they would come into conflict with their DFL buddies who year after year threatened to cut the funding of the organization if they didn’t carry their water.
So now, after a group of ministers crashed a board meeting because “the resurrection” minister didn’t get to speak at an MLK dinner and the 20-year executive director is gone, the CBM is once again facing the axe.
Given that the legislature is now controlled by Republicans who believe that racism no longer exists and who want to cut every program on the planet, it is highly unlikely that the CBM will be around past 2012. This will be a tragedy, because the organization is exactly what the community needs now.
Organizations within our community don’t have the resources for lobbyists at the capitol advocating our issues, and that is why the CBM was created — so that the community, at least in theory, would have access to the legislative process. The interests of the community are not being represented at the capitol, and the community is not being informed about legislative issues that impact our daily lives.
I hope that the CBM can be saved and that those involved put the needs of the community first. We can always hope, right? If we keep trying to destroy our community organizations, one day we will look up and not have any.
It’s hard enough as it is to get good people to want to serve in community organizations without us tearing them down. Remember, we can always remove people without destroying an organization.
Booker T Hodges welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.