Members of San Francisco’s African American Chamber of Commerce met Wednesday with city administrators, and S.F. Travel officials on how to revitalize Black neighborhoods and businesses – in the wake of the chamber’s threat of a Black boycott of tourism in the city.
The boycott was threatened because many in the chamber feel the African American community is not being given equal access to business opportunities in the tourism industry.
The chamber also invited the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners and the Association of African American Meeting Professionals to attend the meeting.
Questions also were raised by those in attendance about why the African American population was decreasing in the city coupled with high unemployment rates.
“There is no reason why there African Americans can’t be included in several of the lucrative construction contracts that are in the city,” said Frederick Jordan, president of the African American chamber. “We’ve seen the service industries like hotel businesses that at one time primarily consisted of African American workers drop steadily with no sign of recovery.”
Jordan said there needs to be more emphasis on promoting, financing, and maintaining Black owned-businesses in San Francisco if the city wants to stop the reverse migration of African Americans.
Dr. Rev. Amos Brown hosted the meeting, making sure council members voices were heard and presenting items on the agenda.
“This is a good start, but we need to emphasize community outreach and come up with tangible solutions,” said Rev. Brown. “We need to be exposed to opportunities to new contracts and avenues for economic growth.”
Other speakers suggested African American committees should provide oversight for contracts to make sure there are equal opportunities.
During the meeting, the chamber called for S.F. Travel to better direct visitors and their dollars to Black neighborhoods and businesses.
“We want to work with everyone here to increase our diversity platform and African American business development,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president of S.F. Travel. “I’m glad I got a chance to hear what the concerns are from the council so that we can brainstorm ideas and come up with viable solutions.”
Among the concerns were that Black workers are largely left out of serving, cooking, and maintenance jobs in the hotel industry and S.F. Travel not include any African American businesses.
“We need to get to the root of why this lack of inclusion is taking place in the city,” said LaVonda Atkinson, a Cost Engineer at the Central Subway Project. “We shouldn’t be talking about diversity for the sake of diversity. Studies have shown that profitability increases for everyone when there is a diverse workplace.”
The council agreed to meet again in April with progress reports from the participating organizations.