African American News

"Black Leaders Call on Geldof and Live 8 Talent for Support in Their Economic Struggle"

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PHILADELPHIA, June 20 -- A coalition of predominantly African-American business, civic and community leaders, working with Philadelphia's African-American Chamber of Commerce (AACC), today likened the economic exclusion of blacks in the City of Brotherly Love to the economic hardship suffered by sub-Saharan African nations and have called on the event organizer, Bob Geldof, and the entertainers scheduled to participate in Philadelphia's Live 8 Concert, to intervene on their behalf or to cancel Philadelphia as a concert venue.

According to the members of the Philadelphia Coalition to Eliminate Economic Injustice from Live 8, the city of Philadelphia has made no public commitment to ensure that black vendors and businesses will fairly participate in the anticipated $40 million in expenditures that are expected to result from the concert.

In fact, the AACC sent a hand-delivered letter on June 14, to the City's Commerce Director, to Mayor John F. Street, to members of Philadelphia City Council and to Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell, requesting black vendor, business and workforce participation at Live 8 and at a center city vendor's mall, before, during and after Live 8. In response to that letter, the Commerce Director has replied that black vendors can begin doing business at the vendor's mall only "after July 4," and the city has made no public commitment that there will be appropriate levels of black business involvement in the concert planning and related business opportunities.

The Coalition points out that Philadelphia has a long history of excluding black businesses from full economic participation and that it is hypocritical of the city to participate in an event whose purpose is to bring economic equity to Africans while Philadelphia continues to actively discriminate against black businesses locally.

The Coalition further stresses that, while blacks constitute the city's largest population segment, at 43.2%, the city of Philadelphia has involved black businesses in just .7% (less than one percent) of annual government contract revenues. U.S. Census data also indicate that black businesses participate in just .9% (less than one percent) of the city's private sector gross receipts.

Commenting on the situation, A. Bruce Crawley, chairman of the African- American Chamber said: "Apparently, Mr. Geldof and his colleagues have some awareness of the economic challenges faced by blacks in Philadelphia. In fact, the Philadelphia Inquirer, in exploring the reasons why Philadelphia was selected as a concert venue over other U.S. cities, quoted event producer Tim Sexton as saying: 'You can't think about poverty without looking at the streets of Philadelphia, where that's an issue.'"

"With that understanding," added Crawley, "we call on Mr. Geldof, on Dikembe Mutombo, on Jay-Z, on Stevie Wonder, Bon Jovi, P. Diddy, Destiny's Child, the Dave Matthews Band and other talent related to the Philadelphia venue to speak to city government on our behalf and to demand that blacks right here in Philadelphia also benefit by the good work they intend to do for Africa.

"And, if for some reason, this city turns a deaf ear, on this critical issue, to the event organizers and to its entertainers in the same way that it has to the local black community, then we encourage the Live 8 concert planners to withdraw from the Philadelphia venue. The fact is that their participation will simply serve to perpetuate the economic exclusion that the Philadelphia black community has suffered under this and previous mayors."

"To come to Philadelphia and have an event to assist blacks in Africa, while ignoring and actively discriminating against blacks who are facing economic hardship right here is, at the very least, hypocritical," said Coalition member Debra Moore of It's a Family Affair, a local community-based organization.

The Coalition members say they will continue to work diligently to bring economic equity to their community, both for the Live 8 concert and beyond. They have committed themselves to have direct dialogue with the concert organizers and talent and to having continuous sporadic demonstrations throughout the city, leading up to the scheduled concert. They are also encouraging blacks and all Philadelphians who believe in fairness and equity, to contact the mayor and other elected officials to bring about fair levels of inclusion by blacks and other minorities in the city's business opportunities.

"In the same way that the Live 8 concerts have been designed to influence the G-8 nations, this ongoing local economic exclusion of blacks is an issue that must be addressed by government. It can no longer be swept under the rug, or hidden when polite company comes to visit," said Robert Gray, a Coalition member who heads the African-American Freedom and Reconstruction League.

"Black families and black neighborhoods in Philadelphia are suffering every day because of this issue. Now is the time to do something about it," said Stanley Crawford, a long-time vendor and Coalition member.

Founded as the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Philadelphia in 1994, the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware is the leading private sector advocate for black-owned businesses and African-American economic development in the tri-state area. Headquartered at 1735 Market Street in Center City Philadelphia, the Chamber represents the interests of such businesses in both public and private sector forums. The organization also offers management and technical assistance programs to improve the effectiveness of black-owned businesses in the region. According to the Census Bureau, there are 16,010 African-American-owned businesses in southeast Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and northern Delaware.

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