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MBA Shares Insights with Nationwide Equity Roundtable

MBA ACCE DEI July 2020

Reflections from Chamber Minority Business Alliance (MBA) Chair Quinton Harrell

Greetings Minority Business Alliance members and supporters,

We hope this letter finds you all in the best of spirits and belief that we will traverse our challenging time in history and come out on the other end better than we were before.

As we decided last year to relentlessly explore ways to create more value for the MBA membership base, our efforts in financially supporting our members through COVID have unexpectedly garnered national attention. On July 21st, your MBA executive team was honored to serve on your behalf as panelists of the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Round Table discussion for the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE).

With over 60 chamber executives from across the country; from Alaska to Florida, from Chicago to Kansas and all spots in between, we had the opportunity to talk about the Minority Business Alliance, our history, our mission, and our current efforts as an affinity group of the Charlottesville Chamber.

We greatly appreciated the opportunity to share information regarding our organization and the critical importance of intentional focus on and investment in the minority business community. As always, Andrea led the discussion with expert facilitation after setting the stage with the history and transformations of MBA since its 2012 inception, as well as its emergence from the city’s Dialogue on Race initiative. ACCE mentioned the novelty of having member volunteers sharing with their group; however, I was particularly enthused by the novelty of our team’s message to the executives.

Outside of our grant-making partnership with United Way, establishing the MBA Endurance Fund, and strategic process steps shared to establish a group in the spirit of diversity, equity, & inclusion (DEI), I most appreciated Andrea’s points to the group regarding the essential importance of member volunteers, respecting volunteers’ time, and the critical need for leadership from the top to support substantial DEI work.

Kaye’s point of “not starting a minority business group just because” the current, social environment warrants it the thing to do was sharp and succinct. “You must assess what your locale is doing, authentically engage in grassroots discussion, gather data, convene and collaborate with like-minded partners in your networks.”

Racial awareness has grown through the mainstream broadcasting of atrocities inflicted upon people of color. In terms of what a local chamber’s role is in addressing social ills and inequities, Alex shared powerful advice regarding avoiding the ease to delve into the specifics of a high-profile case and not look at the underlying causes. “A volcano explodes from built-up pressure over time; not from one incident.” Economics is at the root, and it is incumbent upon chambers of commerce to formulate and advocate for solutions that address fundamental, economic inequities in our communities.

It was a valuable discussion and we pray the multiple points conveyed by our team will resonate towards substantive guidance towards systems change as we continue the work we’ve committed to well before any and all the heart-breaking, high-profile cases that have captured the community conscience.

As we continue our efforts to serve as change agents and inspire others to join us, the most important point is we remember that couched on the foundation of equity, diversity and inclusion are laudable steps, but not the ultimate goals.

The ultimate goal is economic power in the hands of those of us labeled minorities, expansion of the economic pie which expands prosperity for all, and reaching a societal culture where “minority” is not an official nor required designation for recognition or support in the political landscape or the marketplace.

MBA Executive Committee

Quinton Harrell, Chair
Kaye Monroe, Vice Chair
Alex Urpi, Treasurer
Andrea Copeland-Whitsett, Chamber Liaison

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