Phyllis Kimber-Wilcox | Contributor
“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”
—Martin Luther King Jr.
On Friday, Oct. 29, members of the Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement (CEEM) of San Bernardino met virtually to discuss strategies for community uplift beyond voting in the 2020 election.
The group considered “How to go beyond voting to create better outcomes for our underserved communities.”
The ‘State of the Community’ event focused on how to extend and enhance civic engagement.
Bishop L. Kirk Sykes, pastor of the CrossWord Christian Church of Moreno Valley, opened the meeting with a prayer seeking a unified purpose and connectivity in a world that needs change.
In addition to Kyle Webb, CEEM’s CEO, the panelists included former California Assemblymember Cheryl Brown, currently a California State Commissioner on Aging and the Founder of “Footsteps to Freedom, the Underground Railroad Education Program;” Joseph Williams, an elected member of the San Bernardino County Community College District’s Board of Trustees and appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors—the only resident of the Inland Empire to sit on the Board and former California Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.
The discussion, varied and wide-ranging, reflected the breadth of opinions and experience among the panelists.
Webb described CEEM’s mission succinctly:
“CEEM exists in the Inland Empire to increase access and opportunities for African Americans. We call that ‘increased access parity.’ One of the things that we love about leveraging that word parity is it is measurable. We feel like, as a percent of the economy—its inputs, and outputs—we should be reflected at the same percentage as we are in the community. And so, in the Inland Empire we make up somewhere between six and eight percent of the population and we should have that same percentage and own that same percentage of the entire economy. We also think we should own that same percentage of jobs up and down every career field, especially those where we pay taxes to provide the capital to pay for those employees. So, at city government, at county government, in school districts, etcetera, we should own seven percent of the jobs and seven percent of the income provided by those jobs across the board.
This is the mission, the hope, the goal, the aims, and the expectation of CEEM.
We are a membership cooperative and really, that means we do this as a community, not as a group of individuals and we really need the community to come together so that we can hold people accountable to achieve these ends.
That’s a lot of what we’re talking about today, that’s the majority of our conversation today. How do we come together in a way that is strategic and can hold folks accountable to produce the results that we as a community require?”
The panelists addressed issues currently most impacting Black lives from the devastatingly disproportionate impact COVID-19 has on Black communities, to how voting patterns in these communities may help or hurt their ability to see beneficial change.
Important information was also shared regarding micro-grants available for Black entrepreneurs. Details can be found on every county website under “COVID.”
The panel discussed the President’s “Platinum Plan” as well as Ice Cube’s “Contract For Black America” and spoke to the underlying issue of reparations and the importance of creating Black wealth at the heart of it. The discussion highlighted the theme “The more Black wealth we build, translates culture into commerce.”
The discussion was free flowing and frank, the opinions varied, and the expertise and commitment of the speakers apparent. At a time when everything seems unsettled and up in the air, critics often express concern that those who stepped up to lead can be badly out of step with those they lead. The CEEM forum presented a group of leaders willing to air the same concerns, attitudes, and opinions Blacks express not only at their kitchen tables, but on couches, stoops, yards, and porches, in workplaces and churches. The forum showed community leaders in the inland region are listening. Follow this link to view the forum online.
CEEM is dedicated to increased wealth, prosperity and educational outcomes in the Inland Empire for members of the African American community. It seeks to accomplish this by creating, funding, and promoting businesses. The co-op aims to set a foundation where African Americans of current and future generations can be financially secure. Learn more about CEEM at https://www.facebook.com/CEEMCoop/about/?ref=page_internal.