By Nadege Green
Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Jean Monestime recently hosted a summit called “The State of Black Miami”
The summit addressed economic opportunities and quality-of-life issues.
Here is an edited excerpt of his conversation with WLRN’s Nadege Green about the state of black Miami:
What is the state of black Miami as you see it in 2016?
Access to education, economic empowerment…For the past five years we’ve gotten information that less than 2 percent of county contracts are given out to black businesses. Maybe the county is not making enough of an effort to give a bigger piece of the pie to black businesses. Maybe we need more qualified black contractors or business people.
If it’s the latter, we definitely have to do a better job of getting contractors trained, registered and certified to do business with government.
But if it’s the former, if it’s that because there are biases, I think a bigger political push has to be made to let the establishment understand that you know what we are here too.
There is an ongoing conversation happening right now about contracts at the Miami International Airport and whether black-owned businesses like Jackson Soul Food and Chef Creole are getting equal treatment compared to Cuban-owned businesses.
Which communities here have more clout?
I’m sure everybody listening to this interview knows which community has more clout. It appears based on what the conversation is today that there has not been a level playing field. It could have been mistakes that have been made, but if it’s deliberate we definitely have to fix it one way or another.
The county recently bailed out the Frost Museum after it failed to secure enough financing for construction. You were critical of the $49 million bail out—even though you voted for it. You said there have not been similar bail outs for cultural institutions in the black community, but for affluent communities, “We find ways to solve problems.”
Can you give me an example of one of those institutions that needed a bailout but didn’t get it.
I don’t think it matters to go into the details. But what I wanted to convey is at times when mistakes are made in the less affluent community we look at this community as a failure. But when the same mistakes take place in the affluent communities we quickly find solutions.
I just want us to understand that this is a very diverse Miami-Dade County we all are part of this great mosaic of culture, of people. We need to be sensitive to one another. We need to pull each other up instead of pushing each other down.
Being black myself, being Caribbean American, Haitian American, I think it’s important we sit as a family trying to understand the issues that face us and what policies can be brought forth to address some of these problems.