lorraine-c-miller_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

There are 1.9 million African-American-owned businesses in the U.S. but only 10,026 produce $1 million each year in income, according to Lorraine C. Miller, a member of the NAACP national board of directors and former clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“These are potential jobs and we need to do a much better job in recognizing that,” Miller said as she addressed the NAACP’s national leadership summit over the Memorial Day weekend in Hollywood.

A town hall session explored the job market and the political responsibilities of African-Americans in light of the growing Hispanic population.

Part of the reason there are so many small black businesses is the economic contraction the country is experiencing, said Charles Ellison, politics editor of The Loop 21.

“There is a very high unemployment rate… more than 30 percent for African- Americans. And a lot of us are having trouble securing jobs and have become entrepreneurs. And that speaks to our heritage, our tradition of survival,” Ellison said.

The topic of the May 28  event was “Town Hall Meeting 2012: What’s the Next Step?” Miller and Ellison were among the panelists for the event which formed part of the four-day NAACP Annual Leadership 500 Summit, now in its seventh year, which was held at the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa.

Also on the panel were Hilary O. Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy and policy and director of the NAACP's Washington Bureau and the Rev. Leah Daughtry, Democratic strategist and pastor of The House of the Lord Church in Washington, DC.

Miller said that African- Americans have been groomed to work in traditional job markets, adding, “But that market is changing; leaning toward health care … education. If we are unable to fill those jobs, we need to look at how we match what the market is doing.”

But there is a “blue code,” a silence among human resources people saying that they “don’t want to hire someone who is not already working,” said BET correspondent April Woodard, who moderated the discussion. “And companies need to be held accountable for their own practices that are discriminatory.”

Blacks, Woodard said, are no longer the “minority majority.” One of every six people in America is Hispanic and Hispanics will be the majority very soon, she said. “What can we do to get more power, to get people to recognize us?” she asked.

Miller responded: “One thing that concerns me about the growing Hispanic population is that we are asleep at the wheel on the political side, locally. We have laid the groundwork; done the heavy lifting … their parents weren’t hosed or beaten over the head. We must pay attention to this paradigm shift, pay attention on a local level.”

The Latino sector is not monolithic, just like the African-American population is not monolithic, Ellison said. The black population is still very dominant.

“You still see that political tension, especially with respect to immigration issues. Republicans used the immigration issue as sort of a divide-and-conquer [tactic] between the black and Latino voters in the 2012 election. Latino voters are still about 65 percent Democrats and not feeling Republicans well at all.”

South Florida has a different predominance, in terms of its Hispanic population, Shelton said. “It’s more Cuban … Cuban nationals. There is a different kind of relationship between the Cuban and African-American communities in southern Florida.”

Politically, he added, “We need to support a candidate who is fair and will represent people of color across-the-board. Everybody who looks like us is not for us.”

Cynthia Roby can be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net.