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Blacks more involved in national conventions.

African-Americans are playing important roles as both the Democrats and Republicans finalize preparations to send their presidential nominees on to the November elections. At the upcoming Democratic and Republican national conventions for the 1992 elections blacks are serving as administrators and vendors in unprecedented numbers.

The most significant gains can be seen at the Democratic National Convention, to be held in New York City's Madison Square Garden July 13-16. For the first time ever, blacks dominate the administrative roles at the convention. Under Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) Chairman Ronald H. Brown, Alexis M. Herman will serve as convention CEO, Mario M. Cooper as convention manager and Frank Williams Jr. as convention CFO.

In addition, 23 blacks were named to key positions on three convention standing committees. Key appointments went to New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins and Washington, D.C., delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who were named vice chairs of the Platform Committee and Rep. Louis Stokes (D-Ohio) and Seattle, Wash., Mayor Norman Rice, who are vice chairs of the Rules Committee.

As CEO of the convention, Herman, 43, overseas a $35 million budget. She must make sure that the DNCC's 200 staffers and the 6,000 volunteers on the Host Committee are deployed properly. She manages and influences the financing, communications and infrastructure needs of the convention.

About 40,000 visitors are expected to attend the convention, including 15,000 members of the press, 4,922 delegates and alternates, 500 foreign dignitaries and a number of other guests. New York City has contributed $20.8 million of the $35 million budget, with the DNCC picking up the rest. City officials estimate that the convention will infuse $473 million into New York's beleaguered economy.

Herman hopes to double the number of minority firms that have traditionally done business at the Democratic National Convention. "As a black woman, I feel a special need for inclusion and diversity.... I work hard to have a staff that reflects the diversity of the Party and the country," she says.

As of April 27, Herman said minority firms received nearly 20% of the contracts awarded up to that point. "We have more minority participation--particularly by African-Americans and Hispanics--than there has ever been in the history of the Party," says Herman.

The New York Consortium of Minority Brokers is one of the early benefactors of Herman's presence. The group of eight small New York-based insurance companies will provide $1.2 million in general liability insurance for the convention. The eight firms (five are black-owned, two Hispanic-owned and one-Asian-owned) will share a $10% commission on the $1.2 million premium.

"We competed against major brokers [to win the contract], says consortium President John D. McAllister. "We decided that if we could come together as a group, we could offer the same services as a larger firm. That way, we could walk away with 100% of the pie."

At press time, the DNCC was planning to award other contracts, including a $5 million construction contract and security contracts ranging from $250,000 to $500,000. Bids for contracts to provide plants and other decorations were also being sought.

* Minority participation at the Republican National Convention, to be held at the Houston Astrodome Aug. 17-20, is up from 1988. There will not be any high-ranking black administrators at the convention. However, Republican National Committee (RNC) officials say blacks are well-represented among the 27% minorities and women on the nonpartisan Houston Host Committee.

Bill Calhoun, chairman of The Black Republican Council of Texas, has been recruiting minorities to participate as volunteers and vendors. "I've identified 10 different areas for minorities to have input, including banking, insurance, catering and transportation," he says.

"We have a real opportunity to refine the process."

* Convention press secretary Joe Fleming says the convention has a $20 million budget and may generate more than $60 million for the City of Houston. However, as of May 1, no one had won a contract. The Republicans have entrusted the responsibility for construction and most other convention services to The Freeman Cos. Freeman must comply with Houston's Minority/Women Business Enterprise goals. The goals mandate that 15% of the company's $5 million Host Committee contract be awarded to minority- and women-owned firms.

Frimel R. Gillum Jr., CEO of the Texas Printing Co., is expecting a $50,000 contract to publish the convention's newspaper. "We pursued the RNC... I saw this as an opportunity to do business at a major function," he says.

It remains to be seen if a significant number of entrepreneurs such as Gillum benefit from the Republican National Convention. But it is clear that the increased involvement of blacks in both major political parties' conventions bodes well for the future.
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Author:Sturgis, Ingrid
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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