Allegheny County Community College is preparing to break ground on a $22 million building that will be named after K. Leroy Irvis, an elected official who demonstrated a deep abiding concern about education, particular that of community colleges. The state-of-the-art building will be officially named the K. Leroy Irvis Science & Technology Center.
Mr. Irvis was also deservedly known as the Lion of Pennsylvania and knowing him as well as I did it would be a grave injustice if M/W/DBEs were denied their fair share of contracts.
The history of inclusion of Blacks and women on projects 98 percent of the time have been dismal, whether they are built by private or government money. Over the years we have used different titles such as quotas, percentages, affirmative action, M/W/DBE, and now diversity. The courts declared quotas, set asides, fronts and percentages illegal, but those who control the process continue to find ways to exclude those of us who seek to sit at the table. After every project is built and a press conference is held there are always bloated M/W/DBE stats provided that would have the general public believing that there is no problem with Black participation. It angers me that the stats will read 27 percent, 32 percent, etc., participation by minorities, but they never explain that the overwhelming percentages were in supplies. Allow me to provide the readers with an example.
A Black company is given a contract to provide 100 sheets of paneling and the paneling costs the contractor $20 a sheet ($8,000) and he is allow to add $2 to sell it the corporation for $22 ($9,200). The corporation then says to the public that the Black company was awarded a $17,200 contract. The Black contractor only made $1,200. Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.
I bring these issues to the table because last week on July 15, the project team that has the responsibility to oversee every phase of the K. Leroy Irvis Science & Technology Center held a pre-bid conference agenda and the entire project team consisted of all White males. In 2010, what kind of message does that send? Was it a message of we were not thinking, we did not understand how we were perceived or is it still that arrogant attitude that we are still in control? Four Blacks, over a glass of wine, stated they were reluctant to make any public comments, but they were greatly upset and asked the question, is this a preview of what we can expect? I emphatically said, hell no, the spirit of protest demonstrated by men like K. Leroy Irvis, Matt Moore, Jim McCoy, Harvey Adams, Byrd Brown, Nate Smith, and others would be awakened in the year 2010.
To the project team you must become conscious of the fact that perception can be more detrimental than reality.
Kingsley Association needs your support more than ever.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)