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Industry Briefs

Solomon J. Herbert

Black Meetings & Tourism is proud to present this year's Apex Awards to a slate of deserving leaders in our industry who have positively impacted travel, tourism and hospitality.   The 2021 recipients include Darren Green, Senior Vice President, Sales & Services for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board; Dzidra Junior, Vice President of business Development, YMCA of the Rockies and President of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals:   Fred Dixon, President and CEO of NYC & Company; Leslie Whitlow Graves, President and CEO of Experience Prince George's; Lorne Edwards, Senior Vice President, Sales & Services at Visit Phoenix;   Patricia Washington, President and CEO of Visit Alexandria;   and Twila Jones, Senior Sales manager for Experience Columbia SC.

While this is decidedly a joyful time for us at BM&T to not only recognize the contributions and accomplishments of those who value and respect the $129 Billion+ African-American market segment, it is also a time when we cannot help but reflect on our collective status and the inroads we have made into this industry.  We are so honored to present Apex Awards to Leslie Graves and Patricia Washington.   They are empowered women who have given us all so much to be proud of.   But they also bring to mind that they are two of only four African-American women who lead CVBs in the nation.   And Black men aren't faring much better, holding only six CVB president slots themselves.   It's hard to fathom that though we are better than 13% of the population, only 10 of the approximately 700 CVBs are headed by African-Americans (that's just 1.5%).   That is disgraceful to say the least!   As I have said for years, the hospitality industry has not been very hospitable to African-Americans and other people of color.   And it's up to all of us to fix that and truly embrace diversity, inclusion and equity.

In my opinion, efforts must start at the local level to change this disturbing picture.  Case in point.   Without calling anyone out, while performing research for the area guides included in the current September/October issue, I discovered that one of the CVBs that represents a city with an overall population that is 31% African-American (and has one district in the city where Blacks were 70% of residents), didn't have a single African-American on the leadership level team of 11.   If they are not even in the room, the prospects are zero that African-Americans and other people of color have any chance of moving up the corporate ladder.   They must first get on the ladder!

Now understand that each DMO has a board of directors that makes decisions about who to hire when it comes to president/CEOs and executive directors.  So you local travel, tourism, hospitality and lodging industry leaders, and perhaps even more importantly, you meeting planners and association executives, must take a stand, and begin applying pressure to these boards to do the right thing and end the cycle of covert racism.   The ball is in your court, and if you want to see change as much as I do, you will take action and stop being so passive.

Solomon J. Herbert
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