Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: September/October 2023

The recent riverfront brawl in Montgomery, AL refocused attention on the racial divide that has infected our nation for centuries.  And while I want to make it very clear that I don’t condone violence, I do believe that we all have a right to defend ourselves against unwarranted and unjustified physical attack.            

But even more important in this instance, African-Americans who did not know one another came together to protect one of their own that was being brutally beaten down by an aggressive family mob.   While the attack appeared to be motivated by racism, we cannot be certain what occupied their minds during this assault on a brother who was simply trying to carry out his responsibilities as a security guard.   But we can be sure that by joining forces to come to his aid, they prevented him from receiving more serious injuries and even worse.            

There is a lesson here to be learned, even for us in the hospitality/meetings/travel industry.   As I have said repeatedly in the past, the hospitality industry has not been very hospitable to African-Americans and other people of color.   All you need do is look at the facts, which speak for themselves.   There is no justifiable reason for African-Americans to be heading up only 10-11 of the more than 700 CVBs in the nation if skin color didn’t come into play.   I know tons of Black industry professionals who are more than qualified to successfully fill such an executive position if they were just given the chance.  

Any of you who follow industry news must already know that the cruise industry recently cleaned house of most African-Americans in senior leadership positions.  And the numbers aren’t much better in the lodging, airline and state departments of tourism sectors either.
So how can we address these issues in a way that will have a positive impact to change this picture?  For starters we need, like our brothers and sisters did down in Montgomery, to come together for a common cause.   Collectively, we have economic clout, and until we decide to leverage this clout, things will stay the same.
Planners, when you are exploring a destination or a venue for an upcoming event, don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions, especially if you don’t see enough people that look like you.  If we don’t insist that Black folks be hired and promoted at every level, nothing will change.   And for you brothers and sisters who through your hard work, dedication and skills have managed to inch your way closer or to the top of the corporate ladder, don’t sit idly by while you see other people of color denied opportunities, access to jobs, promotions, vendor opportunities and such.   You must be willing to rock the boat, and cause “good trouble” as the late, great Congressman John Lewis often encouraged.
For those of you in our community (and our allies) who have already seen the light and are doing your part, we thank you, and we know who you are.  But there are far too many of us who are playing it safe and have not even taken that first step.   We know who you are too!   Remember that silence is consent!   It’s never too late to join in the fight, and we welcome your participation.
The ball is in our court, as the saying goes.  We can unify to take needed action that that will forever change the relevance we have in this industry, or we can continue to complain to each other, and then quietly grin and bear it.

Solomon J. Herbert



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