Bringing Job Opportunities to Women and Minorities through the Tennessee Minority Business Development Center
September 3, 2021
This week, I was pleased to see my efforts to bring jobs to women and minorities rewarded when the MMBC Continuum secured a five-year Department of Commerce grant to operate the Tennessee Minority Business Development Center, expanding its footprint statewide. I also welcomed the end of the “forever war” in Afghanistan. We all knew that this withdrawal, after 20 years, would be difficult but we also know that it was the right thing to do. I have been in Memphis all this week holding a series of virtual and in-person meetings and have grown increasingly concerned about COVID case rates and the ability of our hospitals to keep pace. I also applauded the National Civil Rights Museum for selecting Michelle Obama and the Poor People’s Campaign for this year’s Freedom Awards; praised the leadership of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for offering good guidance on a mask mandate for children in schools and for its work evaluating a coronavirus vaccine for children; announced a major grant to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) to study sickle cell disease; announced $3.3 million in grants to Porter-Leath’s Head Start programs; and offered a health tip. Keep reading and follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see what I’m doing as it happens.
On Monday, I was pleased to have helped create more job opportunities and training for women and minorities by helping the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum (MMBC Continuum) leadership secure a $1,875,000, five-year grant to operate the Tennessee Minority Business Development Center. Formerly known as the Memphis Minority Business Development Center, the renamed operation will expand to work with minority- and women-owned businesses statewide, helping them get financing and creating good-paying jobs. It will also partner with private companies to leverage the federal assistance. I worked for three years to bring the center to Memphis in 2012, along with my then-staff member Michal Fulton who is now Director of Government Affairs and Business Diversity Development at the Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority. I was also pleased to write the Department of Commerce officials in support of the grant. See my release on the development here.
Ending the war in Afghanistan was the right decision that I have encouraged four presidents to take. The deteriorating situation after the Afghan army dissolved and turned the country over to the Taliban made what was always going to be a difficult undertaking even more so. We lost 2,461 service members in Afghanistan, including 13 killed in the suicide bombing that took place outside the Kabul airport last week. I mourn their loss and remember their sacrifices and the sacrifices of their families. On Tuesday, as he was announcing the end of the war, the President pointed out the $2 trillion we have spent over twenty years amounted to $300 million a day for two decades. I agree that it was no longer in the national interest to referee a civil war and I am hopeful our diplomacy and the work of non-governmental organizations will mitigate our worst fears about the future of Afghanistan. I join with all Americans in thanking all those who served in Afghanistan for their service to our country and for their sacrifices.
The Delta variant of the coronavirus has led to extremely high, record rates of COVID in Memphis with 97 percent of all ICU beds in the Memphis metropolitan area in use. Most of those hospitalized and most of the deaths are among the unvaccinated. Although I am encouraged that the high infection rate has prompted the hesitant to get the shot, we still have too many unvaccinated and have to remain vigilant, wear masks indoors, and encourage those in positions of leadership to heed public health guidance.
The National Civil Rights Museum this week announced that former First Lady Michelle Obama and the Poor People’s Campaign inspired by the Reverend William J. Barber will receive this year’s 30th annual Freedom Awards on October 14. I congratulate all those involved in the decision and the winners of this prestigious national honor.
Last week, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital President and CEO Dr. James Downing released an open letter to Governor Bill Lee and all in positions of authority pleading that they stop permitting parents to opt out of mask mandates for children in schools. “Why are we debating whether children should be protected amid a raging pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 in the U.S. alone?” he asked. I thank him for speaking out and urge everyone to heed his guidance. Tennessee now leads the nation in per capita coronavirus cases. I also commend St. Jude for its ongoing work evaluating a juvenile coronavirus vaccine.
On Thursday, I announced that the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) will receive a significant grant from one of the National Institutes of Health to study sickle cell disease. See my release here.
Earlier today, I announced that Porter-Leath’s Head Start programs will be receiving more than $3.3 million in grants from the Department of Health and Human Services, including more than $2 million to expand its Early Head Start programs. See my release here.
The rate of coronavirus infection and hospitalization are setting daily records in the Memphis metro area, and are higher that they were in January -- before the widespread availability of effective vaccines. I don’t need to remind you that, as autumn approaches, we will be indoors again and it is obvious we will need to be masked. I will continue to make available the best guidance on booster shots for those already fully vaccinated and again urge those who are not to get the shot.
Vaccines are currently available for everyone 12 and older. If you need a ride to a vaccination site, you can call 901-RIDE901 (901-743-3901) to coordinate the best transportation option for you. The City of Memphis is also now coordinating with organizations, congregations, community groups, and businesses to host coronavirus vaccinations. The Pipkin Building at the old Mid-South Fairgrounds is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. No appointments needed. To find the latest information about vaccination sites, to request a vaccination appointment for a homebound individual, or to set up a community coronavirus vaccination event, visit https://covid19.memphistn.gov/.
“The essence of trade unionism is social uplift. The labor movement has been the haven for the dispossessed, the despised, the neglected, the downtrodden, the poor.” – A. Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
I wish everyone a happy Labor Day.
As always, I remain.