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People Interview: A Chamber Full of Dreams

People Interview: A Chamber Full of Dreams The San Fernando Valley Black Chamber of Commerce’s Zedar E. Broadous has more in mind than business mixers and networking opportunities. By SHELLY GARCIA Senior Reporter The offices of the San Fernando Valley Black Chamber of Commerce double as headquarters for the Valley chapter of the NAACP. Computers, file cabinets and desks are crammed into the tiny space just behind the First United Methodist Church in Pacoima. Ask Rev. Zedar E. Broadous, who heads both groups, about the chamber’s budget and he shakes his head as if to say, “You’ve got to be kidding.” The budget, it turns out, is the good will of its members, about 75 folks, mostly but not all black, who volunteer their time, skills, even their refreshments, to the six-year-old chamber. The Black Chamber may not have the resources of its more established counterparts, but Broadous is quick to point out that what its members need has little to do with the trappings of civic life. An associate minister at Calvary Baptist Church, a congregation in Pacoima started by his father, Broadous also runs a part-time printing business and, later this month, will re-launch the San Fernando Valley African-American Chronicle News, a community newspaper that has been out of circulation for nearly two years. While he looks forward to the day when the chamber’s budget allows the group to do things like gather research on the size and scope of the Valley’s black business community, the more fundamental job at hand is easing the way for more blacks to start and grow businesses. Much has changed, Broadous says, since he was born in Burbank, in a day when blacks were not allowed to walk the city’s streets after dark, and home ownership outside Pacoima was just a pipe dream. But some things remain the same. Question: Why did you decide to create the San Fernando Valley Black Chamber of Commerce? Answer: The biggest reason was, in the San Fernando Valley proper, there was really no business organization that spoke to the needs and concerns of the African-American community. There are a number of economic and business organizations on the other side of the hill, but if you’re working in the Valley on a daily basis and then at the end of business you have to drive, that was a little trying. Q: What are some of the needs within the black business community that a chamber can fill? A: We realized the biggest thing within the minority community, particularly the African-American community, was misconceptions of business. Part of it is really understanding business plans, for instance, what it takes to put a business plan together, what is a business plan. How do you look for capital to grow your business or even start a business. Q: Don’t people of all backgrounds have many of those same impressions? A: Yes, you’re right. It’s not only an African-American issue, however the African-American community has not had the education and the African-American community has not had the access to capital. Only in the last 10 or 15 years have they really, when it comes to business, had the type of access and even education to business. There’s still a lot of mistrust in the African-American community. Sometimes it’s better if the messenger is someone you know, someone you do trust, someone who has had the same pitfalls that you have so that you can hear the message clearer. Q: What other goals does the chamber have? A: We see a lot of young people who want to be sports stars. Why? Because they do see that. We see a lot of them want to be entertainers and comedians and rap stars. Why? Because they do see that. How do we get them to want to be in business? If they don’t see black folks in business, then how can they hope to be in business? So the perception is, “they won’t let us.” It’s a hangover from the days of segregation and the days of Jim Crow when they would not let us. However, we’re in a new day and time, but if you don’t see African-Americans in business, then the perception of “they don’t let us” persists. Q: Why create a separate chamber instead of joining existing groups? A: The San Fernando Valley Black Chamber is a member of VICA. The San Fernando Valley Black Chamber is a member of the United Chambers of Commerce. I was one of those at the initial meeting for the establishment of the Economic Alliance. Most times a person hears an organization is called by an ethnic name they tend to think they’re trying to be isolationists. We’re not trying to isolate ourselves. What we are doing is looking at a particular segment, a particular market that needs to be shored up, that needs to be expanded. Q: Is there any sort of profile that you’ve developed of the typical black business? A: At this point, no. Again, that is one of the reasons and the need for an African-American chamber to be able to begin to collect that data. All of those things take economic resources as well as people power resources, and those are some of the things we’re working toward. Those are some of the foundational kinds of questions that need to be answered to be able to grow and build African-American businesses and to be able to recycle African-American money in the African-American community and within African-American businesses. Q: So would one of your goals also be to build up the chamber’s membership, to beef up the budget? A: I think the reality is having substantial or solid programs, having solid benefits for those who search out the chamber, with that the membership rolls will grow. I’ve seen many organizations that have thousands of members, yet they’re not doing anything. We want to make sure the San Fernando Valley Black Chamber is doing something; has made the contacts so when a person calls we can say, “OK, you need to call this agency or you need to go to that agency or we’ll call these people for you or come in, let’s talk about the issue or the problem.” Q: Don’t you have to build membership in order to provide those services? A: Not membership in the sense that you have to pay to be a part of this. I think if we increase our visibility and if we increase what we have to offer, that, in and of itself, would have people say, that organization is really concerned about people and not just raising money for its own operations. Q: If you look at the coming year, what are the goals of the chamber? A: The major goal is to increase our visibility, increase our capacity to service businesses. To be able to bring in more experts and offer more workshops and seminars, even in some cases do a one-on-one. Q: What drives you to do what you do? A: All parents tell their children, if you want to succeed in life you have to be better than everybody else. And African-Americans have traditionally had to be 20 or 30 times better than everyone else. The same thing within the Latino community. I think that kind of concept is leveling off to a degree, however, you still have that. And if you don’t know where the resources are to make yourself better, you lose hope. Being able to see an African-American businessperson receive recognition, not only does it give other businesspeople a sense of hope, it gives young people a sense of hope. What drives me? I know people need hope. I need hope. And my hope is, and my prayer is, that through the chamber, through the people in our community that do care, we’ll do the things that make life better, not only for ourselves but particularly our children and our children’s children. SNAPSHOT: Rev. Zedar E. Broadous Age: 53 Title: Chairman and founder of the San Fernando Valley Black Chamber of Commerce; president, San Fernando Valley chapter of the NAACP Education: Bachelor’s degree from Golden Grain Bible College, Saticoy; Coursework, Cal State Northridge Personal: Married, six children, eight grandchildren Most admired person(s): Parents, Rev. Dr. Hillery T. Broadous and Mother Rosa Broadous

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