Wouldn’t it be great if those in need of help were asked what help they need?

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Organizations like the Florence Chamber of Commerce, the Florence County Progress and countless others are working hard to support minorities, families and small businesses during the covid-19 crisis, but we need to make applying for funding easier for those who have few resources and those who don’t understand the application process for federal and state programs. One size doesn’t fit all—families, churches, schools, service industries and businesses, large and small, have different needs that can be met only by talking to the people who need help.

A few days ago, I was on a conference call with over 100 African American publishers and the Congressional Black Caucus leadership committee—a call in which the Caucus spent over an hour trying to tell the publishers what they wanted from us but didn’t once ask what they could do to help the publishers.

That conference call came two weeks after the passage of the “Cares Act”, a $2trn program to help families and businesses through these unprecedented times. But what about the small and minority businesses that don’t meet federal loan criteria, the mom and pop businesses that will have to settle for a one-time payout of $600-$1200?

And what about small businesses with low credit scores or tax challenges? Where will they turn to rebuild businesses that have served the community for generations?

A few years ago, I realized that I did a lot of talking—I talked more than I listened—so I had some baseball caps made with the word “LISTEN” printed on the crown, not to remind others to listen to me but to remind me to listen to others.

President Trump’s favorite campaign slogan was “Make America Great Again.” Now is the time to make America listen.

In the coming days, the Congressional Black Caucus plans to hold conference calls with leading stakeholders in the African American community, including church leaders, Black elected officers, African American doctors and other professionals. There will be a lot of talk but will they listen?

To this newspaper, it seems that the problem with African American leadership is that it fails to understand the needs of those it serves. All too often being liked is more important than being useful. Many people get a handshake, a smile and a sympathetic nod when what they need are programs to help them build their lives as parents, citizens and business owners.

To come from a community is one thing, but to live in a community gives you a perspective that you cannot get elsewhere. Many of our leaders live apart from those they represent—and until they know the community and what it needs, little will get done.

As for media organizations like ours, many inside and outside our communities believe that radio and print media should run free ads promoting their programs and events.

Federal programs, large corporations and local government agencies invest millions of dollars in public relations firms to get their messages placed in newspapers or on radio stations. Without paid ads, no media organization can survive because no bank or creditor considers a news release or public service announcement as a bank deposit. While we do what we can, we also have to fund our newspaper.

So, wouldn’t it be better if grants included funds for the use of African American media in the budget? That way the whole community benefits.

This crisis will pass one day, but our communities will not heal and grow until we learn to respect, value and listen to the needs of all stakeholders.

The Community Times, like similar media organizations, wants to share the community’s voices.

But those voices will not be heard until someone listens.

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