The Greater San Diego Business Association, known as San Diego's Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, was asked Wednesday if it’s ready to accept members of color -- a group that is "coming out in droves."
Eugene Cornelius Jr., the U.S. Small Business Association’s deputy associate administrator for field operations, spoke about the “Many Faces. One Dream” tour at the association’s luncheon at the W Hotel.
The tour was launched in July 2013 as a partnership between the SBA and the National Black Justice Coalition. Its goal is to economically empower LGBT communities of color by incorporating them into local chambers and fostering economic opportunities.
“Many Faces” refers to the LGBT’s representation of people from all walks of life, including but not limited to blacks, Asians, Native Americans, Latinos, Caucasians, veterans and people with disabilities.
The “One Dream” is the dream that every American has and has a right to, Cornelius said: to be his or her own boss; to create his or her own business.
“Most of you know that when you start your own business and you start employing people from the community, you reduce the suicide rate among the community,” Cornelius said, adding that the suicide rate is highest among the LGBT community.
The tour makes the gay and lesbian community a civil rights issue by connecting it with the community of color, he said.
“I cannot do the tours and get the gay and lesbian community as a whole -- not the people of color community, but as a whole -- to the point in which we are considered a part of that 8(a) socially disadvantaged discriminated group if I do not start there in the people of color community, and if I do not create an environment where you are bringing them into your chamber and expanding membership,” Cornelius said.
SBA’s 8(a) program helps socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs compete in the marketplace and gain a foothold in government contracting, according to the SBA.
The tour's objective is to show Congress and the administration who makes up the LGBT population and make sure that the community is included in SBA’s programs and services, he said.
Bringing economic development, wealth and financial security to the community leads to education and lower suicide rates, he said.
The tour serves as an introduction to chambers such as the association to “an exclusive group that you have not been able to reach,” Cornelius said. He added that the number of business owners in the LGBT people of color community is “coming out in droves.”
He asked the group if it was ready to partner with the SBA to promote and provide access to capital, contracting opportunities, counseling and training opportunities, and exporting opportunities.
“Are you ready and are you going to be inclusive, or are you going to limit your growth and your desires? And if you’re ready, then there’s a world of opportunity out there,” Cornelius said.
Four tours have been completed, and the original schedule for 13 cities has been expanded to 24 as a result of requests from people who want it to see it in their communities, Cornelius said.
He said he sees the LGBT community in five years with the privileges and rights to have every benefit the federal government affords every minority in their operations as far as business and goods and services.
“I see us as a strong advocate for developing our own communities, reducing our high unemployment rate, reducing our suicide rate and creating wealth," Cornelius said. "I see us doing all kinds of things that we have always in the back of our minds wished and desired because everything in our social sphere is driven by economic development."
The legacy Cornelius said he wants to leave with SBA is to have incorporated his community in its entirety and elevated everyone in that community to a level playing field, and to have advocacy and economic freedom and “the right to advocate with dollars to support our own initiatives and agendas.”