Groundbreaking study offers in-depth look at the state of the local African American community
SAN ANTONIO — The local African American community continues to face a significant challenge in closing socioeconomic opportunity gaps as reflected by leading social indicators, according to a new study.
The groundbreaking new report, State of the African American Community in San Antonio and Bexar County, is a joint effort by the San Antonio Area Foundation (SAAFdn) and the San Antonio Area African American Community Fund (SAAAACF). It paints a thorough picture of how much work remains to be done to level the playing field for the local Black community – though recent initiatives are striving to reverse the trend.
We’re all well aware of the fact that our beloved city does suffer from socioeconomic disparity and this extensive report reflects this reality when it comes to the African American communityMarjie French
“We’re all well aware of the fact that our beloved city does suffer from socioeconomic disparity and this extensive report reflects this reality when it comes to the African American community,” said Marjie French, CEO of the Area Foundation. “That’s why we’re supporting nonprofits that address these challenges in order to help create a community where everyone has a chance to succeed.”
Toward that goal, the new community-led study – research conducted by Community Information Now – serves as a clarion call for all of us to think more about how we can help our fellow neighbors in need, said Bobby Blount, Chairman of the SAAAACF Board of Directors.
“This report does more than validate what most of us know: African Americans face many challenges in our community,” Blount said. “It provides a foundation for everyone to understand, discuss and take action to improve the livelihood of San Antonians.”
The research was based on various societal focus areas, selected by a 20-member community advisory committee. Some key findings:
• Population: African Americans comprise seven percent of Bexar County; about 20 percent of African Americans are military veterans; in about half of Black households where grandparents live with their minor grandchildren, those grandparents are raising their grandchildren.
• Housing: African Americans have the lowest rate of home ownership (41 percent); more than one-third (37 percent) of Black mortgage applicants are denied; overrepresentation in public housing (20 percent of all HUD-subsidized households).
• Education: Majority of Black students attend Judson ISD, Northside ISD and Northeast ISD; among all districts and charters, there’s overrepresentation in disciplinary alternative programs and out-of-school suspensions as well as in special education programs; underrepresentation in gifted and talented programs and Advanced Placement (AP) courses.
• Finance: African Americans have a lower median income ($48,509) than the county average ($57,157); nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of work-eligible African Americans are in the workforce; they are more likely than the county workforce overall to be unemployed (seven percent).
• Business: Only one percent of San Antonio-New Braunfels metro area businesses with paid staff and five percent of solo-run businesses are Black-owned.
• Health: About one in six (17 percent) working-age African Americans does not have health insurance and are also more likely to have medical debt in collections.
• Criminal justice: African Americans are overrepresented in police arrests as well as in criminal court cases; Blacks – along with Latinos – are the least to be released in cite and release cases for some misdemeanor offenses.
• Social connection: Majority of African Americans (83 percent) have broadband access but still trail other racial/ethnic groups; San Antonio is home to more than 200 Black churches with an average membership of 120 parishioners (excluding megachurches); about six percent of African Americans moved here from another Texas county or out of state.
The advisory committee, led by Blount, consulted with nonprofit advocacy organization Texas Appleseed to develop various policy recommendations to address the inequities highlighted in the report. Among the recommendations:
• Implement alternative methods of traffic law enforcement, including standardizing collection of metrics based on race and ethnicity.
• Invest in public defense to ensure those unable to retain counsel receive equal representation within the criminal justice system.
• Expand eligibility requirements for early education programs in order to enable Black children to be more kindergarten-ready.
• Create more opportunities for Black students to access Advanced Placement courses and gifted and talented programs.
• Expand paid internships as well as outreach programs to increase African American young adult participation in the workforce.
• Make more resources available and lift barriers impeding access to credit in order to increase financial stability for low-income African American households.
• Expand lending and support services to Black small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Though the new report leaves no doubt as to the tremendous challenge ahead, SAAFdn and SAAAACF are not sitting idle. A renewed focus on equity and social justice have led to the creation of strong and effective initiatives meant to close the opportunity gaps identified in the study. Some examples:
• Creation of the SAAAACF Social Justice Fund providing bail and legal aid to those facing low-level offenses.
• SAAFdn teaming up with UP Partnership on implementing Blue Meridian national funding leading to Youth Leadership Development and Workforce Development grants to nonprofits primarily focused on helping communities of color.
• SAAFdn supporting the Corporate Partners for Racial Equity coalition formed by top San Antonio business executives contributing more than $13 million into programs on equitable education, economic opportunities and social justice.
• SAAFdn partnership with the City of San Antonio/Metro Health providing grants to address health disparities exacerbated by the pandemic.
• SAAFdn launching its first-ever San Antonio Equity Fellowship Program, a unique professional development program to champion and help grow nonprofit leaders of color.
• SAAFdn partnering with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) on the Leading To Change: Building Equity In Community Program focusing on equitable outcomes on affordable housing.
The report concludes with first-person “community voices” essays featuring local African American experts weighing in on the social indicators examined – each voice poignantly bringing to life the somber significance of the statistics. They are: Dr. Gary Bates, Dr. Adena Williams Loston, Ken Lowe, Dr. Travis Batts, Douglas Greene, Darryl E. Harris, Dr. Kenneth R. Kemp and Deborah Omowale Johnson.
Omowale Johnson, CEO and Director of the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum, issued a critical reminder that the local Black community’s relatively small size doesn’t make it any less part of the diverse fabric of our great city.
“The Black community making up 7% of Bexar County may seem at first to be an insignificant group of people,” Omowale Johnson wrote. “However, if the community does not collectively recognize the impact of these statistics, the economic segregation gap will widen.”
About the San Antonio Area Foundation:
The San Antonio Area Foundation (SAAFdn) has served as the city’s community-giving headquarters for nearly 60 years, growing to become one of the top 20 community foundations in the nation. The Area Foundation helps donors achieve their charitable goals supporting our community’s greatest needs, managing more than 500 charitable funds nearly $1 billion in assets. Beyond serving hundreds of nonprofit organizations every year through training and grantmaking, where total impact exceeded $71 million in 2020, the Area Foundation operates a strong student scholarship program. Over $37 million has been invested in our future leaders since 1969 through more than 100 scholarship funds. Learn more at saafdn.org.
“Councilman Joe Webb Day” in SA
The family of Joe Webb, Sr. received a Proclamation from the County and is inviting the community to come out to celebrate “Councilman Joe Webb Day” Sunday, September 18, 2022. There will be a balloon release in honor of his legacy and first year of his death. The celebration will take place at the Joe Webb Bridge at 2:00 p.m.
Former City Councilman Joe Webb was a man of firsts. He was the first African American Manager of an HEB store; he managed Store #7 on New Braunfels Ave. for many years and then worked his way up to Store Director for different areas within the city of San Antonio. Webb eventually opened up his own full-service store called WebbWay on the city’s Eastside. Webb was also the longest serving councilman for District 2. He was elected in 1977 and served in that position until 1991.
At the age of 86, Joe Webb, Sr. passed last year following complications from kidney failure. Webb was a pastor and a devote servant of the Lord. For those who didn’t know him he was also known for his melodious baritone voice.
The 39th Annual Jazz’SAlive
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – The City of San Antonio’s Official Jazz Music Festival is ensuring Jazz Is Alive in San Antonio! The San Antonio Parks Foundation, in partnership with The City of San Antonio and Michelob Ultra, present the 39th Annual Jazz’SAlive Festival on September 23 and 24 in downtown San Antonio. In addition to stages in historic Travis Park, for the second consecutive year, festival organizers will program a stage at Legacy Park. The San Antonio Parks Foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) organization providing improvements to parks and the park experience to the area’s 250+ parks and over 150 miles of walking and biking trails.
Jazz’SAlive General Admission is free, all ages, and open to the public! No outside food or beverage is allowed. Tickets are available for premium seating and VIP areas.
Jazz’SAlive offers a limited number of premium Patron Seats at the main stage for those who want to upgrade their viewing experience and leave the lawn chairs at home. Patron Seats are sold as single-day tickets. Fans who wish to have a Patron Seat on both Friday and Saturday will need to purchase a ticket for each day. Each ticket includes 1 priority seat the main stage in Travis Park with access to a cash bar and cocktail service.
For more information visit https://saparksfoundation.org/event/jazzsalive/,
Introducing Labor Plaza – A Public Art Tribute to the Labor Movement in San Antonio
DOWNTOWN PLAZA FEATURES SCULPTURES, POETRY AND VISUAL ARTS THAT WILL EDUCATE AND INSPIRE VISITORS.
SAN ANTONIO (September 2, 2022) – The City of San Antonio’s Department of Arts & Culture invites the community to visit the newly completed Labor Plaza, which highlights the contributions of the labor movement and labor leaders in San Antonio and the United States. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg will be on-site for the official ribbon cutting ceremony which will be held on Monday, September 5, 2022 at 11:45 a.m.
Located in the River Walk Public Art Garden on Market Street across from the Henry B. González Convention Center, Labor Plaza is located in a space that was originally home to a sculpture of labor leader Samuel Gompers, created in 1982 by Betty Jean Alden. Due to irreparable structural damage caused by time and weather elements, the sculpture had to be decommissioned and deinstalled. The Department of Arts & Culture collaborated with American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) on a contemporary way to replace the sculpture and continue to recognize labor, civil rights and social justice in San Antonio in the space.
“Labor Plaza is a tribute to the contributions and sacrifices of labor leaders throughout the history of San Antonio,” said Department of Arts & Culture Executive Director Krystal Jones. “We hope that the community will find this space to be engaging, inspiring and educational as we commemorate the labor movement from the past to the present.”
Visitors to Labor Plaza will find etchings and visual artworks embedded throughout the plaza including a poem titled So that Our Crossing May Never be Obstructed and five artworks by Octavio Quintanilla, San Antonio Poet Laureate 2018 – 2020; an excerpt from labor anthem Solidarity Forever written by Ralph Chaplin in 1915; and biography etchings recognizing eight notable San Antonio labor figures. Influential leaders, who are honored at the space, include Emma Tenayuca, Hank Brown, Rebecca Flores, Joan Suarez, Robert Thompson, Linda Chavez-Thompson, Mario Marcel Salas, Samuel Gompers and Shelley Potter.
In addition, a sculptural series titled I Remember Everything by Washington-based artist Ries Niemi is installed within the plaza. The Department of Arts & Culture worked with San Antonio landscape architect firm Terra Design Group to craft the layout of the space to inspire learning and reflection on labor in San Antonio.
Linda Chavez-Thompson was the first Hispanic woman to serve as an Executive Board member of the National AFL-CIO in 1993 and then elected to a newly created position of Executive Vice-President of the National AFL-CIO in 1995. She served in office thru 2007, when she retired and came back home to San Antonio. “We are grateful to the City of San Antonio for recognizing the hard-fought efforts and accomplishments of the local labor movement through this beautiful Labor Plaza,” said Chavez-Thompson. “Personally, it is an honor to be included alongside such influential labor leaders, who have all had a tremendous impact on the labor movement so that working people today have better wages and working condition and workers’ rights.”
Labor Plaza is part of the River Walk Public Art Garden, which functions as an outdoor public art exhibition featuring works from San Antonio and international artists. Some artworks by San Antonio artists also featured here include “Bloom” by Leticia Huerta, “Green Spaces at Market Street” by Cade Bradshaw and Ashley Mireles, “Spheres of Reflection” by Kaldric Dow and “Najo Jām” by Carlos Cortés and Doroteo Garza.
For more information about Labor Plaza, the River Walk Public Art Garden and the Department of Arts & Culture’s Public Art Program, visit SanAntonio.gov/arts or follow the Department of Arts & Culture on social media at @GetCreativeSA.
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