Since 1993, the African American Chamber of San Antonio has been serving the interest of Black-owned businesses, working important issues along the side the NAACP San Antonio Branch. The chamber was founded, primary as an advocacy organization, tackling the tough issues at Bexar County and the City of San Antonio. The chamber announced a change of guard to their new board chairman, Mr. Xavier Toson, CEO of Stash Media Group has been charged with leading the chamber.
While the chamber has been present on major business issues, often the general community has been confused to know there was another option existing for African Americans in business. When I was the President of the Alamo City Black Chamber, I learned how to work with the African American Chamber and not create an adversary relationship simply because we wanted to be the biggest and the best. I found the quick response of the African American Chamber of San Antonio was effective to addressing the concerns of the Black business community.
The African American Chamber was formed to promote, support and establish African American businesses for the creation of collective wealth and organized economic development. This mission’s bulls eye is Black businesses. Xavier, a retired military veteran, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and District Governor within the Rotary organization, was recently named one of 40 under 40 Honorees by the San Antonio Business Journal. He was one of only three African-American business owners announced in this year’s class.
Now his chamber is celebrating its 25 year Anniversary. The African American Chamber of San Antonio sees a clear opportunity to help more Black businesses by continuing the advocacy work done over the years.
As an anniversary gift, the chamber also met with and reinstated their membership with the state’s only Black business advocacy organization, the Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce. Chairman Christopher Herring says, “I have high hopes and expectations of the chamber to help build up Black business success. Our organization announced our annual conference being held in San Antonio, Texas in late September 2018. The African American Chamber of San Antonio is welcome to help lead the effort with the Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce. I’m confident the two chambers will both work together to support the rise of Black businesses and ultimately Black families. I congratulated the chamber for successfully maintaining their presence for 25 years. Again, this relationship is not new. In the past, TAAACC has enjoyed a financial chamber relationship with the African American Chamber of San Antonio and we welcome them back home. Even more personal, I had the distinct pleasure of retiring Xavier in 2013 from the active duty United States Air Force, and then I knew the community would be blessed because of his proven leadership.”
After receiving the green light from the board, to unite the Black business community. Xavier says, “African American owned businesses in San Antonio desire and want a chamber of commerce experience that is authentic to what we experience as African American owners. Our chamber will thrive off of African American business members and dollars that support our community to ensure our positions are not compromised.”
“We are seeking new members committed to participating on our board who represent African American business. We have so many young entrepreneurs in our city who want to be embraced and it’s my goal to do that. We also have veteran seasoned business owners, who we want them to help our youth.”
“At this time, we have listened to the feedback, and are committed to growing our community as has done previously. We are not afraid to tackle issues that will benefit our community. We are open – and look forward to hearing from our community. We understand that this challenge and membership will not be for everyone. For corporations or local governments, we welcome your membership, however, we are committed that our board will truly reflect African American business owners, who want to see much more growth and return for their businesses.”
Herring says, “Some corporations, public agencies, and governments have figured out how to water down the Black chamber’s message by buying board seats, rejecting or controlling the Black business owners within these chambers and overall control the narrative. When they do so, we never see those entities for what they are. We become blinded with crumbs when they make so much money on our backs. We are very guarded, and we should be, as it is very easy to slip into a subservient relationship.”
When asked if the Black business market is large enough for two Black chambers of commerce, Toson adds, “Since our chamber’s formation in 1993, San Antonio has grown leaps and bounds. Texas is the number one state of newly established African American business formations. In the 7th largest city of the US, certainly, there is enough space and a choice that businesses can and should make. It’s been that way for 25 years. In fact, we embrace and cling onto the formation of the first Negro Chamber of Commerce of San Antonio, whose membership was only Black business owners in 1936. The 12 men and one woman formed the chamber out of necessity. Today, we are no longer physically segregated, however, our commerce seems to suggest the playing field is not yet even. We intend to work with the local governments and corporations to ensure members of our community have a seat at each table to collaborate and ensure African American businesses are not only producing but thriving alongside their counterparts.”
Herring adds, “in our Houston market, we have more than one Black chamber of commerce to serve the African-American marketplace. Each chamber, like a person, has its own personality, and now under new leadership, people can again make choices that reflect their belief system.”
Article courtesy of The San Antonio Observer