By Barney Blakeney
For the past two years retired, Air Force MSgt. Ken E. Battle has chaired the S.C. Commission for Minority Affairs and he’s gotten off to a running start. Locally, the Jacksonville, Florida native has gained a reputation among the few publicly announced Black Republicans. But in his position as chair of the CMA, he vows to demonstrate that progress, diversity and inclusion is not about parties or politics. It’s about people.
When he was appointed to the commission started in 1993 by Sixth Congressional Dist. Cong. James Clyburn, Battle said the commission was viable, but almost singularly focused on services to Native Americans. He immediately realized that according to its stated mission – “to provide the minority community, consisting of African Americans, Native American Indians, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians and others with a single point of contact for statistical data and technical assistance in the areas of research and planning for a greater economic future” – it could be doing a lot more.
“So the first thing I started doing was talking to people,” he said. He learned that a lot of information was being compiled, but wasn’t getting to the commission and thusly reaching the people the commission was created to serve.
“Give people an opportunity to have input because they know what they need. And then, we can take that information to the legislators who need that input to develop policies,” he reasoned.
Battle’s reasoning opened dialogue that affirms poverty is major concern among minority populations and that has led to a series of community conversations across the state which the commission has given the moniker “Let’s Talk!”
Through “Let’s Talk” sessions the commission hopes to build a comprehensive plan that addresses poverty in South Carolina. The last session was held October 20 at Charleston Southern University Strom Thurmond Center, 9200 University Blvd, North Charleston.
Battle says the initiative is the beginning of the commission’s ongoing work to serve as a one-stop point of contact for information regarding the state’s minority population. Although the commission doesn’t provide any direct services, it can be a focal point that leads to action, Battle believes. It’s just a matter of targeting the information it receives in ways that lead to implementation.
He thinks the commission’s economic arm is another tool through which minority communities can derive tangible benefits. The commission’s zeroed in on micro-businesses – small businesses with five or fewer employees, that may require $35,000 or less in start-up capital and has limited access to traditional bank loans. If this is your business profile, the CMA can help by providing: Entrepreneurial Education and Training, Business Technical Assistance and access to Microloan Programs. Micro-businesses account for 86.5 percent of all South Carolina businesses.
Battle wants to help revitalize the commission in ways that support minority communities. “We have to stop in-fighting and start supporting. Start thinking legacy,” he said. For more information about the CMA, go to www.cma.sc.gov or call 803-832-8164.