We at the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce (JACC) are heartbroken and enraged by the continued, violent mistreatment of the Black community. The unjust and tragic murders of George Floyd and many others in the Black community cannot be ignored. We send our deepest sympathy to the families, friends, and communities that are grieving. Even though we can’t begin to know the pain and anguish being felt, we stand with Black people in the Joplin community and beyond who continue to experience violence and racism.
In the last year, the Chamber has organized an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) work group and hired an EDI officer, but we still have so much work to do. Meaningful changes and contributions will start with how we operate the JACC. For 103 years, the benefits and privileges of membership to this institution have been enjoyed, almost exclusively, by white business owners. And until a generation ago, almost exclusively, by white male business owners. We acknowledge our institution has been part of the problem of institutionalized racism and sexism where decisions, public policies, and business deals benefit the white privileged, thus reinforcing long-standing racial, gender, and class inequities.
I’m holding myself accountable. I’m holding the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce accountable. This will include making changes to our hiring practices and employment manual to ensure equitable inclusion of people of different races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, ages, social classes, and physical and mental abilities or attributes. Also, dedicating more resources to ensure Joplin’s Black-owned businesses, entrepreneurs, and business professionals are included, supported, and championed.
The Chamber’s mission is to improve the economic prosperity and quality of life in the Joplin region; and to be the principal advocate for, and provider of services to, its business community. That includes improving the economic prosperity and quality of life of our Black community, which means holding other community institutions more accountable. Just as we acknowledge being part of the problem, the Chamber challenges area police departments, municipalities, businesses, schools, and nonprofits to (1) REVIEW your policies, procedures, and practices to ensure they provide opportunity, humanity, safety, and dignity for every person (*This includes use-of-force reforms for our local police departments that would build trust, save lives, and lead to decreased crime); (2) ENGAGE your stakeholders by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories in your policy, procedural, and programmatic reviews; and (3) REPORT the findings of your reviews to your stakeholders and seek feedback for ongoing accountability and improvement to (4) REFORM your policies.
Regrettably, we cannot change the past but we should do everything we can to change the future of this nation. It starts here, in Joplin. It starts now, with us.
President & CEO
Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce