[OP-ED]:Green Sees Collaborations Across Color Lines
Philadelphia City Councilman Derek Green credits the barrier breaking Latino lawyer and jurist Nelson Diaz as one of his key mentors.
While Green does not as yet have the list of ‘Firsts’ like his mentor Diaz, he does bring his own history of barrier breaking to his post as an At-Large member of Philadelphia’s City Council.
One of the initiatives Green is working to realize is facilitating increased collaborations between Philadelphia’s black and Latino communities.
“The two communities share issues and concerns. I think more collaborations should occur,” Green, a lawyer, said during a recent interview conducted shortly after his attendance at an announcement of a $750,000 grant to the Hispanic Association of Contractors and Enterprises (HACE) for the development of plan to redevelop the Fairhill and St. Hugh neighborhoods.
“There is a long history of business collaborations between the African-American and Hispanic chambers of commerce. And, there are collaborations among professional groups like bar associations. But there is not much collaboration on social services,” Green said. “More collaborations on the social services side are needed.”
There is an of-overlooked legacy of collaboration between blacks and Latinos in Philadelphia encompassing a variety of issues from ending abusive policing to enhancing development in non-white communities and obtaining fair-share contracting from City Hall. Collaborative efforts by blacks and Latinos, for example, were instrumental in the 1978 defeat of the divisive campaign by then Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo to change the City Charter provision barring mayors from seeking a third term in office.
“In Philadelphia we haven’t had the tensions between blacks and Latinos like in Los Angeles,” Green said.
During the past year, Green has worked to ensure Philadelphians – particularly persons of color – receive equitable access to opportunities in the emerging (lucrative) legalized medical marijuana industry.
Green, an African-American, accumulated multiple public and private sector experiences prior to his election to City Council. Green worked as a banker, a prosecutor and held various ranking posts in Philadelphia City government including serving as Special Counsel to now retired City Councilwoman Marian Tasco.
One of the concerns Green plans to address in the immediate future is funding for non-profit organizations, particularly non-profits operating in non-white communities. While Green is concerned about non-profits operating effectively in what he terms this era of “dwindling resources” his interest is not entirely altruistic.
“When non-profits close due to dwindling funding that translates into less services in communities. Loosing those services puts more strain on the City budget because those services have to be provided,” Green said, noting his plan to conduct hearings on issues impacting non-profits like the status of lines-of-credit banks extend to non-profits, and technical assist for non-profits.
In seeking increased inter-group collaborations on shared concerns, Green is very aware of cultural issues that can create impediments.
“While blacks have long connections with Puerto Ricans there is a growing population of people from Mexico and other Central American nations,” Green said.
“Sometimes people just see differences within their own groups but don’t see differences in others.”