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Op-Ed By Joey Matthews

The Richmond Free Press


RICHMOND, VA. – How does the chief of Bon Secours Virginia Health System Inc. truly feel about Roslyn M. Brock’s role as a Bon Secours executive who also serves as national chair of the NAACP board of directors?

That answer is absolutely uncertain.

The question stems from the fact that Ms. Brock, in her capacity as NAACP chair, refuses to take a stand against racism on issues related to Bon Secours’ support and promotion of the derogatory, racist nickname and the new Richmond training facility of the Washington professional football team.

In response to repeated Free Press emails outlining Ms. Brock’s refusal to denounce the racism issues addressed to Bon Secours Virginia CEO Peter J. Bernard, the CEO, in a statement, praised Ms. Brock for her work with his company and the NAACP. He also hailed her “uncompromised” work as Bon Secours vice president for advocacy and government relations and added that Bon Secours is “proud of and fully supports her work with the NAACP.”

However, less than two hours later, a second Bernard statement deleted the words of praise for Ms. Brock while strongly maintaining its support of the ownership of the Washington professional football team and its indisputable racist and biased economic practices.

“Bon Secours is extremely pleased with the record attendance at the Training Camp this summer and our partnership with the City of Richmond and (Washington professional team’s nickname) that allowed so many people in our community to enjoy a special experience,” the statement read.

The two statements came in response to repeated Free Press requests over the past week to interview Mr. Bernard. They were issued Monday by Charlotte Perkins, Bon Secours performance management officer.

The reason for the interview requests: To give Mr. Bernard the opportunity to address the Jim Crow issues first raised with Ms. Brock by the Free Press about the Bon Secours discriminatory training camp deal with the Washington professional football team and the team’s racist nickname.

Amidst this debacle, the national NAACP has fought hard to keep the case of race discrimination contained in Virginia. The National NAACP even released a statement from the Virginia State Conference NAACP, which is regularly in agreement with issues of injustice fought by the Free Press. The statement characterized the Free Press story on Ms. Brock’s refusal to speak “misleading” since she has in fact repeatedly stated the National NAACP’s position on the racially discriminatory team name.

However, the State Conference release, in its failure to even mention Bon Secours, appeared out of character. The statement had no name attached. Virginia NAACP Executive Director King Salim Khalfani has consistently been a bold critic of the D.C. team nickname and training camp policy and said those who support them are shortsighted and racist.

Actually, Mr. Boone specifically accuses Ms. Brock of refusing to “directly” speak to the issues of injustice pertaining to Bon Secours and the team’s discrimination. As a reason for her refusal, Ms. Brock has pointed to NAACP policies that allow local branches and state conferences to speak to issues first, policies that allow the national NAACP to only become involved when invited by the state and local NAACP authorities.

Invited to respond to this story involving Bon Secours’ deletion of its words of praise for her, Ms. Brock wrote in an email, “No comment.”

However, in direct response to Mr. Boone’s advocacy, the National NAACP has now re-released its more than 10-year-old position against the use of the nickname of Washington’s professional football team.

“For more than two decades, the NAACP has called for an end to the use of the racially-inflammatory name of the Washington Football Team, as well as other sports’ team names that degrade American Indians,” Ms. Brock says in the Nov. 12 statement.  “This year we have joined with our friends in the American Indian community and are renewing our call for Washington’s football team to replace this offensive name.”

However the statement fails to mention Bon Secours and the team’s discrimination at the Richmond training camp. The result has been a muddying of the waters by the National NAACP as it adamantly resists dealing with the Bon Secours and the football team’s economic discrimination issue.

Black-owned and other locally owned businesses were denied vending opportunities inside the training camp in a deal brokered by Bon Secours, Mayor Dwight C. Jones and the D.C. team.

In dodging the stance on racism as national NAACP chair, Ms. Brock called the racism issues a “local matter” and stated in a month-delayed Nov. 1 email to Free Press Editor/Publisher Raymond H. Boone that she was forwarding the Free Press Jim Crow concerns to the Bon Secours leadership, the NAACP General Counsel and the Virginia and local NAACP chapters.

The Free Press, which has banned the use of the nickname from its news and opinion columns, also asked Ms. Brock if she would have to get approval from Bon Secours to comment on non-positive events before she speaks for the NAACP.

The Bernard-backed statement also claimed, “The training center has brought positive recognition to the city of Richmond,” ignoring the demeaning nickname attached to the $10 million training camp primarily sponsored by Bon Secours that also bears the Bon Secours name.

The statement further read: “Bon Secours commitment to diversity will ensure that minority vendors and suppliers will participate in these projects.”

Contradicting the commitment to diversity statement backed by Mr. Bernard and Bon Secours, data show participation by black-owned and other minority-owned businesses in the building of the Bon Secours training camp and inside the training camp fell well short of Mayor Jones’ promised minority participation goals when the deal was approved by City Council.

In addition to being excluded from vending opportunities inside the training camp, only about 28 percent of the training camp work in majority-black Richmond was done by black-owned businesses and about 33 percent overall by minority-owned businesses. Mayor Jones had promised a minimum 40 percent participation rate by minority-owned businesses in the project.

Ms. Brock’s refusal to denounce the racism issues comes on the heels of her acceptance of the 2012 Leadership Award from the 200-member National Newspaper Publishers’ Association of black-owned newspapers in recognition of her “fierce” advocacy of social justice.

A 50 years-plus NAACP advocate and the recipient of the Virginia NAACP’s highest award, Mr. Boone concluded his communication to Ms. Brock, stating, “This Bon Secours decision disgracefully enhanced Richmond’s shameful reputation as ‘The Capital of Poverty,’ with 25 percent of Richmond’s population suffering in poverty.”

The Washington, D.C.-based Trice Edney News Wire contributed heavily to this story with updates since the Free Press story was published Feb. 14.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of CopyLine Magazine.

Photo Caption: Peter J. Bernard, CEO, Bon Secours Virginia Health System and NAACP Chair Roslyn Brock

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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