Hero for Minority Business Passes - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

The Memorial Day death of former Rep. Parren J. Mitchell, 85, was a fitting farewell and a testament to a life lived battling economic inequality by way of legislative prowess.
Awarded a Purple Heart for his service in World War II, it was Mitchell’s continued battle for minority businesses that stood out among his acts of courage.

In 1970, when Mitchell was elected the first black to represent Maryland’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, Baltimore was in shambles following the 1968 riots. At that time, Mitchell, an antipoverty advocate for the mayor, was known as the “link between the militant civil rights groups and the city administration,” reported The Baltimore Sun.

“He was a true catalyst for change at a time when few would take a stand,” says Earl G. Graves Sr., BE publisher and fellow Morgan State alum.

During his eight terms in office, Mitchell’s influence stoked a battery of laws that provided access and support to minority-owned businesses. “He began this crusade to get a fair share of the federal contracts that he believed should go to people of color,” says Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), who, along with Mitchell, is a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

In 1978, Mitchell co-sponsored Public Law 95-507, which established an Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization in every agency with procurement powers. It was the first of many laws that mandated a percentage of federal contracts, which he steered to minority businesses.

“He would always say, ‘I’m a small piece of leather, but I’m well put together.’ What he meant: ‘I may have a small frame, but I’ve got a big heart,'” recalls Maryland’s current 7th District Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). “A lot of people want to say that he only affected black businesses, but that is simply not true. The things he did affected many white women and other minorities at the same time.”

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.

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