A group of local Black media bosses has launched a campaign to address systemic racism and racial disparities in Miami-Dade County's spending after years of being left out of the conversation.
"Our Audiences, Your Market" is a new effort by the Black Owned Media Alliance (BOMA), a coalition of leaders from a variety of Black-serving media outlets, to educate local government and business leaders about themselves and to improve the county's awareness about how to reach the Black community.
"The spending in the county is not fair," says Tony Lesesne, president of BOMA. "I'm concerned about the lack of spending with Black-owned small businesses. I think this county is at a place where it's so diverse but so segregated."
The county's most recent disparity study from 2014 broke down how Miami-Dade spent its money in different ethnic, racial, and gender groups. The study found that Black-owned businesses were awarded less than two percent of all prime construction contracts, one percent of architecture contracts, and only six percent of professional services contracts, despite making up 15 percent of the total market in all industries. Non-minority male-owned businesses, by contrast, were awarded more than 50 percent of all contracts despite making up only about 19 percent of the market.
Lesesne and other BOMA members say not much has changed since the 2014 study and that Black-owned businesses still get the short end of the stick.
"When they come to us, they want to spend a dollar rather than ten dollars. We're not valued as much as the other markets," says Daphne Lorvinsky, sales director for Island TV, a Caribbean-serving television station that primarily reaches the Haitian and Jamaican communities.
Lorvinsky tells New Times that her station recently received $7,500 for a COVID-19 advertising campaign, which she says is an extremely low amount considering her station's reach and the outsized effect COVID-19 has on Black communities.
BOMA members like Dexter Bridgeman, the CEO of MIA Media Group, say the county and other advertisers will often spend money with traditional "urban" media outlets like Cox Media Group or iHeartRadio from out of state, assuming that they will reach all the Black consumers in Miami. But those outlets aren't local and they don't always reach the multifaceted Black community in Miami.
"There's a difference between Black-owned media and urban media — we're here, our tax dollars stay here, it's not being sent to another state," says Bridgeman. "It's almost an indictment on your department if you don't know the difference."
Lesesne tells New Times many of his concerns about the disparities in county spending bubbled over earlier this month when New Times published an article about some inflammatory Facebook posts by the brother of Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Esteban Bovo. Bovo responded that he hasn't seen any evidence of systemic racism in county government.
"They must've legalized some real good marijuana in the county, 'cause he’s looking through a different set of eyes," Lesesne says. "Systemic racism is not just a cop shooting a guy in the back or choking him out, it's also about the systematic exclusion of people of color from purchasing or hiring or development. That's systemic. It's a part of the system."
Through "Our Audiences, Your Market," BOMA members have begun approaching county commissioners and members of various local chambers of commerce, including the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, to educate them about local Black-owned businesses and how they can better reach Black consumers in Miami-Dade.
"The Black community trusts 95 percent of news and info from predominantly Black media as opposed to mainstream media," Bridgeman asserts.
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The campaign has already achieved some success. After a few meetings with Miami-Dade County officials last week, members of BOMA were invited to apply for contracts for a new COVID-19 informational ad campaign.
"They admitted there were oversights and reflected what they'd been doing. We're all putting a plan in place to be more inclusive," Lesesne says, adding, "I'm optimistic."
Myriam Marquez, senior adviser and communications director for the Miami-Dade mayor's office, tells New Times the county has contracted with multiple outlets in the Black Owned Media Alliance in the past. Marquez says she and two top county officials recently held a virtual meeting with the alliance to discuss further opportunities.
"We shared many strategies and outreach ideas and we look forward to their plans," Marquez tells New Times.