Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Policy, `Festival Fever' Derail Proposed Black Boycott

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Policy, `Festival Fever' Derail Proposed Black Boycott

Article excerpt

Two months ago, local organizers of the U.S. Olympic Festival fretted that a call for black St. Louisans to boycott the event would mar it - and the area's reputation.

Black activists called the protest because they said the festival had done little business with blacks and had scheduled no events in black neighborhoods.

But as the competition winds to a close, the boycott fizzled. No protesters have queued up outside events, and plenty of black spectators have cheered the athletes.

"Overall, the entire community has caught Festival fever," said Cheryl Patrick, who juggles public relations and media relations for the Festival. "I think the thought of anything else has passed."

The Rev. Eugene Fowler, one of two members of the Congress Of Racial Equality who called for the boycott, agrees. He says a purchasing policy that will assure minority participation in evaluating bids for future events could have more far-reaching results than a boycott might have had.

"Organizers of the Olympic Festival and others cannot hide in boardrooms and make decisions," Fowler said. "We want a seat at the table to discuss the interests of the people who we represent. They know that we are here, and they will not ignore us anymore."

Fowler hopes the purchasing policy that festival organizers adopted will ensure such inclusion. The St. Louis Sports Commission has embraced the policy. VP Fair board members are considering it.

The Festival adopted the agreement in May, seven months after complaints of racial insensitivity first surfaced.

It wasn't the first time an Olympic Festival had attracted such complaints. In San Antonio, where the event was held last summer, similar complaints were made by minority contractors who felt they weren't getting a fair share of work.

In October, when complaints of racial insensitivity surfaced in the St. Louis organization, the Festival's highest-ranking black employee resigned. That action was quickly followed by the resignation of two black board members and three other black employees.

The Festival replaced its managers and increased the number of blacks on the board. …

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