This fall, MIT joined the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA), a Boston-based statewide organization that works to advance the economic well-being of Black businesses, organizations, and people in the Commonwealth.
The Office of the Vice President for Finance (VPF) and the Office of Government and Community Relations (OGCR) jointly pursued membership in BECMA as part of an effort to increase MIT’s purchasing and contracting with minority-owned businesses, as highlighted in President Reif’s July 1, 2020 letter to the community on addressing systemic racism.
“We want to build relationships with a wide range of suppliers to meet the needs of the MIT community, and Black and other minority-owned businesses have much to offer in this respect,” says Glen Shor, executive vice president and treasurer. “Working closely with BECMA leadership, we embrace the opportunity to have a broad-based impact in promoting the prosperity of the Boston area — our larger community — and the Commonwealth.”
BECMA was formed in 2015 by Boston-area business leaders after the release of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s “Color of Wealth in Boston” report, which presented the eye-opening statistic that the median net worth of a Black family in Boston is $8.00, while the median net worth of a white family is $247,500. The report was a call to action to BECMA’s leaders, who are taking a two-tiered approach to addressing and shrinking the racial wealth gap: advocating for racial equity in public policy and providing technical assistance to its business members.
On the policy side, Paul Parravano, co-director of OGCR, is teaming up with Samuel Gebru, BECMA’s director of policy and public affairs, who developed the organization’s 2021–2022 Massachusetts Black Economic Policy Agenda.
“We welcome this opportunity to work closely with BECMA leadership to advance real change and possibilities for Black families and businesses in order to build a stronger Commonwealth,” Parravano says. “BECMA has provided a meaningful roadmap around key policy issues. We look to this agenda for new ways to work collaboratively in addressing issues of racial inequity.” Working together, they hope to address areas of opportunity in economic development, education, transportation, and employment.
“Membership in BECMA will enhance MIT’s position to move toward a more just and equitable economy in the Boston area, while also increasing opportunities for our campus purchasers to buy from Black and other minority-owned businesses,” says Christina Lo, VPF director of strategic sourcing and contracts.
Lo is collaborating with Emma Homstad, VPF program coordinator for MIT’s Small and Diverse Business Program, and Nicole Obi MCP ’95, SM ’95, BECMA’s vice president of member experience and engagement, to develop a thoughtful and deliberate plan for expanding Institute purchasing from minority-owned businesses — an effort that is not as simple as loading a list of diverse suppliers into MIT’s procurement system.
“We’re both at an inflection point in our journeys,” notes Homstad. “BECMA is charged to address the racial wealth gap. They are determining how to engage anchor institutions in the Boston area that spend a significant amount of money locally. MIT is addressing President Reif’s charge to grow purchasing with Black-owned businesses and also addressing our strategic DEI priorities. We want to move our Small and Diverse Business Program into a more community-responsive direction.”
In November Homstad represented MIT at BECMA’s annual Mass. Black Expo, where she had an opportunity to meet with Black business owners and entrepreneurs and learn about the goods and services they provide.
“We’re working together to strategize how to bring diverse suppliers to MIT and bring more MIT purchasing opportunities to them,” Lo says. “We’re starting with an intentional and mutual listening and learning process. Our goal is to bring forth tangible business opportunities with Black business owners that serve the range of purchasing needs at MIT.”