A revamped advisory panel on issues affecting black Pennsylvanians will work to develop corporate relationships as it presents ideas to Gov. Tom Corbett for consideration, its chairwoman said.
Corbett appointed four people from Allegheny County among 18 he named to the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs. He reappointed only Marcia Perry of Dauphin County to the group, which makes recommendations on policies, procedures, legislation and regulations that affect the state’s more than 1.4 million black residents.
“We were looking for smart people, geographic diversity, a big mix,” said Karen Stokes, deputy director of Corbett’s southeast regional office in Philadelphia and the commission’s chair. She said the commission will operate like a think tank, developing strategies and corporate relationships.
“It’s a new board,” said Stokes, who worked for Corbett only six months when he asked her to head the panel. “How do you say no to the governor?”
Commission member Evan Frazier of Churchill said he wants to help ensure that blacks have “a voice in state government at the highest of levels.”
“It appears that this is an inclusive effort that goes beyond party lines and seeks to strengthen government and community,” said Frazier, senior vice president of community affairs at Highmark Inc.
The others from Allegheny County are Floyd Titus of the Hill District, managing partner of J. Feltric, a government affairs consulting firm; Niecy Dennis of Wilkinsburg, founder of Workforce Development Global Alliance; and Kiron Skinner, associate professor of social and decision sciences and director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for International Relations and Politics.
There are challenges to address, some members said.
“Pittsburgh has been called the most liveable city, but there is a disparity between the African-American community and the city overall that needs to be addressed,” Titus said.
“Having a statewide, concerted effort of attracting diverse talent will help bridge that gap,” Dennis said.
Skinner said he hopes to bring a national perspective to the commission’s work. “The problems of African Americans in Pennsylvania are the problems of African Americans everywhere,” Skinner said.
Corbett said the team reflects the state’s diversity. The history of blacks in Pennsylvania reflects a “unique blend of cultural, social and economic influences which have had and continue to have a beneficial impact on life in the commonwealth,” he said.
The commission tentatively plans its first meeting for June 12.
Appointees to the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs:
Otto Banks, Dauphin County
Wayne Barnett, Philadelphia County
Rev. James Breese, Luzerne County
Fred Clark, Dauphin County
Niecy Dennis, Allegheny County
Evan Frazier, Allegheny County
Maurice Goodman, Philadelphia County
Rev. Terrence Griffith, Philadelphia County
Cathy Hardaway, Lackawanna County
Rodney Little, Philadelphia County
Sara Lomax Reese, Montgomery County
Marcia Perry, Dauphin County
Rev. Michael Robinson, Delaware County
Kiron Skinner, Allegheny County
Ronald Steele, Erie County
Karen Stokes, Philadelphia County (Chair)
Bishop A.E. Sullivan Jr., Dauphin County
Floyd Titus, Allegheny County