Crawley: in a strange place

Columnist : Albert Paschall

For thirty years I’ve run into Bruce Crawley in the strangest places. It started back in the early ‘70s when we were both evening students at the old Price School in Philadelphia. The school brought in a number of guest lecturers from industry every semester. In the early ‘70s words like “affirmative action” and “minority empowerment” were catch phrases rolling in from California. Many of those guest lecturers got their first lessons on what those words meant from Bruce Crawley. We graduated together and have crossed paths from time to time over the years.

Twenty five years ago he turns up at the annual meeting of the Philadelphia YMCA. A couple of hundred almost all-white executives were on their feet cheering a young black preacher from Detroit, the Reverend Jesse Jackson as he thundered “say nope to dope, yes to hope!” Part of Jackson’s mission in Philadelphia that day was to meet Crawley and other African Americans to assist in the establishment of the first African-American owned bank in the city. United Bank of Philadelphia is now a 15 branch, $100 million institution.

Twenty years ago Crawley turns up in Norristown. By now a senior executive at First Pennsylvania Bank, Crawley is there at my request to try and support the only minority business at the time on Main Street. Crawley tells me that the future of downtrodden Norristown is in minority owned businesses. Today just about every store front on Main Street is filled with a number of successful minority enterprises.

Fifteen years ago Crawley turns up at the Valley Forge Music Fair. Entertainer Lou Rawls is there to recognize Crawley and others for their efforts on behalf of the United Negro College Fund. It’s a packed house, standing room only crowd as Rawls’ sells out four nights. UNCF has helped over 300,000 minority students attend nearly 1,000 colleges in the last 60 years.

Ten years ago I turn up at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This time it was a strange place for me. I was one of a handful of white people at the formation meeting of the African American Chamber Of Commerce in Philadelphia. Crawley gets elected the organization’s first chairman, a position he still holds. In opening remarks Crawley says that one of the primary missions of the Chamber is to train minority business owners to compete for government contracts. Crawley points out that minorities make up more than half of Philadelphia’s population yet businesses owned by minorities are responsible for only 2.2% of the city’s gross receipts.

Today Bruce Crawley is in another strange place. He resigned last week from his 15 year post on the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors. He is unhappy about Mayor John Street’s decision to appoint an unqualified candidate to be the city’s Minority Enterprise Development Council.

I don’t know the guy street appointed. But I know he is unqualified because Bruce Crawley says so.

For the more years than either of us would care to count that I’ve been acquainted with Crawley he’s been a tireless advocate for his people. From a little shop in Norristown to getting a fair shake for minority enterprises in Philadelphia’s hospitality industry countless people of color got a chance because he was at the table. If there is anybody in Philadelphia, in all of Pennsylvania for that matter, who knows more about working for opportunities for African-Americans than Crawley I’d be more than surprised.

Mayor Street dropped a hint last week that he might be interested in a seat in Congress in 2008 when his term is over. Someday before he makes his final decision to run he might want to make his old friend happy again.

Albert Paschall
Senior Commentator
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc.
[email protected]