The ‘Mississippi of the West’ rises again
BY LOUIE OVERSTREET
It was in the 1970s that I first met Dr. William H. “Bob” Bailey, one of the most significant African-Americans in the history of Nevada.
With considerable chagrin (but a lot of truth), Bob was fond of saying, “Nevada is the Mississippi of the West.” It’s so sad to report that my recently departed friend and mentor, given how much of his life was devoted to fighting all forms of injustice, would no doubt be troubled to see that it has become “back to the future” in Nevada for persons of color.
As we entered the third millennium a decade-and-a-half ago, three significant activities were beginning to take place:
• The status quo, with persons of color systematically denied employment and contracting opportunities, was being challenged.
• The three Chambers of color — Asian, Latin and Urban — were working closely together, hosting joint social and public policy forums. At the zenith of this cooperation, joint luncheons were held where upwards of 1,200 people attended and Christmas parties were generating over 500 new toys for children of military families. Casinos were sponsoring these events, and these organizations forced the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) to conduct the disparity studies needed to establish DBE assistance programs that met Supreme Court guidelines.
• Blacks were seeking public office in Southern Nevada in greater numbers.
This is why it is so disturbing to observe that the hands of time have been turned back on the clock of progress. NDOT has become so insensitive that it was bold enough to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a $13 million project in the heart of the Westside, and didn’t feel the need to present figures on who was employed and received contracts on the project.
The three Chambers haven’t hosted a significant event in a blue moon. The casinos no longer host luncheons to announce progress in diversity initiatives, and the number of black elected officials holding state and national office was reduced by 33 percent after the November 2014 elections. “Welcome, You Are Again Entering the Mississippi of the West!”