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Commission to explore racial equity, promote economic mobility

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The newly formed Greenville Racial Equity and Economic Mobility Commission convened this week to continue to explore racial inequities in Greenville County’s Black community and the partnerships needed to create solutions. 

A joint effort by the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Greenville County, and Urban League of the Upstate, the REEM Commission grew from ongoing community conversations to identify and address systemic racial barriers in the county by understanding the data that reveal disparities, according to a news release. The group plans to develop systems-level strategies, partnering with community institutions to implement change in the areas of racial inequities, social justice and other key gaps identified as focus areas. 

The REEM Commission includes Merl F. Code, Ogletree Deakins, REEM Commission co-chairman; David Lominack, TD Bank, co-chairman; Meghan Barp, United Way of Greenville County; Peggy Baxter, community advocate; Karen Baynes-Dunning, community advocate; Kennedy Brown, youth advocate; Matt Caldwell, Bon Secours St. Francis Health System; Elizabeth Davis, Furman University; Pastor Sean Dogan, Long Branch Baptist Church; Jessica Donan, EY; Joe Erwin, Endeavor; Traci Fant, Freedom Fighter’s Upstate Foundation; the Rev. J.M. Flemming, NAACP; Rich Hagins, US&S; Robert Hughes, Hughes Development; Butch Kirven, Greenville County Council; Sheriff Hobart Lewis, Greenville County Sheriff’s Department; Stacey Mills, USC Upstate; Bob Morris, Community Foundation of Greenville; S.T. Peden, Minority Economic Development Institute; Carlos Phillips, Greenville Chamber of Commerce; Jason Richards, NAI Earle Furman; Burke Royster, Greenville County Schools; Liz Seman, Furman University, Greenville County Council; Minor Shaw, Micco LLC; Katy Smith, Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy; Deputy Chief Howie Thompson, Greenville Police Department; Gage Weekes, Hollingsworth Funds; Greenville Mayor Knox White; Nika White, Nika White Consulting; Will Whitley, Michelin North America; and Baxter Wynn, community advocate.

Conversations in the REEM Commission’s first meeting were centered on research presented in United Way’s recent racial and economic mobility index study. The study highlights six focus areas of disparity identified in the Black community, including:

  • Educational attainment and workforce development
  • Health and wellness
  • Income, wealth and economic mobility
  • Senior population (aging and poverty)
  • Justice system and policing
  • Community-wide racial equity education

“When the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Greenville County, and the Urban League of the Upstate issued a joint statement in mid-June condemning racism in light of the murder of George Floyd, we suggested the formation of this commission to examine racial inequities in Greenville County, and improving the odds of economic mobility for African Americans in our community,” Code said in the news release.

During the launch meeting, the group committed to ground its ongoing work in anti-racist transformation, the release said, and establish follow-through and accountability metrics.

“This work is necessary and the time is now to work together as a community to address and start to heal the systemic racial inequities and social injustice embedded in our society,” Lominack said in the release. “The REEM Commission commits to enact meaningful change in Greenville, change that comes by studying and reflecting on our past, and carving a more inclusive, equitable way forward.”

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