Rochester Black Employees Association - RBEA
(Formerly Concerned Association of Rochester, lnc.)
The Rochester Black Employees Association, (formerly Concerned Association of Rochester, Incorporated, or CARI) is a non-profit organization devoted to the elimination of discrimination in the corporate environment at Xerox Corporation and to the improvement of the quality of life in the Rochester area. CARI was born in a period characterized by extreme frustration, anxiety and hopelessness, epitomized by the assassinations of some of our most articulate national leaders. Paradoxically, in 1968, Blacks had made significant strides on the legal front. However, these legal victories produced only a trickle of educational and socioeconomic improvements.
It was at this time, in this environment, that Xerox Black professionals united to address the inequities related to hiring, career development and promotions of minorities.
The pivotal point in the growth and influence of CARl revolved around the "Study of Blacks" commissioned by Xerox's Personnel Department; a survey purported to flush out the feelings of Blacks within Xerox. The study was conducted by Xerox psychologist, Harold Tragash, Ph.D. This study, which was conducted in mid-1969, showed that Blacks were happy with their work, performance, atmosphere, and pay. Individual Blacks were interviewed and a written report was issued to management supporting the allegations that all was well at Xerox. Blacks who participated in the study learned, through talking with one another, about the personnel findings, and came to the startling realization that management had said to each Black certain things that other Blacks supposedly had revealed to them. Confirming with each other that these statements were untrue, participating Blacks became outraged and were determined to do something about it.
Some of the players were as follows:
Mary Lee Tsuffis
John Anderson gathered the group together a few times to produce a document (communication letter). Much of the time, meetings were held at Webster Baptist Church after hours.
As the statement was pulled together and finalized, they requested all Black exempt employees (55 in total) within the Greater Rochester Area to stop by John Anderson's office and sign the document. All but a few did so. John, thereby, stopped by each of the offices of the hesitant persons and received their signature. All 55 persons were a part of the original response process. Once the signatures were received, the document was copied and sent to Joseph C. Wilson, Chairman and C. Peter McCullough, then President and CEO. Also, copies were mailed at a later time to Dr. Tragash and other key persons in personnel. The document requested a meeting with key steering committee Blacks.
There was no acknowledgment from Senior Management. What did happen, however, was that immediately, 10 random Blacks (selected by C. Peter McCullough via personnel and different from the original interviewees) were summoned to a roundtable with McCullough. These Black employees were not coached by the Steering Committee and went into the roundtable with their own responses. The responses, it turned out were no different than those of the Steering Committee, and, indeed, were far more sharp in their criticism.
It was shortly after that McCullough decided to acknowledge the Concerned Blacks Steering Committee and accepted a meeting with them. Simultaneously, a letter was also written by a Black female employee in Webster denouncing the study. This letter set the stage and tone of the entire movement. That letter of protest happened to find its way to the President's desk and started a series of chain reactions. I)uring this period, a three-person steering committee met to discuss the Black issue in the Corporation and decided to involve and draw support from more Blacks within Xerox. The concern, tone and direction was set for the future of CARI.
A series of meetings took place with the general membership. The meetings were communication focused in nature and for the finalization of input/issue surfacing that provided the Steering Committee the opportunity to accurately represent them to top management.
To gain visibility, each week the CARI Board of Directors met in a luncheon cafeteria in the various buildings, i.e., Webster, Henrietta, etc. Additionally, the Board met at other strategic locations in order to gain visibility in the community.
The first major step taken by the Steering Committee was to write a letter of concern to Joseph C. Wilson and C. Peter McCullough. The letter was signed by 55 Black professional employees. Additional discussions were held to determine whether or not Blacks would be interested in formalizing an organization. The decision was made and the organization was formed with the filing of a Certificate of Incorporation, on June 30, 1971 and were ratified at the first annual meeting held by the association on July 17, 1971.
The officers were:
David Robinson, II Executive Director
Samuel V. White Vice-Executive Director
John Anderson Director of Employment and Career Development
Henry Joseph Director of Employee Relations
Carl C. Williams Director of Planning
Columbus Banks Treasurer
Dennis T. Scott Secretary
W. James Lee Director-at-Large
In launching its program, CARI was able to stipulate the interest of the Black community by stating that: (1) Xerox was under-represented in minorities in many organizations and in the Corporation as a whole and it started with McCullough and his office. (2) That non-minority managers had no incentive for pursuing their affirmative action targets. (3) That upward mobility for Blacks fell well below upward mobility for non-minorities in that non-minorities move two steps up and one side-step (for development) while Blacks move two steps sideways (for sake of movement because they were already over-developed) and one step up for promotion.
As a result of its efforts, CARI was able to develop an on-going dialogue with Xerox management. Meetings between the CARI Board of Directors and the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Xerox Corporation and his designees comprised five sessions conducted in the Boardroom on the 29th floor of Xerox Square.
All sessions were of the highest caliber and were positive and effective, to the extent that a proclamation to management directing accountability for affirmative action accomplishments was issued in 1971. In addition, open requisitions were stamped "for minorities only" for areas of white pockets whereby managers were reluctant to hire Blacks.
The Forum: Gathering Information from the General Body
To ensure that a complete pulse of the Black Community was received and understood, The CARI Board of Directors conducted a Forum at the Webster Baptist Church one full day (during regular business hours). It was an all day session and the whole session was taped. Each person desiring to address the board was given a period of time to present either a case or his/her input into what business practices and experiences were taking place centered around affirmative action, Xerox and CARI. The Corporation granted all minorities (Blacks) the opportunity for taking time (during the workday) to participate in the Forum. A lot of significant information was gained from the Black individuals of Xerox. The information was processed and became the basis for various platforms and communications to Senior Management.
During the process of gaining accountability and implementing various programs, (as a result of CARI's efforts), it became evident that we (Blacks) could begin developing a process for a self-help mechanism. CARI special general body Self Help sessions were conducted whereby numerous workshops were conducted based upon the interests of the facilitator and general body. Many sessions were under-attended based upon the total population, however, on a percentage basis, the sessions were well attended.
Assisting Black Representatives of Other Groups
Shortly after, the CARI board was recognized by the Corporation and incorporated. Art Crawford (then Branch Manager, New York City) came in from New York to visit with the CARI board and gather some ideas that could be taken back and launched. The significant part of the effort was that while CARI was instrumental in gaining Corporate Management's acceptance for business policy and practice changes (that were not readily published in some cases), communications with other Blacks assisted mid- and upper-management with enablers that supported the effort, kind of like a tops-down, bottoms-up approach. Art then returned to NYC and launched efforts that
resulted in the formation of the caucus group in the New York Metropolitan area
A little time later, Richard Kier (West Coast representative) flew (at his own expense) to New York City (Xerox Temporary Headquarters while Stamford was being built) to address C. Peter McCullough. He was reimbursed for his expenses and came to Rochester, N.Y. to discuss West Coast issues with the CARI board. Some time after that, the West Coast organized and was recognized.
In the mid 1990's CARI changed its name to Rochester Black Employees Association.