Columbia man speaks out for minority jobs downtown

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COLUMBIA - Sam Brady's regular job is as the Douglass Park baseball coordinator, but he has taken on a new role as activist against the violence erupting around the park. Along with his proactive role to turn the park around, he's trying to point out what he calls economic unfairness in downtown Columbia.

Recently, Brady has talked to several people in the black community about their inability to find work opportunities in downtown businesses. Brady said they do not feel they are given an equal opportunity to get those jobs.

"When I have people from the park tell me they can't get hired in the downtown area, that breaks my heart," Brady said.

Brady spent his birthday walking the streets of downtown to observe and survey how many downtown owners currently employ blacks.

KOMU 8 News followed Brady around shops, restaurants and banks. When Brady asked how many black employees work at their place of business, many shop owners said none. One Maude Vintage associate, Jessica Weller, said she's surprised there are not more minorities working in their store.

"I believe we have one right now," Weller said.

Weller said her workplace hires employees based on qualifications, not color.

"Dependability, we want someone who will be here for a long period of time," Weller said. "We're kinda a tight-knit group so we want someone who can be a part of that."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau website "On the Map," a 2011 survey shows blacks comprise 7.8 percent of the workforce in the 65201 ZIP code, while whites make up 88 percent. In the ZIP code's general population, 7.6 percent are black and 83.3 percent are white.

Despite the numbers roughly mirroring each other, Brady's frustration grew throughout the day as he went in and out of several business places and did not notice many minorities. He said it is frustrating because businesses do not have a problem hiring blacks in positions like sanitation, fast food restaurants and lower income positions.

"Do we have minority servers, bartenders, blacks in manager positions down here?" Brady said. "My findings say no. When our community is so diverse, we need to make it more balanced down here."

One restaurant owner told Brady minorities don't apply to his restaurant.

"I find that hard to believe," Brady said. "I want to see 18- to 25-year-old minorities working hard in places like this they can be proud of."

Brady said he wants to observe the downtown area for the sake of the kids he works with every day. He said it is important to give them a voice for the future.

"I just want to see a balance of economic fairness in the district," Brady said. "My intent is to get a fairness for minorities."

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