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The Braille Monitor – October 2000 Edition


Federation Forms New Division in Texas

by Kevan Worley

From the Editor: Kevan Worley is the energetic new President of the National Association of Blind Merchants. He recently sent the Braille Monitor a report of an August meeting in Texas which several dissidents tried unsuccessfully to disrupt. The result of all the furor was a new state organization of blind vendors and a much closer working relationship with a state agency trying to assist its vendors. Here is Kevan's report:

On Saturday afternoon, August 12, 2000, at the Capitol Marriott Hotel in Austin, Texas, sixteen Federation merchants met to form the Texas Association of Blind Merchants. As President of the National Association of Blind Merchants I addressed the group, providing a national perspective on a variety of issues confronting blind vendors and discussing Federation philosophy, expertise, and the collective action necessary to confront our challenges nationwide and in Texas. The group then paid dues and unanimously indicated their willingness to form a new division. They developed and adopted a constitution, and elections were held. Officers are Jeff Pearcy, President; Mark Harris, Vice President; Manny Sifuentes, Secretary/Treasurer; and board members Ronnie Watson and Cathleen McGurk.

The new division then drafted a letter to Michael Hooks, Director of the Texas Commission for the Blind's Business Enterprise Program. The letter informed Mr. Hooks and Commission staff of the formation of the Texas Association of Blind Merchants and its willingness to work collegially to solve the problems confronting the Texas BEP. The letter acknowledged the creative and energetic work done on behalf of blind vendors by Terry Murphy, Commission director; Michael Hooks; and Commission staff.

This organizing meeting was the successful culmination of a wild weekend in the Lone Star State. The Texas Business Enterprise Program was conducting an upward mobility conference for its managers. Federation vendors asked if I could come to make a presentation on the agenda. The idea was wholeheartedly endorsed by Terry Murphy and BEP Director Michael Hooks. However, some on the elected committee of blind vendors attempted to keep the Federation's perspective off the agenda.

On Friday evening we held an initial information and organizing meeting. It was lively, friendly, and informative for about the first twenty minutes. That's when five or six members of an outfit called the Randolph- Sheppard Vendors of Texas came in and attempted to take over the meeting. They were bullying and belligerent. They made false accusations about Dr. Maurer and other Federation leaders. I am proud to say that we Federationists kept our cool and attempted to conduct a respectful dialog with the intruders, but they continued their oral assault on Federationists from President Maurer to our local leaders. When RSVT member Allen Thorp began to berate Jeff Pearcy with a string of expletives, I announced as calmly as I could, "I want to thank you all for coming, but this meeting is now over." The need for reason, common sense, and mutual respect in the Texas Business Enterprise Program was obvious. It was the reason we had come to organize the Texas Association of Blind Merchants.

The next day I addressed the entire upward mobility conference about the need to work together--state licensing agency and blind entrepreneur-- to protect, defend, and expand business opportunities. I said, "The time for frivolous appeals, altercation, and litigation must give way to a new day in which blind vendors set aside petty differences and stand up for reason, respect, and results." The speech was very well received considering the climate in Texas in which a very few continue to impede progress using tactics that divide operators and create strife for SLA personnel. Later that afternoon the establishment of the Texas Association of Blind Merchants ensured a new day for the Texas BEP.

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