Chamber of Commerce offers public apology for speech

By Tracy Clemons bio|e-mail

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA)- A fiery response today to what some say was a luncheon turned political rally. Today, the Shreveport-Bossier African American Chamber of Commerce held a news conference asking for an apology from the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce.

Some people say the speaker at last week's Business of the Year luncheon, Frank Luntz, turned it into something else altogether within the first few minutes.

"I could not believe that I had just spent 35-dollars to attend a political ambush," says Crystal Brown-Tatum.

In his presentation, Luntz used what some call offensive commentary and images.

"There was one with President Obama's lips and ears exaggerated that took me back to the black face era," Brown-Tatum says.

She is so upset that she's cutting ties with the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce.

"I was a 40 under 40 recipient from the Shreveport Chamber. I will be returning that award because I don't feel that they embrace all of their members. Therefore, I don't want to be associated with the chamber in any form or fashion."

Many of the people at the news conference attended the luncheon in support of Terry Jackson, who was being honored. She owns the Christian Dance Center.

"They wanted to see me honored that day, and we were excited. We were very happy about the accomplishments I had made throughout my business career, and it didn't turn out that way," says Jackson.

After the news conference, the Greater Chamber's chairman, Eric Barkley, made a statement: "To those guests that were in the audience, I apologize if you were offended. There's no question about that. It was never our intent to bring a program that would offend anyone," he told the crowd of about two dozen.

To Crystal Brown-Tatum, it's too little too late.

"I am not satisfied with the response. I felt it was very canned. It was kind of a Chris Brown apology."

Booker White, the head of the African American chamber, says a sit-down is in the works for the very near future.

"We just hope and feel confident that we will work through this, as we have many other things," White says.

In his remarks, Eric Barkley told the crowd and the media that the chamber did not know what Luntz would say in his speech before he got up. He adds that anyone who was there and was offended by Luntz's remarks can get a refund for their luncheon ticket.

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