Aubry Stonem, affectionately nicknamed “Stoney,” was a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., but California became his homefront to advance equal opportunities for minorities in the private and public sectors as the co-founder of the California Black Chamber of Commerce (CBCC).
Consequently, he became a powerful voice in business circles and in Sacramento. When he died last year at the age of 74, there were concerns if his mission and his organization would falter. But one does not become a formidable champion of economic empowerment without a plan.
“Aubry’s departure has had a devastating impact on the California Black Chamber of Commerce,” said Tim Simon who is the new chair of the board of directors.
“We miss Aubry, but we have channeled our grief into fulfilling his objectives. For example, we have elected Edwin M. Lombard as our president and chief executive officer. This was a specific deathbed request by Aubry,” said Simon.
Simon said the organization will continue to espouse the policies and programs that have proven effective in promoting the African-American input into the world’s fifth largest economy. “That is what Aubry wanted, and we are committed to making it happen,” Simon added.
The CBCC is considered the largest African- American non-profit business organization representing hundreds of small and emerging businesses, affiliates and chambers of commerce throughout the state. It was founded more than 20 years ago by four visionaries. But Stone’s name eventually became synonymous with the organization.
Simon brings an impressive suite of skills to the board. He is a commissioner emeritus who was appointed to the California Public Utilities Commission by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007. During his time as commissioner, Simon served on the board of directors of the University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley Energy Collaborative ( BERC) and the Energy Imbalance Market ( EIM) Regional Taskforce. Prior to this appointment, Simon served as appointments secretary in the Office of the Gov. Schwarzenegger, the first African-American in California history to hold this post and an adjunct professor of law at Golden Gate University School of Law, and the University of California Hastings.
With a new staff in place, Simon said they will be working to assure members and sponsors that their “hard-earned contributions” are being managed responsibly. “We are planning receptions throughout the state to enhance our relationship with members and sponsors. One will be hosted by Wells Fargo in Northern California and US Bank in Southern California,” he said, adding that the CBCC will be forming an advisory council to give partners a direct voice in CBCC policies.
California has a strong economy. Unfortunately, however, it leads the nation in income disparity. Simon said that the CBCC will be working with the business community and the legislature to address this inequality. One major concern is the Trump administration cutting the federal funding for the California High-Speed Rail project. The organization is hopeful that Gov. Gavin Newsom and California’s congressional delegation can reverse this action. The organization’s treasurer, Charles Daniels, will lead the charge to determine which Opportunity Zones the CBCC will support.
In Southern California, Simon wants to forge a stronger bond in Los Angeles County stretching to the Inland Empire.
“When I was contemplating the offer to join the CBCC Board, I had breakfast with The Hon. Willie L. Brown, Jr. requesting his guidance,” he said. “He encouraged me to accept the opportunity and open an office in Los Angeles and San Francisco. We look forward to strengthening our relationships with Ms. Linda Lewis (Hollywood Black Chamber of Commerce), Skip Cooper of the BBC , Gene Hale of GLAAACC and other Black Chambers in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire.”
While welcoming a new board chairman, the CBCC has found itself ensnared in a legal battle that began internally involving its interim president, Delores Thompson, and a former board member, Edwin Lombard. The two, reportedly, have differing visions of the organization’s path forward. Lombard, specifically, alleges that Stone bestowed the reigns of the organization to him after his death. For her part, Thompson has reportedly filed a complaint of “fraud” and conspiracy against Lombard and legal representatives in Sacramento County Superior Court.