Is Motorola Harboring Diversity or Disrespect?

The state's largest private employer pours money into African-American causes--but critics charge its bosses don't walk the talk

George Dean, executive director of the Greater Phoenix Urban League, has never heard of Maceo Gray. But he does detail Motorola's substantial contributions to his organization.

For at least the past three years, Motorola has donated about $15,000 a year toward seats at the Urban League's annual dinner, has been a "key sponsor" of the group's annual golf tournament and has donated printers and computers. At least one Motorola executive sits on the league's board.

Like George Dean, Marvin Perry, director of the Black Board of Directors, a group that encourages African Americans to join boards of corporations and nonprofit organizations, has never heard of Gray. But Motorola, he says, has "absolutely sterling" performance in his organization.

Looking for help with his lawsuit, Gray did not appeal directly to Dean and Perry. He says he believed the Urban League would not go up against Motorola because of its financial support. But he approached both the national and local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, another group Motorola has donated to in the past. He has a turn-down letter from the national office.

Reverend Oscar Tillman, executive director of the Arizona chapter of the NAACP, says he recalls Maceo Gray's name, but just barely. Tillman says he was not in town when Gray's lawsuit was filed, and is surprised it has received almost no attention from African-American groups or the media.

"The fact is that for a company like Motorola, going through a downsizing like that, it should have been a major issue. I don't know what happened," Tillman says. "When you don't have a Reverend Tillman or somebody to carry the battle to the forefront, I guess it seems like it doesn't get anywhere, regrettably."

At the time the suit was filed, the Arizona Republic and Mesa Tribune wrote brief stories. The Phoenix Business Journal mentioned the case in a story about downsized older employees, and, subsequently, Maceo Gray secured a $25,000 grant from the national Association for the Advancement of Retired People to assist the class-action suit.

But to date, no publication or group--not even the Arizona Informant, whose motto is "We Record Black History"--has mentioned the Aunt Jemima incident or Big Beatific Black Buddha Award or any specific charges of racial discrimination made by the Grays and others in their case against Motorola.

Even the Grays' own pastor has a hard time choosing loyalties. Reverend Warren Stewart, pastor of the First Institutional Baptist Church, says he knows Doris and Maceo Gray well, and respects them. He knows vaguely of Maceo Gray's lawsuit, and warns, "I don't think that you can judge a corporation by the activities of one or two of its supervisors. So Motorola could do a lot for the African-American community, and yet have a supervisor or some employees who do not reflect their basic principles."

In 1994, the Informant ran two stories about Gray's case; one was general, the other focused on the fact that three plaintiffs were Vietnam-era veterans. Both stories ran without bylines, but were taken almost directly from text prepared by Gray.

After the second article appeared, Gray says, he was told by an Informant employee that the paper would not print any more stories because Motorola advertised with the Informant.

Cloves Campbell Sr., publisher of the Arizona Informant, says that is not the case.

"No, we never said that. We said we couldn't get Motorola's side of the story," Campbell says, citing a lack of reporters.

"You see, let me explain something," Campbell continues. "You got people like that gentleman [Maceo Gray]--nobody knows them in the community until they get their butt in a wringer. And then all of a sudden they want everybody to drop everything they're doing and jump on their case. They don't belong to no black organizations until they get into trouble, then they quickly run and join. They don't even belong to a church in the community. You've got somebody here who wants you to use up all your resources on them, when they've completely ignored the community . . . when they were on top."

For the record, Maceo Gray says he joined the NAACP in 1982, joined the First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix in 1989 and started subscribing to Arizona Informant in either 1992 or 1993.

Gray doesn't fault Campbell, or African-American groups who may have turned the other way, influenced by the funds they receive from Motorola.

"This is what happens when you're in a small community, where you really don't have a nucleus of black people to support things," he says. "These people are trying to survive."

Lawrence Moore, director of public affairs for Motorola's Space and Systems Technology Group, responds quickly to an interview request for this story while he is on a business trip in Moscow.

Moore is happy to discuss Motorola's extensive involvement in the Valley's African-American community. He rattles off a list of organizations--including the Arizona Council of Black Engineers and Scientists, Consortium of Black Organizations for the Arts, the Black Women's Task Force--that Motorola supports.

Typically, Motorola gives away grants to such organizations in the range of $2,500 to $3,500, Moore says, but it's not uncommon for a single donation to top $10,000.

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