RIP: C. Diane Howell, Business Leader
by Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle
C. Diane Howell sat at her dining room table in 1989 and typed up the first edition of the Black Business Listings newspaper on her personal computer.
She believed so strongly in the need to promote African American businesses, she published the newspaper for nearly 20 years, establishing herself as a community leader.
Dr. Howell, who was also the producer of the Oakland Black Expo, died on Christmas Eve from complications from pneumonia. She was 58.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, called Dr. Howell a “beacon of optimism and hope, particularly for the owners of minority businesses throughout the Bay Area.”
Dr. Howell was born on July 20, 1950, in Washington, D.C. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and later earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from UC Berkeley.
As a psychologist in the Bay Area, Dr. Howell believed African Americans in the profession needed greater visibility and so she launched the first Black Perspectives newsletter in 1984.
She later saw the need to expand the exposure to a wide range of businesses and professionals, so she put the first Black Business Listings to press in 1989. She had no staff and no money, but she had a strong will.
“I think that she found her calling,” said Ronald Williams III, who considered Dr. Howell a godmother figure.
She had the idea that she could somehow make the world better or her part of the world better, Williams said. “Her work was very personal for her.”
After serving as the local coordinator for the Black Expo USA for several years in the early 1990s, Dr. Howell took over the Oakland Black Expo in 1997.
In 2000, she established the nonprofit organization SEEDS, Self-Empowerment through Education, Entrepreneurship and Dreams, which gives scholarships to local youth.
“Dr. Howell empowered the community and helped all whom she touched to realize their potential,” Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums said.
She was a role model who offered unconditional love to those closest to her, Williams said.
“The reason that I know what a Ph.D. is, is because of C. Diane Howell,” said Williams, who is working toward his doctorate in African American studies at UC Berkeley.
She had proved that the goal was not abstract or unattainable, he said.
“As far as life goes, she knocked it out of the park,” he said. “I wasn’t ready for her to be gone.”
Dr. Howell is survived by her mother, Doris Howell; sister Lynda Middleton; brother William Howell Jr. and his wife, Rhonda; nephew William Howell III and niece Shawn Wilkins; all of Chicago.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Oakland Marriott Convention Center, 1001 Broadway, Oakland.
A memorial fund has been established in her name at Alta Alliance Bank. For more information about the service or other memorial events, go to www.blackexpoltd.com.