A Black Woman-Owned Business Encounters Discrimination in Quest to Help Ukraine

Carolyn Davis, like many others, had an immediate reaction to the destruction in Ukraine caused by the Russian invasion.

By Stacy M. Brown | NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Carolyn Davis, like many others, had an immediate reaction to the destruction in Ukraine caused by the Russian invasion.

“Those folks need help,” said Davis, the CEO of the District of Columbia-based CDAG International.

To help, her construction company visited areas of the war-torn country where civilians and military personnel alike needed assistance.

Davis said her group had installed “living containers and living facilities” that provided families with things like furniture and bunk beds, as well as generators.

“We installed electrical systems and other mandatory features,” she stated.
As the war’s anniversary approaches, though, it appears that American impulses have also kicked in.

U.S. politicians, government organizations, The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and others have neglected CDAG’s work, even though U.S. military aid and spending has reached over $50 billion, and firms are pitching services to gain contracts to help reconstruct that Eastern European nation.

Davis has repeatedly requested that USAID allow the company to compete for contracts to provide relief in Ukraine, but USAID has routinely declined.
USAID counts as an independent agency of the government that’s responsible for providing civilian foreign aid and helping development.

Legislators also have ignored CDAG’s attempts to contact them.

Davis stated, “They do not recognize me. I’m just some Black woman who wants to lend a hand. And that’s exactly what they perceive. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want to support a Black-owned business, but they clearly don’t.”

The American envoy to Ukraine also snubbed CDAG’s request for a meeting, despite the Ukraine Ministry of Defense having given Davis’s firm a glowing recommendation.
The Defense Ministry expressed gratitude to the United States government in a letter dated December 30, 2022, for its support during Ukraine’s conflict with Russia.
The letter addressed to Nathaniel Adler, the principal director of the U.S. Office of the Under Secretary for Policy at the Department of Defense, noted that Ukraine still requires urgent supplies, equipment, and logistical support.

Meeting such requirements would be impossible without access to necessary resources and a reliable support system, the defense minister wrote.

“Due to the intense fighting in several areas, it’s very difficult to get these materials to our troops on the front line and other locations, and there are very few companies that can accomplish this task,” the letter continued.

“CDAG International has worked with our military and has proven that they can assist the Ukrainian government to acquire critical services and facilitate many of our requirements. CDAG has proven beneficial to our troops and had contributed to saving lives.”

The letter is only one of many testimonials to CDAG’s capabilities, according to Dwight Brown, senior managing partner for CDAG and a retired U.S. Army Sgt. Major.
“We’ve created enough housing to accommodate 3,000 people and we’ve done it in approximately eight months,” Brown said.

CDAG has focused its efforts on the western side of Ukraine, where the war’s destruction has forced many people to relocate, he said.

“There are people who left Ukraine and are trying to make their way back,” Brown noted. “We see a lot of squatters and in villages there are people with tents on the side of the road. We want people to get back inside warm structures before it gets too far into the winter there.”

The Ukraine government provided CDAG 60 acres of land, but without funding or even a token commitment from the American government, it will be difficult for the company to meet current demand.

CDAG managing partner Warwin Davis added that the firm has supplied heating, generators, and external stoves to aid Ukrainian forces.

Davis, who has managed multinational supply chains for almost three decades, insisted, “We made history over there.”

“Historically speaking, it was Carol Davis who made history,” Davis demanded.
“It’s incredible that we haven’t been able to acquire a quarter from USAID despite what we’ve shown that we can accomplish.”

CDAG hopes to meet with White House officials.

“The elephant in the room is we are a woman-owned and minority small business, and the U.S. government and USAID are giving all the dollars to the regular companies,” Brown asserted.

“We’re going not continue to ride the Office of the Secretary of Defense, USAID, and congressional offices. People with weaker constitutions than us would have thrown in the towel. That’s not us. When they tell us ‘No,’ it just means next opportunity. We’re coming to the table and not asking for special set asides, just an opportunity.”

Stacy M. Brown

A Little About Me: I'm the co-author of Blind Faith: The Miraculous Journey of Lula Hardaway and her son, Stevie Wonder (Simon & Schuster) and Michael Jackson: The Man Behind The Mask, An Insider's Account of the King of Pop (Select Books Publishing, Inc.) My work can often be found in the Washington Informer, Baltimore Times, Philadelphia Tribune, Pocono Record, the New York Post, and Black Press USA.