Remembering “Emo” Emanuel Blair Henderson, Jr.

I first met Emanuel Henderson when I worked for the city of Syracuse, office of minority affairs as a staff member. Our duty was to monitor contract compliance with the city’s minority and women business enterprise (MWBE )ordinance. “Emo,” as he was affectionately called, led the Central New York contractors and vendors during a tumultuous time when the continuation of MWBE programs was jeopardized.

There were times when he was not happy with the way Syracuse and Onondaga County conducted business with minorities … as they didn’t. In the late 1990s, businesses were getting over posing as minority or women owned, obtaining city contracts using the “minority” status for inclusion in the city’s goal program.

Emo could have simply looked out for himself, as he was the owner of JHP Industrial Supply. This gave him an advantage over the hands on bricks and mortar fellas. But he took to the floor in front of the Syracuse Common Council and in public meetings on many occasions leading the charge on behalf of the entire region’s minority business enterprises.

So hearing of his recent death brings sadness to many people who he helped whether it was his advocacy or his support when you didn’t think anyone cared.
He was also a man who’d tell you to your face what he thought, so when he said, “with Ken down there I’m sure nothings getting by un-monitored.” That statement was the ultimate honor coming from Emo.

What people didn’t know was that many “majority” contractors in an effort to economically break Emo, would go as far as Buffalo to purchase their supplies from another minority rather than work with a local minority business enterprise. But Emo persevered.

Over the last 20 years we’ve seen an uptick in the number of African-Americans elected to public office in Syracuse. None of them did more for the African-American business community than Emanuel Blair Henderson Jr.