Hitting a high note: Fairfield businessman named to Drum Corps Hall of Fame
A Fairfield man who has been playing in a drum-and-bugle corps since he was 8 years old was recently elected to the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame.
“It’ a good pastime,” Clarke said in his Fairfield living room, surrounded by busts of famous horn players.
Clarke marched with the Fairfield PAL beginning in 1961, and went on to play with several different area drum-and-bugle corps. He eventually served as music director for many champion drum-and-bugle teams including the New York Skyliners, the Milford Shoreliners and the Bengal Lancers of Trumbull.
The World Drum Corps Hall of Fame inducts those “who continue to devote their time, talent and efforts in making drum-and-bugle corps an enjoyable and rewarding experience for persons of all ages,” according to the organization’s website. “He founded the Buglers Hall of Fame, which already has more than 100 members, in 2001 and still serves as board chairman,” the organization cited as one of his accomplishments in Clarke’s online biography.
Clarke said he believes setting goals and reaching to achieve them is the secret to success whether as a bugle player in a drum and bugle corps or as a businessman.
“When I was a young kid all I wanted to do is to be the best bugle player in the world, and that’s what I was motivated to do,” he said. “Pick a goal and get to that goal — that has just stuck with me.”
Clarke has set many goals for himself in the business world as well. He is the president and CEO of Computer Consulting Associates International Inc., a company that specializes in promoting diversity in business. DiversityBusiness.com, the main arm of his company, works to connect small diverse businesses including female-owned, African-American and Asian and Hispanic companies to larger corporations. In order to be awarded federal and state contracts, large companies must include diverse businesses in their supply chain, he explained. DiversityBusiness.com analyzes and sells data such as a list of the top 100 female-owned businesses in the nation or in a particular state. His clients include AT&T, Pepsi, Home Depot, Time Warner and Apple.
“One of the biggest secrets in America is that people think nothing is going on with diversity — and there’s a lot going on in diversity,” Clarke said.
But Clarke, who has been recognized for his work in promoting diversity in business by many organizations and government leaders, said he believes not enough has been done in America to curb racism, despite efforts to diversify in business. He cites the recent incidents between African Americans and police as indications of the problems that still exist between Americans of different races. He fears for his three children, “and especially for black males,” when it comes to becoming targets of racism and racial profiling, he said.
Even though he is a college-educated, successful businessman living in an affluent Fairfield neighborhood, Clarke, an African-American, still gets profiled, he said.
“I can still go into a store and I will be the last one in line at the cash register and the only one asked to show an ID with my credit card,” he said. Clarke once complained to store managers, but no longer. He can’t blame employees who are only doing what they are told, he said. “Racism comes from the top.”
Clarke said it was the affirmative action programs in the 1960s and ’70s that created an African-American middle class, sending minorities to college, into business and later into senior management positions. But many of those programs have been cut, and the gap is getting larger between the wealthy and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, especially in urban neighborhoods, Clarke said.
“There are too many people at the bottom of the economic chain,” he said.
Clarke said he believes the solution is educating young people about what they can achieve. High school instruction should include courses on personal development and personal finance, and youth at the lower end of the economic scale should experience how people live at other economic levels, he said. His company has provided scholarship help for students to attend college, including full scholarships.
“It’s always education that is the bottom line,” Clarke said. “Without that, nothing is going to happen.”