2 pursue more power for blacks

November 21, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

Saying that Howard County blacks deserve more clout, two black leaders are forming a group to push for political and economic power for the county's 22,000 black residents.

The Rev. John L. Wright, pastor of First Baptist Church of Guilford and out-going president of the state NAACP, and Columbia attorney Charles Ware plan to discuss the idea with other black leaders this month.

"We need to have black representation in Annapolis from Howard County," Mr. Wright said. "We need some real power."

Mr. Wright, who served seven years as state chief of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, decided not to run for re-election this year. Marjorie R. Green, the group's executive vice president and a retired Social Security equal rights opportunity specialist, was elected president last month and will take office in January.

Howard County, home to 22,019 blacks or 11.8 percent of the county's 187,328 population, according to Census figures, has only one black elected official, County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, a Columbia Democrat.

The county has no black District or Circuit Court judges, no black-owned banks, no black school board members, and no black legislators in the General Assembly, Mr. Wright noted.

The still-unnamed advocacy group would work to change that, and would work on behalf of other citizens the two organizers see as locked out of the county's political establishment, they said.

Mr. Ware said the group may be modeled after United We Stand America, Ross Perot's grass-roots organization, and the old Alliance Toward an Active Community (ATAC), a group of county blacks who met in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The group would keep a close watch on local politicians and the two major political parties, he said.

"Howard County has very capable politicians," said Mr. Ware, general counsel for the state NAACP under Mr. Wright. "But they have to be watched and responsive. They can't be responsive if they don't know what people want."

Mr. Gray said he would support the group, and said the fact that he is and has been the only minority on the five-member county council is "a tragic commentary" on the county's political environment.

"I think such a group is significant because it indicates that people, African-American as well, are very much concerned about what happens in the political system and in their lives," he said. "This is one way to be responsive."

Mr. Ware and Mr. Wright expect the group to tackle such issues as affordable housing, transportation, crime, unemployment, AIDS and drugs.

Education is another major concern.

Mr. Wright noted that black students are suspended at a disproportionate rate in the county schools, saying, "We get disciplined the hardest."

He also said that the school system needs to teach students to become entrepreneurs, not just wage-earners. The lack of such training is evident in the county's black community, he said, citing as an example the fact that Howard County has no black morticians.

Mr. Wright also said the group would address the plight of young black males, who often are incarcerated and are at a greater risk than their white counterparts of becoming homicide victims.

He stressed that black youngsters need to be given a sense of self-worth and credited for the good work they do. "Not all young people are troublemakers," he said.

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