NAACP will include Farrakhan in spring summit

February 20, 1994|By James Bock | James Bock,Sun Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Despite pressure to distance itself from black separatist Louis Farrakhan, the NAACP said yesterday that it is moving ahead to sponsor a black leadership summit this spring including the Nation of Islam leader.

The Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., NAACP executive director, said that Minister Farrakhan and Rep. Kweisi Mfume, the Baltimore Democrat who heads the Congressional Black Caucus, had confirmed they would attend the summit. No date or place has been set.

Among major black leaders, only the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, who was Dr. Chavis' main rival last year for the NAACP job, has not yet said he would attend, although Dr. Chavis said he has been invited.

The mainstream black leaders first shared a platform last fall with Minister Farrakhan, whose anti-Jewish rhetoric has outraged Jewish leaders and others. But Dr. Chavis said this would be the first time he was included in a high-level discussion of issues. "There's a deep hunger in the community for unity," he said. "A lot of younger brothers and sisters can't understand why we can't sit down together."

Dr. Chavis and other NAACP officials met here Thursday with leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, which Minister Farrakhan has called "anti-black," to discuss the anti-Semitism controversy. The meeting yielded only a terse statement that made no mention of the Nation of Islam.

The NAACP leader said he believed that the "day will come when the ADL and the Nation of Islam will sit down at the table of dialogue." He didn't say when that might happen. The ADL's policy is not to share platforms with anti-Semites.

No discussion of the Farrakhan issue reached the floor of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's annual meeting here yesterday.

Michael Meyers, a dissident New York member and former NAACP staffer, tried to raise the issue, but the meeting was adjourned with him at the microphone, asking to speak.

"Louis Farrakhan is a bigot, anti-Semite and apostle of black racism," Mr. Meyers said later. "For the NAACP to be in a covenant with him is scandalous."

But Dr. Bernetha George, a Baltimore County NAACP member, said that black unity around such issues as youth violence and joblessness was more important than Nation of Islam "name-calling."

"The issue between the Nation of Islam and the Jewish community is a problem they need to resolve," she said. "That is not the NAACP calling names, not all black people calling names."

The only controversy that surfaced at the meeting was over rap music. C. DeLores Tucker, chair of the National Political Congress of Black Women, demanded that the NAACP, based in Baltimore, take a position against "gangsta rap," whose lyrics often glorify gun violence and degrade women.

Earlier this month, Dr. Chavis convened a symposium in Washington at which he said the NAACP would "fight for the right of rappers to rap about the hard realities of life in a society permeated by racial oppression and exploitation."

Warning that "the media will try to divide us on this issue," Dr. Chavis told Mrs. Tucker that the NAACP doesn't condone lyrics degrading women. He said the NAACP board would adopt a position on gangsta rap. "We need to deal with the lyrics, and we also need to deal with the social conditions" that lead young people to use such lyrics, he said. "We get all upset about words. I'm more upset about social conditions."

Reuters reported that a new poll shows that, while more than half of black Americans think Minister Farrakhan is an effective leader who speaks the truth, less than a third personally respect him. The poll, released yesterday for Time magazine and CNN, had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

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