NAACP planning black summit here

May 05, 1994|By James Bock | James Bock,Sun Staff Writer

The NAACP is expected to announce today that it will hold a national summit of black leaders -- probably including black separatist Louis Farrakhan -- in Baltimore next month.

The Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., the Baltimore-based civil rights group's executive director, said yesterday that a "broad array of African-American leaders" would be invited to the 2 1/2 -day meeting on themes such as economics, education and violence.

Dr. Chavis would not say whether Minister Farrakhan would be on the list of participants, but he did say that black leaders with national constituencies would be invited. Minister Farrakhan heads the Nation of Islam, which has a national following.

"Our constituents are clamoring for [the summit]. There's a great desire for unity. There's also a great desire for improvement in the African-American quality of life," Dr. Chavis said.

Dr. Chavis, who has tried to broaden the NAACP's appeal to young and disaffected blacks since becoming the group's top official 13 months ago, appeared with Minister Farrakhan in November at a West Baltimore church.

In February, he said Minister Farrakhan would attend any summit. The Nation of Islam's anti-Jewish rhetoric has created pressure on mainstream civil rights leaders to distance themselves from Minister Farrakhan, but Dr. Chavis has said he will continue to talk to him.

Dr. Chavis, who is to jointly announce the summit today with NAACP board leaders, wouldn't say when or exactly where the meeting would be held.

NAACP sources said it would take place at various sites, including the group's headquarters in Northwest Baltimore's Seton Business Park and city churches. They said several dozen leaders would be invited.

Dr. Chavis said he had informally discussed the summit with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

"Obviously, this will be a plus for Baltimore," he said. "We don't foresee any problems."

Mr. Schmoke was unaware that a final decision had been made.

"The mayor last spoke to Dr. Chavis last Friday, and at that time Dr. Chavis said that Baltimore was being seriously considered because it is the headquarters of the NAACP," said Clinton R. Coleman, the mayor's press secretary.

"Dr. Chavis said he would meet with the mayor soon to discuss details involving the summit. But at that time he did not indicate that a final decision had been made," Mr.Coleman said.

He said the mayor "doesn't have any idea" whether Minister Farrakhan was invited or if he plans to attend. "Hopefully, the mayor and Dr. Chavis will get together soon to talk about the details [of the summit]," he said.

The leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People angered some of the organization's board members when he invited black nationalist leaders to a private meeting last month in Detroit without telling the board about it.

Today's joint announcement with Dr. William F. Gibson, the board chairman, and other board members is an apparent show of unity designed in part to heal the wounds from that incident.

The summit participants are expected to include not only politicians and civil rights leaders, but also business, professional and academic figures.

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