More Reasons Why Ben Chavis Lets Down the NAACP

August 19, 1994|By CARL T. ROWAN

WASHINGTON — Washington.--With his job at stake at an emergency board meeting tomorrow, NAACP executive director Benjamin Chavis Jr. is trying to pull off what may be the greatest con job in the history of the organization.

Mr. Chavis has told USA Today that since April 1993 he has increased NAACP membership from 490,000 to 675,000. He has told other media that through his ''dynamic new direction'' he has brought more than 100,000 more youths into the organization.

Official internal NAACP documents show that this is so far from the truth that it is a tragic joke.

An NAACP source has provided me with a 200-page computer printout of the certified membership numbers on which for 70 years the NAACP has computed the annual voting power of each branch.

This document shows that as of July 1, 1994, total NAACP membership was 356,299, a drop from 381,895 a year earlier. There were 20,392 additional ''at-large'' members who had been solicited by the Gil Jonas Agency, as compared with 17,112 a year earlier.

NAACP authorities told me, despite a Chavis gag order, that no gains since June could possibly put NAACP membership within 200,000 of the figure boasted about by Mr. Chavis.

This printout shows the following membership drops during Mr. Chavis's tenure:

Branch 3134 in central Detroit, down from 25,282 to 22,166.

Branch 5522 in Greenville, S.C., home of board chairman William F. Gibson, down from 318 to 283.

Branch 4050 in Minneapolis, down from 522 to 326.

Branch 2031 in Wilmington, Del., down from 829 to 546.

The document shows total youth membership at 41,347 at the end of June, yet Mr. Chavis makes claims that he has added more than 100,000 young people to the rolls.

The tragedy is not only that Mr. Chavis lies so baldly and boldly to newspeople about NAACP membership; it is that he pretends that through his policies of black separatism and nationalism he is creating an NAACP that is dependent only on black financial support.

''Have you ever heard of a freedom movement where somebody else pays for the movement?'' Mr. Chavis roared at a New York City rally Wednesday. ''The funding of the NAACP must . . . be in the hands of the African-American community.''

Most NAACP leaders before Mr. Chavis have wished that this could be so, but none has ever gotten black financial support remotely equal to the organization's needs.

Today, when the median net worth of the black family is $4,604, compared with $44,408 for the white family, the NAACP cannot meet even half its annual budget of $18 million without the support of ''white'' foundations, businesses and individuals.

So, with his inflated membership figures and his rhetorical disdain for ''white money,'' Mr. Chavis is foisting a sham and a delusion upon those who desperately need a strong, involved, multi-racial NAACP.

Mr. Chavis has given the board reasons other than his alleged, costly sexual misconduct to determine that the NAACP needs a new executive director.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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