Views on the Chavis controversy ... and black

August 19, 1994|By Sam Banks

THE REV. Benjamin Chavis assumed the leadership of the NAACP in April 1993 with immense enthusiasm, ebullience, verve and a potent and dynamic vision for expanding the role of African Americans in our national life.

Hopes were high in the African-American community as Mr. Chavis increased NAACP membership and attracted young people to the organization, especially those who were jobless, alienated and dispossessed. He said he signed up 100,000 new members, swelling the organization's ranks to about 600,000 members. He even reached out to include Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. He also reached those considered more militant, including Dr. Lenora Fulani, chairwoman of the leftist New Alliance Party, to help plot strategy to work on problems affecting African Americans.

It, too, should be noted that even some within the African-American community did not support his selection to head the NAACP. But after his election, they took a wait-and-see approach.

The recent revelations that Mr. Chavis apparently agreed to use up to $332,400 in NAACP funds to settle claims of a former temporary employee without consulting the board, have caused deep pain, anguish and restiveness in the 64-member NAACP board of directors and much of black America.

At this point in time, beyond the allegations found in Ms. Stansel's sexual harassment and sex discrimination lawsuit, it is not clear why Mr. Chavis allegedly paid Ms. Stansel $82,400 ($64,000 of which came from the NAACP), and offered to aid her in obtaining an $80,000-a-year job and, if she was unsuccessful, pay her $250,000 more.

These allegations, to be sure, damage the credibility of Mr. Chavis and the NAACP. The issues require prompt, decisive and systematic resolution by the NAACP's 64-member board of directors. I am delighted that the board has agreed to meet tomorrow to address the facts, void of rhetoric, and take appropriate actions to safeguard the NAACP.

Until the NAACP's board of directors has reviewed the facts in this lamentable situation and defined a course of action, I believe there should be a cessation of the rush to judgment of Mr. Chavis, as has, to a substantial degree, taken place in the nation's print and electronic media.

To this end, I was keenly disappointed that Carl T. Rowan, a widely respected and incisive syndicated columnist, saw fit to call for the resignation of Dr. William Gibson, national board chairman of the NAACP, and Mr. Chavis before an investigation by the NAACP's board.

Mr. Chavis, as it should be, will have his day in court tomorrow, when he meets with the board. Facts and not the rumor-mill naysayers will rule then.

Sam Banks is a Baltimore City school administrator.

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