African-American leaders strive for common ground NOI's Farrakhan, Price of Urban League at summit

November 18, 1995|By James Bock | James Bock,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Drawn together by the success of the Million Man March, the National Urban League's Hugh B. Price and the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan shared a stage yesterday at the National African-American Leadership Summit.

Mr. Price, who boycotted last month's rally in Washington, gave a keynote speech extolling interracial collaboration. Minister Farrakhan, who led the march and promotes black separatism, listened respectfully and later echoed Mr. Price's ideas.

The Urban League president urged blacks to form coalitions across racial and ethnic lines, and to "create jobs and wealth beyond the confines" of the African-American market.

"As Martin Luther King taught us, it is morally wrong to hate or harbor animosity toward any people. We must not wallow in our resentments of the past. We don't have time to hate. There's too much work ahead," Mr. Price said.

The audience of 400 at Howard University received that advice in silence, but it applauded Mr. Price's urgings that blacks stress education and entrepreneurship.

Minister Farrakhan later picked up on Mr. Price's statement that blacks should not bemoan the presence of Korean merchants in their neighborhoods, but run their own stores.

The Nation of Islam leader said blacks should not scapegoat outsiders doing business in their communities "because if we had done what we should have done, they would not be there."

Minister Farrakhan, who has criticized other black leaders for being too easily swayed by white opinion, said it was an "honor" to have Mr. Price at the summit, which ends today. The two had not met before yesterday.

The leaders were joined last night at a televised "town hall meeting" by the Rev. Jesse Jackson of the National Rainbow Coalition, the Rev. Joseph Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and others.

"How are we going to move without the Urban League?" Minister Farrakhan asked. "How can we move without the NAACP, the church, the mosque? The time we are in is the time of synthesis."

Mr. Price said in an interview yesterday that he didn't attend the Million Man March because of concerns about the Nation of Islam's "history of racially divisive language" and women's "subordinate role" in the event.

But he said he was delighted by the energy unleashed by the march and by Minister Farrakhan's "overture to the Jewish community to begin the process of healing." He said he considered "unimportant" the question of whether the march lent Minister Farrakhan legitimacy.

He said he accepted the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.'s invitation to address the summit without hesitation. Dr. Chavis, fired last year as NAACP executive director, leads the summit and is a close ally of Minister Farrakhan.

Despite Minister Farrakhan's growing prominence, Mr. Price said there was hunger for collaboration across racial lines. He said Americans wanted Gen. Colin L. Powell to run for president because they saw him as a "bridge-builder and a healer." He said he was "deeply disappointed" that Mr. Powell decided not to run.

The summit, an umbrella group of African-American organizations with a black nationalist flavor, voted yesterday to set up an African-American Development Trust and to explore forming the "Abundant Life Health Plan." Neither idea has progressed beyond the formative stage.

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