Mfume's task doesn't end with saving NAACPIs former...

LETTERS

March 02, 1996

Mfume's task doesn't end with saving NAACP

Is former Congressman Kweisi Mfume the lone ranger who will save the NAACP? The press has so acclaimed. The premise that the principal task is the saving of the NAACP may be dangerously misleading. Certainly, Mr. Mfume will make a significant difference in this rescue mission.

Mr. Mfume has come a long way from being negatively street-wise with unacceptable behavior. A transformation took place in his life. One of the NAACP's immediate priorities is to reach out to young African Americans, which is a challenging, daunting and formidable task.

A segment of African-American leadership advocates separatism, saying that integration (non-racialism) is an unrealized fantasy. The standard for the struggle is still to have one America, with civil and economic justice for all.

What is the mind-set of young men and women and the middle-aged who are African-Americans? Some people proclaim that there is a completely separate African-American culture. Is it education and the empowerment of others and a dedication to a worthy cause greater than the self? Apparently, some senior members of the NAACP national board were not practitioners of these principles.

Crass materialism and the looking out for No. 1 is the popular agenda of the day. Position, power and money are the gods to pursue without seeking to help the hopeless and lend a helping hand. These negative practices have shaped the minds of our society. African Americans do not live in a vacuum and are not exempt or immune.

Do not underestimate the pervasive power of the enemy. These forces are within and without, both covert and overt. The mass culture does not reinforce integrity and idealism, nor does the elite culture. Yet we must go forward, for light does overcome the darkness.

The African-American community must not sit as spectators waiting for others to do it. We reject and resist the siren song of sterile deeds. Sound the trumpet and many will hear and heed the call to service. Mr. Mfume and the cause need our hearts and hands. It is transformation and regeneration. It is the getting of leaders and followers who will work for the common good.

The NAACP must outline some specific programs, projects and purposes that are relevant for renewal and a new day and time. Churches in the past have been the backbone of the NAACP and should conduct extensive membership drives. Other groups, individuals and institutions should have membership drives reaching into every city, village and hamlet. Mr. Mfume would give inspiration and leadership to these efforts.

Rev. Sidney Daniels

Baltimore

The writer is pastor emeritus of Emanuel Christian Community Church and a past president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.

While welcome, the recent actions by Gov. Parris N. Glendening to reform a criminal justice system that has clearly failed in its mission to control crime are a mixed bag. The Sun's editorial criticism of his decisions and the legislature's questioning of some of their logic highlight a fundamental

dilemma facing Maryland lawmakers and the public in its quest for public safety.

By placing a moratorium on prison construction, the governor correctly acknowledges what others have learned over the past 10 years -- states cannot simply build their way out of crime through prison expansion. While some offenders are violent and must be incarcerated, most are not. Many can be more effectively and affordably handled in alternative programs.

However, The Sun correctly identifies the flaw in the governor's policy -- there has been no corresponding plan or budget as an alternative to prison construction. Absent a commitment to an alternative system, the failures of our past will come the failures of our future. We will have learned nothing from the massive criminal justice expenditures of the past decade -- expenditures that have stifled Maryland's ability to invest in education, housing, crime prevention and economic development.

The Sun's questions are even more salient given the projected demographics of our state's population over the next 20 years. Maryland will see a substantial increase in the number of ''at-risk'' youth, those most likely to commit a crime. Unless we develop crime prevention and alternative sentencing programs for nonviolent youthful offenders, Maryland will suffer the disasters that plague states like Florida and California -- with random release of prisoners, including violent prisoners, because there is ''no room at the inn.''

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