Mfume seeks to renew NAACP-church alliance Group's leader announces initiatives to re-establish ties, promote growth

October 09, 1997|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume told a gathering of religious leaders yesterday that the civil rights organization had in recent years neglected its collaboration with the nation's churches and must re-establish those ties.

Mfume, addressing the group's National Religious Leadership Summit in Baltimore, recalled the "historic linkage" between the NAACP and religious communities, particularly African American churches, dating to its early days, when "all we had then was the organized church."

He asked the two dozen representatives of Christian and Jewish denominations "to allow us to be a partner with you the way it used to be."

"It is in the church that this organization found its genesis," he said in a news conference after the summit. "It's been through the church that this organization has been able to sustain itself now for almost nine decades in this country.

"And it will be only through a continued working relationship, reciprocal in nature, with the church that we have any chance at all of making the kind of difference in the next century that we are trying to make."

Mfume announced several initiatives agreed to at the meeting, including the formation of a National Religious Leadership Committee to build on the relationship between the NAACP and the churches; an agreement by the religious denominations to conduct an annual financial campaign for the NAACP; the creation of a national membership campaign to be conducted in the churches; and a pledge by the NAACP to assist churches in programs and issues they are pursuing.

Mfume said the help of the churches will be vital in helping the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People carry out its five-point plan for growth and advocacy. The plan included: continued advocacy for civil rights, voter empowerment, promoting educational excellence for youth, encouraging economic development and attracting new, young leadership.

"We believe we must usher in a whole new generation of young leaders," he said. "We will be an asterisk in the history in the 20th century if we don't get that done."

Mfume said it was the turmoil that the nation's oldest civil rights organization went through in recent years -- including accruing a $4.8 million debt and enduring a scandal involving then-Executive Director Benjamin F. Chavis, who made a secret deal to pay up to $332,400 in NAACP funds to a former aide who accused him of sexual harassment -- that resulted in the neglect of its relationship with the churches.

"There was a period of great turmoil here," Mfume said.

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Pub Date: 10/09/97

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