NAACP president's son proud to join his father

Investment banker helps ensure Mfume gets rest

July 13, 2000|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume is used to people taking his picture in public. He is, after all, a former member of Congress and a "favorite son" of Baltimore's black community.

But Sunday after a luncheon at the Hyatt Regency, it was his sons Donald and Keith Mfume - not the civil rights leader - to whom people flocked.

About 20 or so people jockeyed for position to get pictures with Donald, 32, and Keith, 30. Donald Mfume is a senior vice president of corporate finance with Redwood Securities Group, a minority investment banking firm based in San Francisco with offices in Los Angeles, New York, Singapore and Washington. The oldest of Mfume's five sons, he heads the Washington office.

"I was kind of hoping he wouldn't recognize us this time," Donald Mfume said yesterday, referring to when his father pointed them out to the audience during the luncheon. "I talk to him about it, but he doesn't pay me any mind. He's a dad. He's doing what he loves to do."

As an investment banker, Donald Mfume travels the country and gets a chance to attend more of his father's functions than his brothers. For example, he has attended annual conventions of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in New York, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Charlotte, N.C.

"I had warned Keith because he wasn't used to it," the older brother said of the picture-taking frenzy that lasted well after the elder Mfume had left the ballroom. "He was a little startled at first. Then he took to it like a duck to water."

But Donald Mfume doesn't attend NAACP functions just so people can snap his picture. He goes, primarily, to ensure that his father gets some rest. During the conventions, it's not uncommon for Kweisi Mfume to stay up until 2 a.m., only to rise four hours later, his son said, and some days, he barely gets to eat a complete meal.

"I have been to every single event with him this week," Donald Mfume said. "I always make sure he takes his vitamins and has a pack of throat lozenges."

At last year's convention in New York, Kweisi Mfume developed a bad case of laryngitis. But so far this week, he hasn't lost his voice though he joined NAACP board Chairman Julian Bond at a Saturday news conference, gave remarks at several luncheons and had conversations with countless NAACP members.

Donald Mfume said he's proud of his father. He knows the news media often makes a big deal of his father's past - he fathered five sons out of wedlock by four women, has been imprisoned and used to drink and use drugs - but he holds him up as an example of the adage: "It's not how you begin but how you end up."

"Considering the circumstances, he was homeless at 16, his mother died in his arms, he had to take care of his three siblings. ... I just always try to put myself in that situation, and I think it would have been very difficult for me to pull myself up."

Donald Mfume said the elder Mfume constantly gives sound advice to him and his brothers, including Kevin Mfume, Ronald Gray and Michael Mfume, all 31.

"He tells us we always have to continue to grow," Donald Mfume said. "He says when you're 6-feet under, you should go out knowing that you gave something back, had a meaningful life. I can't give him enough accolades and praise. I love him. I support him. I just wish I could accomplish half of the things he has."

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