Sharpton eyes local chapter for group

N.Y. activist to hold meeting today with area black leaders

January 09, 2001|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

The Rev. Al Sharpton, the at times flamboyant New York civil rights activist, is expected in Baltimore today for a meeting with Larry Young and others to discuss forming a chapter of his National Action Network here.

Young, morning talk-show host on WOLB-AM, has been laying the groundwork for a local chapter of the organization. Neither a Sharpton spokeswoman nor Young would say whether the former state senator would be asked to head the chapter if one is formed.

"Each chapter has different organizational needs," said Tamika Mallory, executive assistant to Sharpton, of who might be asked to head a local branch. "I can't really tell you that. It depends on what they discuss in the meeting."

Young, who recently lost a bid to unseat G.I. Johnson as president of the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said yesterday that he plans to attend Sharpton's meeting at 7 p.m. at Bread of Life At The Cathedral, 100 W. Franklin St. But he declined to say whether he had been asked to run a local chapter.

"I'm going to be at the meeting, and I'm going to hear him out and see what comes of it," Young said. "We have a very good relationship."

Sharpton emerged as a spokesman for New York City's black poor in 1986. After a black man died fleeing a white mob in Howard Beach, he marshaled the protests that prompted the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Sharpton garnered national attention in 1987 when he came to the defense of Tawana Brawley, a then-15-year-old New York girl who claimed that six white men abducted her; a grand jury later found it to be a hoax.

Sharpton founded his National Action Network in 1991. It is described on its Web site as a civil rights organization "geared toward economic justice, political empowerment of the disenfranchised citizens, a fair criminal justice system and a moral agenda of fairness and equity for the 21st Century."

The organization has chapters in New Jersey, Detroit, St. Louis and Dallas, and efforts are underway to establish others in Atlanta, Miami and Philadelphia, Mallory said.

Sharpton has made two other high-profile visits to the city in the past year.

In July, he delivered a keynote address at a luncheon during the NAACP's national convention in Baltimore. Before that, he was in Baltimore as a guest on NAACP President Kweisi Mfume's TV show, "The Bottom Line," during which police shootings were discussed.

Sharpton's appearance followed the death of Larry Hubbard, a 21-year-old black man who was shot in the back of the head on Oct. 6, 1999, as police officers attempted to arrest him in the 2000 block of Barclay St.

That appearance also came under the shadow of the highly publicized trial of four New York City police officers in the fatal shooting on Feb. 4, 1999, of unarmed street vendor Amadou Diallo; Sharpton was a key organizer of protests following the officers' acquital.

National NAACP spokesman John C. White spoke favorably about the possibility of a National Action Network chapter being formed in Baltimore.

"Reverend Sharpton has been an ally of ours in the past, and we look forward to working with him in the future," White said.

Baltimore NAACP branch president Johnson , who said that he might attend the Sharpton meeting, took a more cautious tone.

"I understand that it was announced on the Larry Young show, that's all I know," Johnson said of today's meeting. "I don't have any comments on it at this point because I don't know what the program's going to be about. I'll have to wait and see on that."

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