Sharpton forms local chapter of group, picks Young to lead

Activist plans protest of Bush inauguration

January 10, 2001|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

The Rev. Al Sharpton ignited a crowd of more than 300 at a Baltimore nightclub last night as he officially formed a chapter of his National Action Network here and named former state Sen. Larry Young as its leader.

Sharpton spoke briefly, then rushed to Washington, where he was scheduled to tape a television show. His remarks were peppered with shouts of "Amen!," "All right!" and "That's right!" from the audience.

"We need an action network," Sharpton said. "We need to actively go after those that exploit and oppress us."

Sharpton founded the organization in New York City 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. Efforts are under way to establish others in Atlanta, Miami and Philadelphia.

Sharpton suggested that the newly formed Baltimore chapter should address the voting irregularities that occurred in Florida during the November presidential election.

"The good news about George [W.] Bush is he's going to make all of us get together," he said to laughter.

Sharpton has planned a protest Jan. 20 in Washington to coincide with Bush's inauguration. "Our challenge today as Larry takes over is to build a real strong grass-roots organization," he said. "Come out next Saturday."

As he headed to his limousine, Sharpton said he chose Young because "I think he has shown the independence and the courage to stand up and not be compromised."

Young, 51, is a morning talk-show host on WOLB-AM. He was expelled from the Senate in 1998 for ethics violations. He said the chapter's first order of business is to go to Annapolis and demand that legislators provide ample money to treat Baltimore's estimated 60,000 drug addicts.

That was good news to Denise Brown, 43, of West Baltimore, who said she is a recovering heroin addict. "I'm hopeful the National Action Network can get us some help," Brown said.

Aaron Wilkes, 33, of East Baltimore said he thinks a local chapter of the National Action Network will complement efforts of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation's oldest civil rights organization. But Wilkes, president of the Darley Park Community Association, said he hopes "every voice is heard from in this, not just Larry Young's."

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