Presenting 3 kudos and one raspberry

September 18, 2002|By GREGORY KANE

SO MANY TOPICS, so little space. What's a columnist to do?

Devote as many paragraphs as possible to each. So here goes. Let's start off with some kudos.

1. To Earl El-Amin, who used Sept. 11 to continue the work that the Muslim American Society has been doing for years, long before the terrorist attacks took place. Forget what you've heard for the past year about Islam being "the enemy" or a religion that nurtures fanaticism.

El-Amin handed out certificates of appreciation to Maj. Russell Shea, commander of the Baltimore Police Department's Southwestern District; the Rev. Damien Nalepa, who was representing Cardinal William H. Keeler; Capt. Jeff Jakelski of the Baltimore Fire Department's Walbrook station; and Herman Pittman, a community activist who's worked with the Muslim group for years.

The certificate for Keeler is part of the society's ecumenical efforts to reach out and have dialogue with leaders of other religions. That effort, El-Amin reminded those gathered at the sect's mosque in the 3200 block of W. North Ave., goes back years, long before Sept. 11, 2001.

"The Catholic community has always been close to our community and remains close to our community," El-Amin said.

That statement's sure to make America's "stamp out Islam" crowd wince.

2. To the NAACP, for taking Florida officials to court for violating voters' rights in the 2000 presidential election and getting a settlement that required the state to clean up its act. Regardless of how you feel about former Vice President Al Gore, who lost the election, or President Bush, the fact remains that Florida's "accidental" purging from the voting rolls of millions of black voters who should have been eligible is unpardonable. (Though, in light of more boo-boos in the Florida gubernatorial Democratic primary, not surprising.)

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People counts the settlement as a victory. It's no Smith vs. Allwright, the 1944 Supreme Court decision argued by NAACP attorney and later Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, but it'll do. (In Smith vs. Allwright, the Supreme Court ruled all-white primaries unconstitutional.) You have to wonder if Florida bigwigs settled because they found the thought of tangling with the NAACP in court downright unsettling.

This is the organization that challenged segregation and discrimination by going into court, in case after case, and using the U.S. Constitution to dismantle racism's edifice. It was the NAACP that delivered the body shots that weakened Jim Crow in America. Morgan vs. Virginia banned segregation on vehicles engaged in interstate commerce. Even the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott was won by the NAACP in the Supreme Court case known as Owens vs. Members of the Alabama Public Service Commission.

Civil rights activists of the late 1950s and 1960s came along later, gave Jim Crow some head shots, brought him down and walked off with the credit. But it was the NAACP that got the job done.

Now, if the organization would only acknowledge that it really isn't nonpartisan.

With all due respect to NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, I have to repeat the claim that if the civil rights group gets any more nonpartisan, it'll have to be renamed the Democratic Party Central Committee. The NAACP leadership clings to nonpartisanship as if there's something good about it. But if the organization believes that one party, more than another, is more in accord with the goals of the NAACP then it darn well should be partisan, and proud of it.

3. To Ron Maxwell, producer, director and writer of the Civil War film Gods and Generals, scheduled for a February premiere. There was a 40-minute preview of Gods and Generals on Thursday night at the Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown. Maxwell got a standing ovation afterward, as did actor Stephen Lang, who should win an Oscar for his portrayal of Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, if there's any justice.

"The characters in the film speak in paragraphs," Lang told the audience. "You have to think when watching it."

A movie with a literate, intelligent script, sans gutter language, from Hollywood? Let's have some triple kudos for Maxwell, maybe even quadruple, since he shot the film here in Maryland.

Finally, a raspberry.

What they said:

"We just don't want to discuss it right now." The Baltimore Ravens' official position on renaming Ravens Stadium as John Unitas Stadium.

What they mean:

"We stand to lose a lot of money if we do and face horrendous community opprobrium if we don't. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place."

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