Date: Feature Week of
July 25, 2004
DOES THE NAACP AND URBAN LEAGUE SPEAK FOR YOU?
Tens of thousands of upper middle-class black conventioneers gushed and preened when the Establishment’s two top presidential candidates appeared before their groups in pursuit of votes in the 2004 Elections. But, questions remain as to whether blacks will simply accept Democratic nominee John Kerry’s visits to the NAACP and Urban League conventions, and Republican President George W. Bush’s to the Urban League just to talk to us? Will either ever sit down and talk with us about what actually ails African Americans in this society?
The membership of both groups represents less than 1 percent of all African Americans, and is primarily populated by black middle-class people. The NAACP is viewed as a “grass roots” organization and the National Urban League as the corporate or “establishment” group. Both groups are viewed as the bane of the millions of blacks who will play a big part in the 2004 U.S. presidential elections, especially in 18 key battleground states that include: California, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Of the 34.5 million blacks in America, 15 million are registered to vote - 9 million are unregistered. In 2000, blacks cast 10 percent of all votes - 10.5 million. Ninety percent of African Americans cast their ballots for Al Gore, totaling 18.9 percent of his voters. Only 51 percent of the nation voted in 2000. Among states were voter turnout was below 50 percent were the four states with the largest African American populations – California, Georgia, New York and Texas.
Asking for their votes, Kerry told the NAACP gathering: “We can provide a new direction for America if we remember that in all the great movements for civil rights and equal rights, the environment and economic justice for all, we have come together as one America to give life to our highest ideals.” And, he is putting forth bucks to get black ballots. His campaign has a $2 million ad program to encourage blacks to turn out to vote for him and tout his plans on jobs, health care and education. The TV ads will run in battleground states, major cities in other states and on black-oriented cable networks BET and TV1. The Uniworld Group, a 30-year-old black-owned advertising firm helped design and distribute the ads. Print ads have already started to run in black-oriented newspapers.
President Bush declined an invitation to speak to the NAACP’s gathering citing that its leaders have treated him “unfairly”. Formed by white liberal descendants of abolitionists appalled by violence committed against blacks in the 1908 Springfield, Illinois riots, the NAACP had a stellar record of fighting for equity and rights for people of color. Now, led by a former Democrat Congressman and Georgia State Senator, the image of the NAACP is that of an appendage of the Democratic Party. Bush’s beef should not be with the NAACP, but with the crafty political moves of NAACP Chair Julian Bond and President and CEO Kwesi Mfume.
In 2000, Mfume and Bond initiated a separate 501 (c) (4) organization, the NAACP National Voter Fund (NVF) to engage in issue advocacy, educate voters on candidates’ stands on civil rights, and increase voter turnout in African American communities through voter education and non-partisan registration and get-out-the-vote efforts. The NVF subsequently created Americans for Equality (AFE), a Section 527 political organization that was funded with $12 million by a Hollywood producer. It was the NVF that ran ads portraying Bush as unsympathetic to the dragging death of James Byrd in Texas.
In his Detroit speech to the Urban League, Bush invited blacks to ''take a look at my agenda'' of boosting small businesses, demanding high standards in public schools and defending ''the institutions of marriage and family.'' He proposed an initiative, in cooperation with the Urban League’s affiliate network, to expand business ownership among minorities by creating one-stop centers for business training, counseling, financing and contracting.
To improve on Bush’s 8 percent support among blacks in 2000, Republicans are wooing African-Americans in battleground states with new advertising campaigns, voter registration drives on college campuses, the appointment of a "steering committee" of 61 prominent black leaders to promote Mr. Bush's policies and a national tour with boxing promoter Don King and party officials. The campaign is airing ads on black radio stations in Philadelphia, Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City, Mo., Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio and Milwaukee.
The Urban League, founded in 1910, is the nation's oldest and largest community-based movement empowering African Americans to enter economic and social mainstreams. From the beginning, the League has been interracial - the chairman of the board traditionally being white and the chief executive officer (overseeing day-to-day operations) being black. Headquartered in New York City, and led by the former Mayor of New Orleans; Marc H. Morial, nonprofit, nonpartisan Urban League affiliates operate in more than 100 cities in 34 states and the District of Columbia.
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