Rebirth of the NAACP


Washington -- On Sunday, this city will see a remarkable lurch back into a time of kinder, more hopeful race relations in America.

From Alaska to the Caribbean, from Honolulu to Hamilton, Bermuda, more than 2,000 Americans of all races and political persuasions will stream into this city to try to resurrect the NAACP and restore life to the fading belief that we Americans of such great diversity can live together in mutual respect and tranquility.

The occasion will be a ceremonial "swearing in" of Mrs. Myrlie Evers-Williams as chairperson of the national NAACP, the once-great civil-rights organization that recently has been crippled by financial mismanagement and internal strife.

This gathering at 4 p.m. at the historic Metropolitan AME Church where Frederick Douglass once worshiped will be unprecedented in terms of both the people who will participate, and the hope they will bring that America can wrest itself from the miasma of hatred and violence that now provokes and paralyzes so many people.

Attending this rebirth of the 86-year-old NAACP will be some great names from the modern civil rights revolution -- Mrs. Thurgood Marshall, Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr., Mrs. Malcolm X, Mrs. Rosa Parks -- and some glowing younger figures of these troubled times -- Gen. Colin Powell, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Vernon Jordan and stars of stage, television and the movies.

More important to the NAACP and the nation, this ceremony will bring together again the Catholics, Protestants and Jews who once jointly embraced NAACP ideals and dreams and made the organization a powerful social and political force.

Honoring "Myrlie" will be titans of industry and dirt laborers; aging scholars and angry youth -- all searching for ways to make real the late Justice Marshall's dream of an America "where everybody can get the same thing, at the same place, at the same time."

Many of these leaders of industry, labor and religious and fraternal groups will bring checks of $100,000 or more to help give Mrs. Evers- Williams a start unfettered by crippling NAACP indebtedness.

After all the fund-raising and the commitments to inspire Americans to be better than they think they can be, seven black federal judges will conduct a symbolic swearing in. This will be their way of giving the new chairperson "the imprimatur of the law," a moral shield against those who still wish to undermine her and destroy the NAACP.

This gathering is the brainchild of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Damon J. Keith of Detroit and Washington civic leader C. Dolores Tucker. I report in full disclosure that they dragooned me into co-sponsorship.

I join them with pride and hope, because I know, as they do, that while the NAACP alone cannot fulfill the dreams of a fair and caring society, we are not likely to replace hate and fear with hope and love without a viable, multiracial NAACP.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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