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Leader urges black businesses to repay NAACP for their gains


An article in yesterday's editions of The Sun incorrectly reported the year in which the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded, 1909.

The Sun regrets the error.

NAACP Chairwoman Myrlie B. Evers-Williams urged African-American business contractors yesterday to help repay the organization for making their success possible and also criticized moves in the country to scale back affirmative action.

"Where would each and every one of you be? Where would you and I be if not for this organization that pricked the conscience of America?" Mrs. Evers-Williams asked an audience of 300 at the Maryland/District of Columbia Minority Supplier Development Council. "How many minorities in this country would have their own businesses today if not for the NAACP?"

Mrs. Evers-Williams, who was elected to lead the NAACP in February, was the keynote speaker at the two-day conference of minority businesses at the Convention Center. The meeting concludes today.

She reminded the group that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had been fighting discrimination for decades and pledged that the organization would not retreat. She called for African-American contractors and others in the audience to contribute generously to the NAACP through $500 life memberships or $1,000 Golden Heritage memberships, even if paid a little at a time.

"What you can do to assist this organization financially should not be limited to $100, $500, $1,000 or even $5,000, but to do whatever you can . . .," she said.

The NAACP, founded in 1912, faces a $3.8 million deficit attributed to mismanagement under its former board chairman, William F. Gibson. The venerable organization now faces cost-cutting measures, including layoffs, to offset the shortfall.

Despite the problems, Mrs. Evers-Williams said, the NAACP will address challenges facing blacks.

She assailed a May 22 Supreme Court ruling striking down the University of Maryland's Benjamin Banneker scholarships, an affirmative action program that paid college expenses for talented black students.

And she criticized action by California Gov. Pete Wilson, who last week abolished affirmative action programs in his state that helped minorities and women win jobs and contracts. She said she disagreed with the characterization of those programs as reverse discrimination.

"Well, reverse discrimination says to me that at least there is someone who admits there was discrimination," Mrs. Evers-Williams said.

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