It's a new day for the National Urban League.
The group will open its convention in New Orleans today with a newly aggressive stand on issues and a new openness toward linking arms with other civil rights groups.
President Hugh Price's recent media campaign against the federal welfare bill, and his insistence that the government make jobs available for those cast off welfare, went against the league's traditional approach of offering job training.
And the expected participation of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chief Kweisi Mfume in the Urban League's convention symbolizes the groups' new commitment to working together.
"Given the climate of escalating racism and the need for the civil rights movement to come together, I think it's meaningful from that point of view," Gasby Greely, league vice president for communications, said yesterday.
Mfume and Price both took over large organizations weighed down by money troubles and charges of irrelevance.
Both have stressed the importance of building coalitions.
"Hugh Price and I have spoken on several occasions about the mutual need of both organizations to respectively work together on issues of mutual concern," Mfume, the executive director of the NAACP, said Thursday. "We have pretty much pledged to one another that if that example were to start, that it would start with us, in our time, as we both lead these respective organizations."
About 4,000 delegates are expected at the convention, "Building 21st Century Communities: A Blueprint for Action," Aug. 11 to Aug. 14 in New Orleans.
Sessions will focus on getting out the black vote, affirmative action and creating safe communities.
Mfume will speak on political action and setting a black political agenda. Other speakers will include Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, author Cornel West and Rep. Donald Payne, a New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
In recent days, Price set an energetic tone, speaking out on national television about the federal welfare bill that sets a lifetime limit of five years for family assistance and requires most able-bodied recipients to find work within two years.
"I think this bill is an abomination," Price said on CNBC on Wednesday night. "It's based on a couple of fallacious principles. The first is that, when people are cast off of welfare, that there will be a job market ready to absorb them. The second fallacious assumption is that the states can be counted upon to rescue those who are cast off of time limits and can't find jobs."
Urban League leaders nationally agreed that the dire issues facing black Americans make coalition-building necessary. Egos once prevented the NAACP, with its focus on the courts, and the Urban League, with its focus on social services, from coming together, they said.
Price attended the NAACP convention in Charlotte, N.C., last month. And, Mfume said, "The issues that both organizations face really require a larger army of workers."
Detroit's Urban League president, the Rev. Ronald Griffin, agreed the groups have no choice.
"We're starting to realize we've got to talk about our philosophical differences," he said this week.
Pub Date: 8/11/96