NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said yesterday that the civil rights group would march against police brutality, hold a hearing on military discrimination and reaffirm its support for reparations for slavery at its 88th annual convention.
The convention, which begins Saturday in Pittsburgh, is scheduled to include an address by President Clinton and wide-ranging discussions of education policy, including voucher plans, state "takeovers" of urban districts and school busing for desegregation.
But Mfume denied recent reports the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was reconsidering its traditional support for integration.
"We stand by our fundamental principle of a single, fully integrated American society with equal opportunity," he said in an interview. "The discussion of to bus or not to bus, to integrate or not to integrate comes out of the frustration people have seeing young people in school and not getting an education."
The planned youth march against police brutality touches on the Pittsburgh area's hottest racial issue. In a case that has received national attention, black motorist Jonny E. Gammage died of suffocation in 1995 after he was pinned to the pavement by white officers from suburban Pittsburgh police departments. Three officers were charged with involuntary manslaughter, but none was convicted.
The military discrimination hearing will include testimony about the sex scandal at Aberdeen Proving Ground, where a dozen black drill sergeants were charged with rape and lesser offenses for having inappropriate relationships with recruits. The NAACP has called for an independent investigation of possible racial bias.
The reparations issue is resurfacing after an Ohio congressman proposed that the United States formally apologize to African-Americans for slavery. The NAACP has supported a bill by Rep. John Conyers Jr., a Michigan Democrat, to form a commission to suggest "appropriate remedies" for slavery and subsequent discrimination against blacks.
"When we talk about reparations, we have to talk about what is doable as opposed to what is sufficient, because I don't think there will ever be sufficient reparations for the brutal form of chattel slavery that persons of African ancestry were forced to undergo in this country," Mfume said. The NAACP passed a pro-reparations resolution in 1993.
Mfume said the NAACP, which had considered moving to downtown Baltimore, expected to keep its headquarters in Northwest Baltimore's Seton Business Park "for the time being" and not seek more elegant quarters. Mfume was a member of the City Council when Baltimore lured the NAACP here from New York in 1986.
He said he would oppose any effort to move the NAACP to New York or Washington.
Mfume said he would ask the 3,000 convention delegates to consider raising NAACP membership dues from an average of $15 to $25. The organization wiped out a $3.2 million debt last October. It has followed an austere, pay-as-you-go budget under Mfume, who left Congress 16 months ago to head the group.
"It's time that we readjust our dues structure. It costs almost three times as much to be a Boy Scout of America as to be a member of the NAACP," Mfume said. "I don't want us ever so dependent on the corporate community for our livelihood that we are compromised in our ability to take positions."
While any mention of a dues increase is sure to be controversial, Mfume said he expected the nation's oldest and largest civil rights group to emerge "more unified, energized and focused" from the six-day convention.
The NAACP convention will also consider resolutions to:
Urge the federal government to adopt an affirmative action program to stem the loss of black-owned farms.
Review the legality of state interventions in urban school districts.
Oppose the reallocation of public funds to private-school vouchers or charter schools.
Pub Date: 7/09/97