The need to preserve affirmative action programs as they increasingly come under attack in state legislatures, on Capitol Hill and in the courts tops the list of concerns at the quarterly board meeting of the NAACP being held in Baltimore this week.
The organization's board will vote today on its priorities, including taking on an anti-affirmative action initiative in the state of Washington that mirrors the repeal of affirmative action in California, which was recently upheld by the Supreme Court.
NAACP leaders hailed an announcement by Federal Communications Commission Chairman William E. Kennard at their luncheon yesterday that his agency will fight a federal appeals court decision in the District of Columbia to end FCC affirmative action requirements in the broadcast industry.
Already under way is an NAACP examination of hiring and business practices of the telecommunications industry, similar to study of the hotel industry that led Kweisi Mfume, the civil rights group's president and CEO, to call for a boycott of 10 hotel chains last year.
"We are becoming police in that respect," Mfume said in an interview. "There's a different respect for this organization within the corporate community."
"This is not your father's NAACP," said national Chairman Julian lTC Bond, presiding over his first board meeting since being elected in February.
Bond, a college professor and lecturer and longtime civil rights activist, succeeded Myrlie Evers-Williams, who oversaw a three-year recovery of NAACP finances.
In a departure from the tradition of work sessions with no outside speakers, Bond invited Kennard as well as Bill Lann Lee, acting assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights, and author Taylor Branch to speak to the group this weekend.
With Mfume, Bond will announce the board's top national goals at the final session today in an effort to raise the organization's profile.
"I feel we have somehow not had the presence that we should have," Bond said.
"I am determined that not one more board meeting will go by without us saying, 'This is what we believe.' "
The platform will likely include an effort to defeat Initiative 200, the Washington state ballot question that would end affirmative action in government hiring, contracting and college admissions.
"Despite all the predictions of doom and gloom that you see, the pro-affirmative action forces are winning," Bond said.
"But the anti-affirmative action forces are like forest fires. They're springing up all over the country."
With the lessons learned in California and success in defeating a move to ban affirmative action in city government in Houston, NAACP activists are ready to use the news media and public forums to mount a fight in Washington state, officials said yesterday.
"The youth in the NAACP have already made affirmative action their main priority," said Bond. "I'm hoping that the board is going to make the Washington issue a major priority."
Pub Date: 5/16/98