WASHINGTON -- NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said yesterday that the civil rights organization will continue economic sanctions against South Carolina until the Confederate flag no longer flies over its Capitol.
He also announced plans for a march in Tallahassee, Fla., next month to protest Gov. Jeb Bush's proposal to eliminate racial and gender preferences in admissions at the state's public universities and in granting contracts.
"We will be there, thousands and thousands of us," Mfume told about 250 people gathered for the 91st annual meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
"The NAACP will make an address simultaneously when Bush makes his [announcement]. After 200 years of legal slavery and 100 years of Jim Crow, 30 years of trying to level the playing field is not enough," he said.
On the Confederate flag issue, which has intensified in recent weeks, Mfume said the NAACP will not back down.
"The black American economy is an unexplored treasure in a wrecked ship that must now be opened, inspected and liberated," Mfume said. "We must stop the boycotts of our intelligence with boycotts of our own. That requires that we develop a disciplined consumer appetite."
In January, about 47,000 people marched in South Carolina to protest the flying of the flag, an issue that the NAACP has been fighting since 1962.
Later, during a news conference, Mfume mentioned polls that he said overwhelmingly showed black and white South Carolinians believe that the flag should be removed.
He said the NAACP won't compromise with South Carolina leaders who have suggested placing the flag at a Confederate monument on the Capitol grounds.
"We did not start this fight," he said. "The compromise is unacceptable and non-negotiable."
Mfume's lengthy speech, which followed remarks by NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond, was often interrupted by applause and shouts of "Amen."
Mfume discussed several topics, including:
The NAACP's continuing talks with the four major TV networks about the scarcity of blacks on television.
An organizational goal to register 4 million new voters by the November general election.
What he characterized as deliberate efforts by some in the Senate to "bottle up judicial nominations."
Before Mfume spoke, Bond said that membership and revenues are "up and rising" for the NAACP, the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization.
"If the economic news is better, the political news is not," Bond said. "We face a Congress more hostile to civil rights than at any other time."
Bond said it was important for all eligible voters to register, and he said the NAACP intends to "ensure that the census count is as fair and accurate as it can be."
Hotel chain boycott
Also during the news conference, Mfume announced that the NAACP is boycotting the Adam's Mark hotel chain until its parent company stops discriminatory practices alleged in a lawsuit brought last year by the civil rights organization, the U.S. Justice Department and the Florida attorney general.
The NAACP sued the St. Louis-based chain after black college students who patronized the Adam's Mark in Daytona Beach, Fla., last April said they were singled out as security risks and forced to wear orange wristbands before entering the hotel.
"Adam's Mark has suggested they're close to settling with the Justice Department in hopes that this will go away," Mfume said. "This will never go away until the individuals involved have their cases settled and their day in court."
The chain has no hotels in Maryland.
Sharon Harvey Davis, director of diversity for Adam's Mark Hotel & Resorts, said she could not comment on the boycott because she was unaware of it.
S.C. primary probe
Mfume also announced that the NAACP will send its national field director to South Carolina immediately to investigate claims that as state voters cast ballots for the presidential primary, 21 polling precincts in predominantly minority areas were closed without warning by the Republican Party or did not open.
"We've been getting similar reports all day," Mfume said. "We believe there's got to be some substance to these complaints."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Pub Date: 2/20/00