Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

The NAACP takes a more activist tack. Plodding rights group aims to infuse its 1,800 branches with youthful drive; shifts its headquarters to Baltimore

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is making an evolutionary change -- from the courthouse to the streets, from conference and banquet diplomacy to direct action. Under revamped leadership the association is seeking to convert its manpower from a plodding civil rights army of lobbyists and lawyers into a moving juggernaut of street fighters. New, more youthful leaders are impatient and eager to march, demonstrate, and fight the modern enemies of black progress: the drug culture, teen-age and single parenthood, and black youth unemployment.

Cosmetically the NAACP will look the same, with its 1,800 slow-moving branches seeking the traditional goals of first-class citizenship, fair housing, and voting rights through lobbying and legal action. During 1986, however, the NAACP will continue its transformation into a more activist body.

About these ads

The NAACP will focus on two basic programs this year: gaining economic parity for blacks and bringing the black family together through programs for youth.

The NAACP also will move its headquarters from New York, which has been home throughout its 77-year history, to Baltimore, where it would have been unwelcome as recently as 25 years ago.

To make its economic program work, the NAACP is promoting two efforts, says Benjamin L. Hooks, its executive director. One is new, the National Economic Development Inc., called NEDCO. The other is Fair Share, initiated in 1984.

NEDCO is an NAACP spinoff from Fair Share, the association's basic program to get mainstream companies to commit themselves to do business with minority enterprises, to place advertising in minority media, and to hire and upgrade minority personnel. The NAACP has negotiated 33 Fair Share agreements.

The first NEDCO program, called Incubator, will be set up in Hartford, Conn. This will be a pilot project subsidized by a Fair Share firm, says Benny Andrews, who heads the NAACP in Connecticut.

Incubator will be a one-stop center, owned by the NAACP, which leases space, office, and light industry to minority firms, he says. It will also offer a variety of services (management, legal, financial, accounting, and secretarial) to these firms.

``When in place, we can also aid established firms that want to expand or provide start-up capital to prospective entrepreneurs,'' Mr. Andrews adds.

About these ads

Mr. Hooks wants other branches to study the Incubator project, which he describes as self-help. He says Fair Share will enter a second phase this year.

He also reported that the latest Fair Share agreement is with the National Democratic Committee. The national Democrats have agreed to do business with minority companies in purchasing supplies and services, Hooks says. In addition, the national party will encourage state and local committees to sign similar pacts with local and state NAACP branches, he says.

``We're working for a similar pact with the Republican National Committee,'' Hooks says.

``Our next task is to monitor and review Fair Share,'' says Fred H. Rasheed, the NAACP's director of economic development. ``This year we'll concentrate on seeing that the pacts work. We plan to issue a progress report on each agreement.''

The NAACP economic package also includes advocacy of affirmative action and increased employment for blacks, especially youth and young men. Unemployment in this group runs as high as 40 percent in some states.

The youth package includes youth councils, which orient young people to NAACP goals and activities, and the Academic, Talent, and Science Olympics (ACT-SO), which promotes scholastic and cultural achievement, Hooks says.

The headquarters move will be April. Members will see the new home when the NAACP holds its national convention June 29-July 3 in Baltimore.

``Some people don't want us to go to Baltimore,'' Hooks says. ``Five years we hunted for space in New York, and nothing happened. Why not move? Soon, we'll own our own headquarters with plenty of room to expand.''

Realistically, money is the reason for the move. First, the rent in Manhattan was too high. The NAACP moved to Brooklyn but could not afford to stay there either.

Baltimore was selected because the city and the state of Maryland provided the NAACP with $1.1 million in incentive funds to set up headquarters there. It is expected to cost $3.3 million.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.