Miami's blacks 'invite' NAACP conventioners to visit Liberty City
Black leaders in Miami are incensed that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is holding its 71st national convention in adjacent Miami Beach.They say that if the NAACP meeting doesn't "come to Liberty City" -- Miami's riot-torn black community -- before July 4, they will provide some "fireworks" in Miami Beach.
But Benjamin L. Hooks, NAACP executive director, retorts: "We have set up an urban affairs headquarters to work on the problems of Miami. The NAACP is a grass-roots organization. Most of its members come from communities just like Liberty City. We decided to come to Miami Beach because the trouble is here, and we made this commitment five years ago."
Black citizens of Miami are not buying the NAACP story, says Mae Rene Christian, vice- president of the New Black Leadership Council of Miami. She is a delegate to the NAACP convention.
The council is the group that led a demonstration against President Carter when he visited Miami two weeks ago. Mrs. Christian is advising the NAACP to work out a compromise to bring convention delegates to Liberty City.
Delegates should "pour into Miami," see the destruction, then help register local citizens to vote, declared Mrs. Athalie Range, black businesswoman and former member of the city commission. "Be concerned about Miami, or you will have one at home when return," she warned the convention.
The immediate Miami question is taking the spotlight away from US presidential candidates appearing at the annual NAACP meeting -- and from one who isn't. Independent candidate John B. Anderson spoke here June 30; Republican hopeful Ronald Reagan sent an apology for not being able to address the convention. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy is set to speak at a July 2 luncheon, and President Carter at the closing banquet July 4.
NAACP officials and Mrs. Christian are working out a compromise to have a group of delegates visit Liberty City before the threatened July 4 demonstration. "This situation cannot be ignored," Mrs. Christian said. "My concern is that this is not the time to question the credibily of the NAACP, but if the Miami [black] council should call for action, I would have to go along with them."
Some poor blacks in Miami say the NAACP is a "bunch of middle-class blacks speswelter across the bay."
All convention plenary sessions are open to everyone without cost, Mr. Hooks points out.
Actually, the NAACP leadership is banking on special programs for Miami and Florida to win over local citizens. The NAACP plans to set up of two permanent offices in Miami -- one to deal specifically with problems of Miami and Dade County, such as alleged police brutality and charges that the local criminal justice system is unfair to blacks, the other to serve as a civil rights multiservice center for Liberty City.
In addition, the NAACP says it will set up a field office in the northern part of Florida.