After leadership shakeup, NAACP reaffirms traditional civil rights agenda
With the deactivation of Margaret Bush Wilson as chairwoman of the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a new personality, Kelly M. Alexander Sr. of Charlotte, N.C., is emerging. And he is calling for civil rights business ''as usual.''
As board vice-chairman, Mr. Alexander will be the man in the limelight when the NAACP holds its 74th national convention in New Orleans July 10-15. He will deliver the keynote address, and he will introduce many of the dignitaries.
His sudden rise has come because of Mrs. Wilson's unilateral suspension of Benjamin L. Hooks as NAACP executive director May 18.
She lifted the suspension eight days later, but it was too late. Grass-roots members had raised an outcry. The board followed through by censuring her at a special meeting called by Alexander May 29. Her final tumble came June 11 in Chicago at a meeting she convened. The board voted to ask Mrs. Wilson to resign, but she wouldn't. The board then stripped her of all her duties, leaving her as chairwoman in name only.
Throughout the controversy, as a no-nonsense leader who supports association tradition, Alexander left no doubt that he favored Mr. Hooks in the ongoing dispute with Mrs. Wilson for control of headquarters activity.
''Now is the time for us to be about NAACP business,'' he says. ''We have a convention coming up. . . . We can't be a divided organization and carry out our mission. . . .''
The convention is scheduled to address these topics:
* Politics - the NAACP is nonpartisan and endorses no candidates, but it has invited all declared presidential candidates to address the New Orleans convention. No Republicans have been invited because none, including President Reagan, have expressed intentions to run, a spokesman says.
* Operation Fair Share - this is the NAACP's economic thrust. The association has announced a number of agreements with utility firms to guarantee and upgrade jobs for blacks and contracts and subcontracts with black businesses.
* Entertainment industry - the NAACP is concentrating on improving the image of blacks as depicted in movies and on television.
* March on Washington - all major black organizations are involved in planning for the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.
* Jobs - high unemployment, especially among black youth, is a top priority among rank-and-file NAACP members.
As an NAACP veteran, Alexander has pushed the above issues as well as the desegregation of schools in North Carolina. A successful businessman in Charlotte, Alexander has been a stormy figure on the civil rights battlefront in North Carolina for 43 years.
Alexander is accustomed to hard-fought battles. He lives in the city that is the political base of Sen. Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina, a conservative who often opposes policies the NAACP advocates.