From Sat Nov 18 07:21:18 2000
Date: Sat, 18 Nov 2000 01:14:22 -0500
From: Art McGee <>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Battle Brewing in Philadelphia NAACP
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Battle Brewing in Philadelphia NAACP

By Linn Washington Jr. <>, The Black World Today, 16 November 2000

Early this summer Philadelphia Mayor John Street sparked criticism in this city’s black community for failing to forcefully condemn incidents of police brutality and for his silence on ensuring minority participation in the billion dollar building of two new professional sports stadiums.

Street, Philadelphia’s second black mayor, is again the target of some criticism for his attempts to unseat the current president of Philadelphia’s NAACP branch, J. Whyatt Mondesire, a newspaper publisher. Even critics credit Mondesire with reviving a morbid organization, increasing the local NAACP’s membership rolls by thousands and championing civil rights issues from attacking police brutality to securing minorities a fair share of employment and contracting opportunities on major public works projects.

This controversial presidential campaign parallels the national NAACP’s recent announcement that Philadelphia will play host to that organization’s annual convention in 2004, an event that will pump nearly $20 million in revenue into the city’s economy. Street heavily lobbied the NAACP’s national board of directors to select Philadelphia for its convention when that body met in Philadelphia last month.

This caustic campaign by Mayor Street and some of his allies to oust the often-combative Mondesire is drawing fire. Many blast Mondesire’s opponents for turning the NAACP presidential election into a battleground to settle long-standing political vendettas for personal reasons totally unrelated to Mondesire’s performance as NAACP president. o

Aspects of this campaign to unseat Mondesire are insulting to the black community says Dr. Anthony Monteiro, an academic and activist. John Street would never do this in the white community. Never in his wildest imagination would he consider trying to take over a white organization like the Fraternal Order of Police or the Knights of Columbus, Monteiro said. What does it mean if political leaders try to control community organizations because they don’t like the nature of the speech and criticism?

University of Pennsylvania Professor Dr. Walter Palmer says lurking behind this campaign to unseat Mondesire are ominous questions about the accountability of black politicians and their responsiveness to the black community.

Where does John Street and some of these politicians get off not wanting to be critiqued? People need to be able to critique black politicians and the NAACP, said Palmer, a noted grassroots political strategist whose activist career in Philadelphia spans nearly five decades.

Street does not deny his long animosity towards Mondesire, who did not support Street’s election last year. However, Street defends being involved in the presidential election citing his long time membership in Philadelphia’s NAACP branch.

Street is backing the presidential bid of Thomas Logan, a friend of nearly 20-years, with no civil rights track record who is an official in a predominately white labor union.

The Mayor told a reporter a few weeks ago that he thinks Logan would do a good job. Street, during that interview, dismissed Mondesire as divisive.

Logan received nearly $200,000 in consulting contracts from Philadelphia’s City Council when Street headed that body as Council President. These consulting fees were separate from the large salary Logan draws as the director of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO Council’s Committee on Political Education.

The Mayor is my friend but I’m not controlled by anybody. No one tells me what to do, Logan said during a broadcast debate with Mondesire and the third candidate, community activist Joey Temple.

Yet, Logan acknowledged that his slate of candidates for the branch executive committee includes Street and Street’s Chief of Staff. Logan was not asked to run, he was sent, Mondesire charges. City Hall is very afraid of an advocacy organization that does not play favorites.

The specter of City Hall trying to control a civil rights group is an ironic aspect of this imbroglio.

Another irony is the public statements of Logan stressing his intent—if elected NAACP president—to place less emphasis on advocacy for civil rights.

Respected Philadelphia lawyer Charles Bowser, questions Logan’s stated intent of shifting the NAACP’s primary thrust away from civil rights work.

Can you imagine the president of GM telling the stock holders that he wants to get people to ride bicycles instead of purchasing GM’s cars? remarked Bowser, a veteran civil rights advocate.

Branch officials recently ousted Logan from his post as 3rd Vice-President because it attended only two meetings during his two-year tenure, the worst attendance record of the branch’s top 7 officials and 24 executive committee members.

Last month a national NAACP official chided Logan for scheduling a fundraising affair on the same night as the branch’s annual fund raising dinner, a move deemed inappropriate (and) harmful to the NAACP.

A letter from this official also asked Logan to immediately discontinue (all) solicitation of funds for his candidacy. Logan has solicited funds among white labor union members who he has recruited to join the organization to boost his bid for the presidency. While many applaud the renewed activism of the local NAACP under Mondesire’s leadership, they lament the general lack of widespread, consistent progressive activism in Philadelphia.

We don’t have black church independence. We don’t have a Black Consciousness Movement. We need to maintain some institutional structure outside of the system to have an independent voice, observes Len Mfuasi, a writer and activist during the Black Power era opposed to Street’s bid to control the NAACP.

Newspaper publisher Terry Johnson is among those who say the current NAACP fight is a really struggle among system insiders.

This is a fight with differences yet not diametrically opposing views. Jerry has always been apart of the system, notes Johnson, publisher of the Real News and The African- American Business Review.

I don’t think it is a credible observation to call the Philadelphia NAACP totally independent, Johnson continued. But the whole notion of blacks having a voice independent of the system is critical.