10 Sep 2004 Project 21 Press Release: Has the NAACP Taken Sides in the Presidential Campaign? Black Conservatives Say Revoked Invitation to Bush Official Implies Partisanship
A reported command from the NAACP’s national leadership forcing the NAACP’s Ohio chapter to rescind a speaking invitation to Secretary of Education Rod Paige is disturbing to members of the Project 21 black leadership network. Project 21 members say the move taints the venerable civil rights group as overtly partisan and deprives its membership of a high-level briefing on an issue of great importance to the African-American community.
“This shows exactly what the liberals are willing to do in order to make sure the black vote stays with them,” said Project 21 member Richard S. Holt, an Ohio resident. “They are denying their members both an informative policy speech as well as hearing from a surrogate for the President.”
According to Ohio NAACP president Sybil Edwards-McNabb, the national leadership of the NAACP demanded that Paige’s invitation to speak at the state chapter’s convention this weekend be rescinded because it created an “imbalance” among the speakers.
Both President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry, his Democratic opponent in the upcoming presidential election, were invited to speak. The group received no reply from Kerry, while the White House offered to send Secretary Paige as a surrogate.
Former Democratic presidential candidate Reverend Al Sharpton is scheduled to speak at the convention, and Brendon Cull of the Ohio Democratic Coordinated Campaign told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that Sharpton is “speaking as a representative of the Kerry campaign.”
A statement from the group Charity Lobbying in the Public Interest says that, under laws governing non-profit organizations, such organizations “may invite candidates to meetings or to public forums… The invitation must be extended to ‘all serious candidates.'” The Ohio NAACP chapter met this standard. By following the demand of the national leadership, however, the event is no longer appears to be within the spirit of the rule.
The NAACP’s annual national conference in July featured a speech by Senator Kerry but not by President Bush.
Paige planned to speak about the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind program. A poll commissioned by the Black America’s Political Action Committee in 2003 found that education is the second most important issue among African-Americans polled after jobs and the economy. “The No Child Left Behind policy will predominantly help African-American students. I would think this would be something the NAACP would be proud to feature at their conference,” added Holt.
“I believe the decision to disinvite Secretary Paige is unfortunately consistent with other positions taken by today’s NAACP,” said Project 21 member Ak’Bar Shabazz. “Today’s NAACP is staunchly opposed to the education standards President Bush and Secretary Paige placed on local schools because they conflict with the interests of teachers’ unions nationwide. Their actions in Ohio are transparent and should surprise no one.”
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.