Civil Rights Organizations: If They Don’t Like Being Called Sellouts? Then Don’t Sell Out!
The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and National Urban League, founded in 1909 and 1910 respectively, were established to serve the growing needs and pressing concerns of African-Americans at the time. The issues were basically of integration and equality. The period of Reconstruction had seen constitutional reform but proper interpretation and implementation was still unrealized.
The National Action Network (NAN) is a not-for-profit, civil rights organization founded by the Reverend Al Sharpton in New York City, New York, in early 1991. The NAN for years have been considered one of the leading civil rights organizations in the nation with over 70 chapters throughout the United States. NAN works within the spirit and tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to promote a modern civil rights agenda that includes the fight for one standard of justice, decency and equal opportunities for all people regardless of race, religion, nationality or gender.
For years the NAN and these historical civil rights organizations have fought for our civil and human rights, to change the national consciousness with regard to the capabilities and achievements of African-Americans. But what happens when they appear to be less effective, less respected or better yet they are perceived by the very people they have vowed to represent as sell-outs?
This was the source of conversation in 2014 with the Net-Neutrality, when the entire civil rights establishment were accused of just plain selling out the Internet. They were accused for failing to protect your right to access what you want and how you want on the internet. Now once again their loyalties are being called into question in this proposed Comcast-Time Warner Merger.
The New York Post reported that Sharpton and his organization the NAN as well as the NAACP and Urban League (who have traditional fought for our interest) were being paid to keep quiet about lack of black TV programming, with the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner.
Days later legendary TV talk show host Byron Allen told The Daily Caller that top media interests are actively freezing out and in some cases destroying black-owned media companies — and they’re paying Reverend-turned-MSNBC host Al Sharpton to give them racial cover to do it.
Allen, 53, is the chairman and CEO of the production company Entertainment Studios, which joined with the National Association of African-American Owned Media (NAAAOM) to file a $20 billion racial discrimination lawsuit this week against Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Sharpton’s National Action Network, the NAACP, the Urban League, and former FCC commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker. Allen and his fellow plaintiff also filed a $10 billion suit against AT&T and DirectTV.
But instead of Sharpton’s NAN and other activist groups such as the NAACP and National Urban League protesting the inequity, they and Comcast signed “voluntary diversity agreements” that “whitewash” the company’s racist practices, the suit claims.
After the pacts were signed, Comcast shelled out $140,000 to National Action Network, $835,000 to the National Urban League and $30,000 to the NAACP, according to the suit. The group’s allegations of payouts also factor in Sharpton’s TV salary, which he has been receiving since starting to host MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation” in 2011, the suit says.
While, Sharpton blasted the suit as “frivolous at best.” The activist concedes his group has gotten some donations from Comcast, but said, “It’s nowhere near $1 million,” after reading this article one has to ask are our historical civil rights organizations selling us out? So we decided to reach out to the three aforementioned organization and look into this.
“Comcast has engaged in, and is engaging in, pernicious, intentional racial discrimination in contracting,” it reads. Whether or not it gets anywhere is another question. Anyone can file a lawsuit alleging anything and claiming any amount of money. Is there any merit to this? Is this “frivolous at best,” as Sharpton suggests?
Comcast ripped the suit as being full of “inflammatory, inaccurate and unsupported allegations.”
While looking into the claims of the lawsuit, BW has found what could be a possible link, between NAN, NAACP, The National Urban League and Comcast. Key members of historical Civil Rights Organizations who are also Comcast’s Joint External Diversity Advisory Council Members called the National African-American Advisory Council including W. Franklyn Richardson, Senior Pastor, Grace Baptist Church of Mount Vernon, NY. who is the Chairman of Sharpton’s NAN.
We reported last month, Westchester County will pay $1 million to buy a piece of property in Mount Vernon and sell it back to Grace Baptist Church for $1 to build more senior housing. There were questions this deal was payoff for Richardson supporting Astorino (who Sharpton has been very critical of) for his second bid for County Executive despite not doing much for African-Americans in Westchester. Richardson and Sharpton tactics have been questioned before over the Westchester County HUD lawsuit.
Marc H. Morial, Council Chair, President & Chief Executive Officer, National Urban League (New York, NY)
Harold Epps, Vice Chair, President & Chief Executive Officer, PRWT Services, Inc. (Philadelphia, PA)
Drew Berry, Chief Executive Officer, Drew Berry and Associates (Baltimore, MD)
Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman, NAACP National Board of Directors (Elkridge, MD)
W. Don Cornwell, Former Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Granite Broadcasting (Brooklyn, NY)
Carla A. Harris, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley Investment Management (New York, NY)
Christine James-Brown, President & Chief Executive Officer, Child Welfare League of America (Washington, DC)
W. Franklyn Richardson, Senior Pastor, Grace Baptist Church (Mount Vernon, NY)
Julieanna L. Richardson, Founder & Executive Director, The HistoryMakers (Chicago, IL)
While that alone might not be absolute proof, it is enough to atleast ask the questions, ‘Are Historical Civil Rights Organizations Selling Us Out?’ Is having key members of these organizations sit on board positions for Comcast a conflict of interest? Are Comcast’s donations to these organization in fact payoffs to keep quiet or reflect and distract us from the dangers this merger could mean to black programming and black-owned and operated channels?
The NAN posted on their website, The NAACP, National Urban League and National Action Network announced today an agreement with Comcast and NBC Universal to expand current diversity initiatives intended to increase diversity in a wide range of areas including programming and employment.
The Post piece states that Comcast carries just one completely black-owned channel, The Africa Channel, and that Time Warner barely fares better. With the allegations in Byron’s lawsuit and the large donations giving to these organizations, is this voluntary diversity agreements in our best interest or like Byron claims, an attempt to “whitewash” the company’s racist practices.
Now I will say this, traditionally the media has often tried to tear down the credibility and create the atmostphere to render our black leaders effectiveless when they challenged the status-quo. That being said we must continue to hold them accountable. There’s a saying to whom much is given, much is expected. These organizations have been given the power (which they have earned for the most part) to represent us as a people, and we need to hold their feet to the fire to make sure the continue to.
The purpose of this editorial is not to further tear down our historically civil rights organizations and black leaders, but to ask the tough questions and atleast present the facts and let you decide for yourself. We posed the question and now we want to hear your thoughts on the subject. Share your feedback in the comment section.
I close by saying again to the civil rights organizations; If You Don’t Like Being Called Sellouts, Don’t Sellout!
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show. AJ is a Father, Brother, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Hip-Hop Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.