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A new entrant in the war.

Owners of some of the nation's largest African-American businesses have formed a political action committee to fight the elimination of affirmative-action programs.

Members of the group have vowed not to remain silent while affirmative action programs are dismantled. At press time, they were planning a press conference for May 10 in Washington to detail the PAC's agenda.

According to Robert Johnson, CEO of Black Entertainment Television, the nation's largest African-American business owners must be the ones to lead the battle to save affirmative-action programs, since they have the most to lose.

"Businesspeople have not been involved [in black economic issues] since Booker T. Washington," said Johnson, anticipating the historic gathering in Washington. "Everyone's had a chance but black business leaders. This will be the marriage of black business and black economic empowerment with politics."

BE publisher Earl G. Graves, angered by media attacks on affirmative action--notably by cover stories in major newsmagazines--believes that African-Americans must start protesting with their wallets not just with rhetoric. "We should leverage our ability to say where we spend our dollars," says Graves.

Theresa Jones of the Chrysler Minority Dealers Association says the PAC will make politicians accountable to African-Americans. "We will support candidates who will work with us--not against us," says Jones. PACs are legal entities that receive contributions for specific, stated purposes.

A steering committee of black business owners began discussing formation of a PAC in April during a meeting at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. In addition to Johnson, Graves and Jones, others who attended that meeting included W. Don Cornwell of Granite Broadcasting; Emma Chappell of United Bank of Philadelphia; Richard Davis of General Motors Minority Dealers Association; and Samuel Foggie of the National Bankers Association.

Other participants were Calvin Grigsby of Grigsby Brandford & Co.; Edward Lewis of Essence Communications; and Robert Montgomery of the Ford Minority Dealers Association.

A letter soliciting the participation of the heads of the country's largest African-American-owned businesses questions the motives behind recent attacks on affirmative-action programs. "Affirmative action has worked. Set-asides have worked. And this nation is better off because of both," the letter states. "Our clear message to politicians and corporate leaders must be that we will not be compromised for political currency nor will our progress be eroded by the gross manipulation of falsehoods and innuendo."

The letter describes the attacks on affirmative action--including the proposed elimination of such programs in California (see Newspoints, this issue) and recent actions by Congress--as "insidiousness."

"First, we must set the historical record of this nation straight so there is no illusion of who benefited from what policies," the letter states. "Second, and perhaps more importantly, only we can insure that our children will not have to repeat the indignities that past generations endured."

RELATED ARTICLE: BUSINESS BRIEF RUTGERS PROFESSOR TO CHAIR NRC

A U.S. Senate committee recently approved the nomination of Shirley Jackson to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Jackson, the first African-American woman to serve on the five-member commission, is a professor of physics at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Jackson is also a theoretical physicist at AT&T Bell Laboratories. She holds a doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

President Clinton has said he plans to make Jackson chairwoman of the commission, which is responsible for ensuring public safety relative to nuclear materials.
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Title Annotation:pro-affirmative action political action committee
Author:Lowery, Mark
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Jun 1, 1995
Words:552
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