Originally created 07/12/98

Organization urged at NAACP meeting



ATLANTA -- The NAACP's national board chairman has an unlikely role model in his effort to reinvigorate the civil rights organization -- the Christian Coalition.

"The coalition has a committed cadre of activists, as we do, but the organization and mobilization is more effective," said Julian Bond, who launched his first NAACP annual convention Saturday as chairman of the powerful 64-member national board.

The six-day meeting brings thousands of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People members together in Atlanta to hear from leaders in social activism, politics and business.

Often the annual gathering serves as a barometer of civil rights progress in America. In recent years, however, civil rights has had to vie with internal bickering and scandal for the members' attention.

But NAACP leaders such as association President Kweisi Mfume, who runs the organization's day-to-day operations from its Baltimore headquarters, said the group is putting social action back on the front burner.

"We have put our internal problems where they properly belong -- behind us and in the past," Mr. Mfume said Saturday at the convention's opening press conference. "This is an organization that believes in itself again."

Mr. Bond, a former Georgia state senator and activist who marched with Martin Luther King Jr., is intent on focusing on battles ahead such as preserving affirmative action in Washington state, supporting black farmers and helping define U.S. policy toward Africa.

While the NAACP and the Christian Coalition often find themselves on different sides of the ideological divide, Mr. Bond said he admired the coalition's power to mobilize its members rapidly into an effective lobbying arm.