The only political portrait on the wall was of late activist and actor Paul Robeson, but the talk among a crowd of 500 at last night's Urban League reception at the RSVP supper club had a decidedly moderate sound.
"On issues other than civil rights, I think you find the same conservatism among blacks as you do among white Americans," said Marcia Ann Gillespie, former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine. Surveying the well-dressed private sector and government figures mingling and exchanging business cards, Gillespie said, "I'd say you could call this a moderate crowd, some conservatives."
Kaaren Johnson Associates, Inc., a black-owned management consulting firm based in Silver Spring, sponsored the event. Reginald Williams, director of human resources for the company said, "There are a whole lot of people here who are black Republicans and, although we're probably not as conservative as our white counterparts, we feel very much a part of the system."
Earlier in the day, Vice President George Bush and OMB Director David Stockman called on audiences at the League's conference at the Sheraton Washington to support President Reagan's economic proposals. Juanita Kennedy Morgan, executive secretary of the National Black Women's Political Leadership Conference and one who attended the speeches, was skeptical. "I think Stockman doesn't have the people at heart," she said. "He works mostly with figures but without the experience to give him a focus of what's happening in the streets. He's sending people back to the Depression."
The announcement that Vernon Jordan was attending a speech given by United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick to a League conference and would probably miss the reception disappointed many. Mayor Marion Barry's arrival drew some attenton. On the Reagan proposals, Barry said, "They still can't do anything to sell me."
Jewell Jackson McCabe, president of the Coalition of 100 Black Women, declined to criticize the Reagan budget proposals outright but said, "We sometimes have to be shocked periodically into organizing, and Reagan symbolizes a challenge."
While almost all of the crowd seemed to be on one side of the moderate scale or another, some would not comment at all. But the Rev. Imagene Steward, a "street preacher of the Church of What's Happening Now," rose above the din and disco at RSVP: "All that damn Vernon Jordan is worryin' about is that they won't get more money. I am a shoutin' REPUBLICAN."
A few heads turned, and Steward continued: "We have given handouts for so long that people have no incentive to stand on their own two feet! I'm a veteran of the civil rights movement, a graduate. I went to school under the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. I became a Republican when I discovered it was a two-party system."