After John Jacob, president of the National Urban League, emphatically criticized the neoconservative thrust for its "political mistakes and moral failure," he said he wanted to include black people in his scolding, too.
"There are problems within our community we must face directly and not excuse or be defensive about," said Jacob, speaking last night at the annual dinner of the Washington Urban League. "Voting is an obvious one. Half of us don't bother to register. When we do vote we make a difference . . . Let's send a message to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. that if you ignore us, we will ignore you."
In his remarks before a dinner for 1,000 people at the Washington Hilton, Jacob talked about the "New Reality," saying "what is new about this terrible reality of deeper poverty in the midst of affluence is the sense of hopelessness and alienation that pervades America's neglected poor communities."
A counterpart to the "New Reality" is the "New Resistance." Jerry A. Moore III, a Washington lawyer and chairman of the board of the Washington Urban League, said that many of the dinner's traditional corporate supporters had cut their contributions this year. "We met with considerable resistance," said Moore. "Instead of buying a table, the companies would buy one ticket. Always there was no reason besides the economy. We had to install phone banks two weeks ago and just lay it on the line. We can't afford to have our local supporters cut us by 90 percent and the government by 70 percent."
In spite of this "New Resistance," the dinner attracted a cross section of Washingtonians who have excelled in politics, sports, media and corporate life. "This is our statement," said Lorraine Williams, a vice president of Howard University and one of the evening's honorary co-chairs.
Honored with the Whitney M. Young Jr. Memorial Award, named after a past president of the league, were Arthur S. Flemming, the past chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission; J. Clay Smith, a member of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Wes Unseld, a former player with the Washington Bullets; J.C. Hayward, a news anchor on WDVM, Channel 9; and Maurice Eldridge, the principal of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.
The irony of saluting two men who are involved in the civil rights enforcement programs that many conservative politicians are attacking was also noted. Flemming was introduced as a man whose 50-year career with the government "stands in contrast to the cold-blooded policies at the upper reaches of this administration." The man nominated to be his successor, Clarence Pendleton, the former president of the San Diego, Calif., Urban League, was reluctant to comment on the harsh criticism of the Reagan policy. "One has to be measured by what happens," said Pendleton.