In the spring of a long fight for voting rights and the renewed use of busing as a buzz word, the commemoration of the 28th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision became an occasion for new planning.
"There are three kinds of people," said Margaret Bush Wilson, the chairman of the NAACP board, to 100 people standing in the Rayburn House Office Building last night. "There are people who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what's happening. You are people who make things happen." Part of the new plan, advocated by Wilson, included checking off the NAACP on the contributions card of the federal employes charity fund, the Combined Federal Campaign.
Longtime Washington activist Yvonne Price, the new director of the NAACP effort with the fund, was last night's guest of honor. In the first of the two years that the NAACP has been included in the campaign, the country's oldest civil rights group raised $300,000.
Along with the pressing financial need of human rights efforts, the other unfinished business since Brown and some of the reversals since that decision in 1954 dominated the talk of the attorneys, educators, legislative experts and activists in the room.
In his reelection bid, the issue of school busing has frequently confronted Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.). "Those who profess to support law and order are opposing the law of the land," said Clay. "Each day in America 21 million children are bused, 600,000 as a result of court order or Health and Human Services directives, but only in those 600,000 cases do we find the clamor and hostility. That's because they are opposed to the desegregation of public schools."
One of the attorneys involved with the Brown decision found the current political and social climate a step backward. "It disturbs me that despite the hard legal battles, we hear disparaging remarks about Brown. It disturbs me when friends say I don't want to talk about racism, that kids don't know about Brown," says John Scott, the Topeka, Kan., lawyer who drew up the first complaint of the case and is now an assistant solicitor at the Department of Interior. "We as a race must remember in the same sense that the Jewish people will not forget the Holocaust. We must remember 'to hide from history is to invite repetition.' We can't afford repetition."