Seen your neighborhood Jaycees at National Airport lately? You know, the men with the shaved heads and the dashikis, soliciting funds and handling out pamphlets urging "Power to the People!"
Yes, they're Jaycees. Not exactly your regular, uptown three-piece-suited Jaycees, they admit, but chartered, credential Jaycees they are.
Perhaps not for long, however, if national Jaycees headquarters in Tulsa, Okla., has anything to say about it. The national body meets today to vote on revoking the D.C. group's charter.
The reason: repeated complaints by airport patrons of being rudely hustled by the Jaycee solicitors. Also, one Jaycee official said, the group hasn't paid its dues, and some of its political literature is "extremely inflamatory."
The local group, known as the Taifa Chapter of the D.C. Jaycees, says everybody's got is wrong. Solicitors have been "agressive" but not rude, says Saidi Harold Sadikifu, chairman of the Taifa chapter and one time activist in the militant black nationalist organization US headed by Ron Karenga in Los Angeles.
Also, Sadikifu says, they are forced to solicit at the airport "as a matter of survival" since no government or private organization will give them money to start a series of community development programs they have proposed for the inner city.
He acknowledges that the bulk of the $100 t $150 the seven-member group solicits each day at the airport goes for food, lodging and transportation for themselves, with only smaller amounts going to a number of needy families.
After staying in a church and later a one-room apartment last year, the group now stays at the Quality Inn on New York Avenue NE at $86 a night. "It's the only place we can go," said Sadikifu. "We need a house, but we don't have the money up front for that."
As for the political literature, Sadikifu freely admits that such slogans as "Jimmy Carter is Guilty of Treason" and the American economic system "Work For a Select Few" is not says Sadikifu, "We tell it like it is."
How did this unlikely marriage between the Jaycees and a group of maverick black activists come about?
All parties agree it was the Jaycees who invited the activists to form a chapter in the city.
Late last winter, recalled D.C. Jaycees executive vice president Mike West this week, "My wife, who was president of the Southeast Jayceyettes, met some of their group. They told her what they wanted to do in the community, and it sounded similar to Jaycee goals . . . you know, economic development in the black, primarily disadvantaged community."
West said he and other D.C. Jaycee officials met with Sadikifu and his group. "We thought their basic ideas were good and that's about how it happened."
The group was chartered last spring as the Taifa chapter, becoming the 14th chapter in the D.C. Jaycee system. Taifa means "nation" in Sawhili.
Sadikifu said the chapter originally consisted of 48 persons, "mostly students and community activists, but also some professionals and even some white members.
The first sign that "something was wrong" came soon, said West, when the chapter failed to pay its initial dues ($17.50 per person).
"We gave them a 30-day extension," said West. ". . . They said they had stretched themselves a little thin, so we gave them the benefit of the doubt." They still haven't paid, he said.
Then, "We started getting complaints about their soliciting at the airport," he said. "The Jaycees started getting a hell a lot of pressure - pressure from the airport, from congressmen, from other Jaycess - about all the harassment by the Taifa chapter."
West said, "We knew they were blacks, that they wore dashikis and shaved their heads. That wasn't the problem . . . It was the harassment and the rudeness."
Finally, last September, they started handing out this pamphlet with a cartoon showing John D. Rockefeller dangling Jimmy Carter on puppet strings."
That was "extremely inflammatory," West said, "and it was the first indication that they were serious about this (antiestablishment) thing."
In August, the national Jaycee organization revoked Taifa's charter. Taifa members continued soliciting with "Jaycee" - emblazoned plastic buckets, however, and in November the national organization sought a federal court order to stop them.
U.S. District Court Judge John Pratt ruled, however, that the Jaycees had violated their own procedures in revoking the charter last August, and the Taifa chapter was reinstated.
As a result, the executive board of the national Jaycees is scheduled to meet today to act again on the revocation.
Sadikifu, 36, came to Washington with 10 followers about a year ago from Raleigh, N.C., where he had headed a short-lived effort at organizing students at predominantly black Shaw University in off-campus community development programs. The group, with its "power-to-the-people" rhetoric, quickly gained a "radical" reputation. Sadikifu said. The group led student protests, became involved in some "confrontation policies" and was finally ousted from the campus, he said. The group then came to Washington.
In North California, Sadikifu had formed a nonprofit organization called OURS, Inc. Drawing on his experience with Karenga's black nationalist organization in California, Sadikifu called for an elaborate $7 million program to train 30,000 black youths in a variety of practical skills for improving local communities.
The formal proposal - which was turned down or ignored by various federal agencies - is studded with references to "confrontation politics" and the need to develop "alternative delivery systems for . . . goods and services to poor, oppressed Black Peoples."
Sadikifu submitted a similar but less expensive proposal to the District of Columbia government last year. He said it is still under consideration.
A soft spoken but intense man, Sadikifu says he and his followers shave their heads as an expression of "mourning" for the "mentally dead people of America." The shaved head is a traditional sign of mourning in some parts of Africa.
Sadikifu and the six remaining followers of his original 11-member group from North Carolina have also adopted Swahili names. Sadikifu says his original or "slave" name is Harold Albert Nottage Jr. Born in Newark, N.J., and raised in Albany, Ga., he attended colleges in Tennessee and California and claims some training in economics, business administration and urban planning.
West of the D.C. Jaycees said he was aware of the militant tone of Sadikifu's formal proposals, "but when we talked to him and the others, there was none of that rhetoric . . . Their talk was of getting black people into the economic mainstream . . . They never said anything radical."
West also said he did not discourage the somewhat unorthodox appearance of the Taifa group.
"We're trying to get away from the white-shirt-and-tie image of Jaycees," he said. "The average Jaycee today in this country can now much more accurately be described as nonmanagement . . . Many are blue-collar workers. The D.C. Jaycees are predominantly black . . . the president of the D.C. Jaycees (Edward Briggs) is a Metro bus driver."