Seventy-year-old Daisy Boyd of Washington walked briskly up to the microphone in Sisters' Chapel at Spelman College, a gray hat cocked jauntily on her white hair. For 72 hours, she had been campaigning to be one of 34 at-large directors of the fledgling National Political Congress of Black Women whose founding assembly was in progress. She wanted to sit with the likes of former congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and to help make policy for this historic organization.
Turning to C. Delores Tucker, the candidate for the organization's vice chair, she said: "Since you are unopposed, I'm going to borrow a minute of your time!" Unembarrassed by her toothless smile, she addressed the group and asked the women to include in their future agenda statehood for the District of Columbia. "We in Washington need statehood, and we want you women from around the country to help us get it."
Not surprisingly, Daisy Boyd was elected one of the directors of the new group. Her campaign symbolized the spirit and energy of the last 2 1/2 days here, as about 400 black women from 34 states gathered on a mission of political empowerment. The atmosphere seemed equally charged with the fervor of a revival and the intensity of a political convention.
The D.C., Maryland and Virginia delegates were among the most active and visible. Two members of the D.C. City Council -- Charlene Drew Jarvis and Nadine Winter -- were elected to the board of directors. Among other Washington area women elected to the board were Eleanor Holmes Norton, Georgetown University law professor; Odessa Shannon, executive assistant to Montgomery County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist; Antoinette Ford, assistant administrator for the Agency for International Development; Barbara Lett Simmons, a member of the D.C. School Board; lawyer Mary Terrell; and Gaye Williams of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights.
Chisholm, who has served as interim chair since the organization's founding last August, was elected its permanent head, and Tucker was unanimously named its vice chair.
Despite the energy and enthusiasm here, there also has existed an undercurrent of disorganization, missed cues and minor bungling as this group seeks to chart an ambitious course for the future.
For example, counting several hundred ballots to elect 40 persons took nearly 16 hours.
That election consumed a good deal of the weekend's time and delegates' attention.
The most heated contest was between two Republican women who were vying for the position of second vice chair. It was a contest that also symbolized the struggle between the old guard and the younger women here. New York's Dr. Gloria E.A. Toote, a GOP adviser and member of the President's Committee on Private Sector Initiatives easily beat out Washington's Toni Luck, 34, chairman of Luck Enterprises. But Luck's spirit of conciliation also was indicative of the women's desire to avoid divisiveness of any kind, be it political, economic or class.
"I have not lost," said Luck, "because I came to serve the organization. I think I brought some issues to the table and they were dealt with. We should be sending signals to black women that we can run for the same seat as opposed to running against each other."
Another indication of the desire for unity could be seen in the election to the board of directors of Angela Davis, who once was a vice presidential candidate on the Communist Party ticket and who, in her election speech, called the gathering of black women "one of the most important I have attended."
The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson attended a tribute the organization paid to Dorothy Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women, and took note of the wide disparity between black women's participation and their representation in electoral politics. Black women, he declared, must organize in order to help solve the staggering problems of poverty among black children, infant mortality and high rates of teen pregnancy. "Yours is a responsible move," he said, "because it is the only way to protect our children and protect our families."
As the women left this southern capital, heading back to cities around the country, their spirits and hopes were high. At this juncture, everything hinges on what future course the group's leaders chart.