A Northeast Washington elementary school principal, local entrepreneurs and representatives of grass-roots groups have told President Reagan that many black Americans support his economic policies but that they need tax breaks and other incentives to benefit from them.
Meeting with the president on the anniversary of the birth of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the group included none of the leaders traditionally seen as spokesmen for black America, such as civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and other blacks who have been staunch Democrats.
Members of the fledging group, called the Council for a Black Economic Agenda, said the meeting was symbolic but "progressive" because their ideas for black economic development represent a new era in which blacks can expolit the gains made during the civil rights movement.
The group includes both conservative and liberal blacks who decided to form a "strategic" coalition focusing on methods to rebuild deteriorating black neighborhoods by giving residents there more spending money and investment capital, said Robert Woodson, who heads the group and serves as the president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, a national network of community-based self-help groups.
Robert Hill, a former researcher for the National Urban League and a member of the group, said, "We're former Urban Leaguers. We're former civil rights people. We're not closing anybody out. Nobody's excluded. We've got ideas to contribute and I think that we can translate ideas into action. We need to move from slogans to specifics, from problems to solutions.
"We avoided stereotypical black issues like welfare and food stamps," Hill added. "Instead, we discussed ways the working poor could receive certain tax benefits so they can have more money to use and invest in low-income neighborhoods."
White House spokesman Bruce Chapman said, "I think the president thought the meeting was very productive and he asked that the various departments would work with the participants . . . . "
Chapman, said some of the group's suggestions "parallel work that is under way in the departments and in some cases, they extend that work."
Reminding Reagan of statements he has made concerning a commitment to creating opportunities for minority enterprise, local businessman Arthur Fletcher and other members of the council urged the president to make black enterprise and community development high priorities.
"Reagan has said that he is committed to creating 6,000 minority- and female-owned businesses a year and helping an existing 60,000 to develop and expand," said Fletcher, a leading black Republican in the District. "And blacks are concerned about the fact that they don't seem to be able to participate in the economy as owners of small and other kinds of businesses that create jobs."
Hill, senior research associate for the Bureau of Social Science Research in Washington, said, "People can get off welfare by being able to be more entrepreneurial. Poor people are paying 10 percent of income in taxes. That's higher than most corporations."
James Nutall, principal of Randle Highlands Elementary School, discussed a proposal to create a system of "education vouchers" that would allow low-income parents to receive payments to place their children in the schools of their choice, including private schools.
Hill said traditional black leaders have failed to address certain issues, so new voices should try to be heard.