In a campaign to "stitch up the tattered fabric" found in the black community, more than 100 black groups announced yesterday that they have formed a coalition to assault the problems of teenage pregnancy, school dropouts and other crippling social ills.
The new group, called the National Association of Black Organizations, is the product of a three-day conference convened in Washington by the NAACP to address social and economic problems facing roughly one-third of the nation's blacks.
NAACP Executive Director Benjamin L. Hooks said the coalition hopes to add a new dimension to the "continuing struggle of African Americans to gain a fair share of the American dream."
The new group plans to establish a communications network to share information; develop a brain trust to research and make recommendations on the social and economic concerns affecting blacks; spread effective self-help initiatives; and develop strategies to strengthen support of black institutions.
" . . . What we have accomplished here is but a beginning," Hooks said. "It marks the start of a new approach, where the visible payoff is further down the road. However, I am reminded of what the late John F. Kennedy said, that the longest journey begins with the first step."
The effort signals a new course for the NAACP, the 81-year-old civil rights organization that historically has placed legislation and litigation high on its agenda.
Hooks said his organization has no intention of slackening on its traditional priorities, but that it also recognizes the need to mobilize and empower black organizations to address problems affecting blacks.
"We as black people are stepping up to the bat and saying we are taking responsibility for our own destiny," Hooks said at the conclusion of the "Summit Conference of Black Organizations" held at the black-owned and operated Howard Inn on Georgia Avenue NW.
A nine-member executive committee of the coalition will meet within 12 to 15 days to work out further details, Hooks said.
The executive committee consists of representatives of major civil rights, religious and fraternal groups. Among others, it includes Hooks; Charles Johnson, president of the National Medical Association; former U.S. representative Shirley Chisholm; and Nellie Thornton, president of Jack and Jill of America, a national organization that brings together young, middle-class blacks.
Among the initiatives that the coalition might replicate are an "I Don't Do Drugs" campaign by a black fraternity in Fresno, Calif., a mentoring program in a public housing project in Atlanta and a male responsibility project conducted by the Urban League, Hooks said.
On another issue, Hooks said the coalition was prepared to endorse a black consumer boycott of Nike Inc., the sportswear giant, that was orchestrated by Chicago-based Operation PUSH because of Nike's employment practices.
But because Nike and Operation Push's founder, Jesse L. Jackson, appear to be reaching a solution, Hooks said, "we may not have to do that."