Tulsa NAACP chapter comes under scrutiny

Saturday, December 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Allegations that some Tulsa NAACP members have been the source of anti-Semitic remarks and concerns about recruiting and economic development by Tulsa's NAACP chapter have prompted an investigation by the organization's regional director.

Keryl Douglas, who oversees five states in the organization's southwest region, said she traveled to Tulsa to learn why the local NAACP chapter is not performing as well as it should.

``I would say that it is lagging behind _ temporarily,'' Douglas said. She said all chapters must follow the vision of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and that national leaders believe that the Tulsa chapter is not.

Whether the Tulsa chapter, with 157 members, can achieve success with its current leadership has not been determined, Douglas said.

``We will sacrifice people...before we sacrifice our vision,'' she said.

Douglas met Friday with Robert Cohen of the Jewish Federation of Tulsa, who said he spoke with her about anti-Semitic remarks contained in a document that was released unofficially last spring by local NAACP members.

``I don't want to repeat them, but they were hateful things,'' he said.

Cohen said he told Douglas he was pleased with how local chapter President Melvin Easiley quickly had addressed his concerns and that he would urge her to pick people with an inclusive philosophy if she replaced any of the leadership.

Douglas would not divulge the anti-Semitic complaints, but she did indicate that she was also investigating disparaging remarks made by an NAACP member on a local morning radio show.

``The NAACP does not condone anti-Semitism in any way,'' she said. ``We believe in equality and mutual respect for cultural differences.''

Easiley said he has been dogged by past leaders of the Tulsa chapter since he took office in January because he believes that the group should be more diverse.

Easiley, whose term ends in December 2002, said some of his members were falsely accusing him of misconduct because they don't want the organization to be open.

``To be blunt about it, they don't want any white people or Jews on the board,'' said Easiley, who has appointed people of different races to NAACP positions.

He produced an e-mail from one member who congratulated him on becoming president but warned him: ``We don't want the people we are trying to pull in to think this is yet another business being turned over for white folks to run.''

Several members of the Tulsa chapter's executive board confirmed Friday that they have heard racist remarks coming from NAACP members.

One board member, Liz Wright, said that for a long time Tulsa's chapter was not inclusive to nonblacks and that Easiley has been trying to bridge the gap.

``This organization is not supposed to discriminate against anyone,'' she said.