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December 4, 2000

NAACP president Kweisi Mfume to address UCSC King Memorial Convocation

By Louise Donahue

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume will be the keynote speaker at UC Santa Cruz's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation on January 24. The event begins at 7 P.M. at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church Street. It is free and open to the public.

Kweisi Mfume
Mfume, who has led the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People since 1996, will speak on "Reaffirming America's Agenda." He will focus on the presidential election and the legacy of the nation's civil rights movement.

"We feel extraordinarily fortunate in being able to secure him as a speaker," said John Holloway, executive director of student development and community service at UCSC and a member of the convocation planning committee. "I'm certain the community is in for a delight."

The convocation is being presented in collaboration with the Santa Cruz chapter of the NAACP. Deborah Hill-Alston, president of the chapter, described Mfume as "a very dynamic personality" and praised his stewardship of the NAACP. "I think he's going to be a very inspirational speaker."

Holloway said that Mfume was selected in part because of his political astuteness, especially appropriate after the presidential campaign. Voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts were a major emphasis for Mfume and the NAACP during the recent campaign, and Mfume has urged a U.S. Justice Department investigation of allegations that some African Americans were hampered in their efforts to vote in Florida.

Before becoming NAACP president and chief executive officer, Mfume represented Maryland's Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives for ten years, chairing the Congressional Black Caucus for two years and working in the House Democratic Caucus leadership.

Mfume gave up his seat in Congress to assume the presidency of the NAACP. At the time, the organization was plagued by financial debts. Mfume has presided over elimination of the debt and carried out a number of new initiatives. Under his leadership, the NAACP has prodded television networks to increase diversity and launched the Economic Reciprocity Initiative, designed to monitor companies' performance in employment, community reinvestment, and other areas involving the African American market and African American consumers.

The NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. It was founded in 1909 and has 500,000 members.

Mfume, whose West African name means "conquering son of kings," was born and raised in the Baltimore area and became politically active as head of the Black Student Union during his freshman year at Morgan State University. He returned to the university as an adjunct professor, teaching political science and communications. He later received a master's degree, with a concentration in international studies, from Johns Hopkins University.

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. convocation celebrates the life of Dr. King by presenting speakers who discuss current civil rights issues of freedom, justice, and opportunity. The convocation also seeks to develop dialogue within the campus community and with the local communities served by UCSC. The 17th annual program does not require admission tickets. For more information or for disability-related needs, please call (831) 459-4058.

Cosponsors include the City of Santa Cruz, KUSP-FM, and the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

In a separate event, the Santa Cruz NAACP will present its annual Martin Luther King Banquet and Dance, on January 20, in honor of the slain civil rights leader.

Set in the Sunroom at the Cocoanut Grove in Santa Cruz, it will begin with a social hour from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by a dinner and program from 7 to 9 p.m., and dancing from 9 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $35 per person, and may be ordered by calling the NAACP office at (831) 454-1478.

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