Brooks’ divide with NAACP grows

The candidate skipped an NAACP forum, but says the group snubbed him.
Thursday, March 25, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:18 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

As the first mayoral candidate to give remarks at a forum Wednesday night at Paquin Tower, Arch Brooks opened the event by reminding the audience of his perspective of Columbia as the only black candidate.

“I was around here before we integrated the Columbia Public School District,” he said.

But the only black mayoral candidate, who is also running for the second time for a seat on the Columbia Board of Education, did not pitch his platform at a debate hosted by the NAACP the night before.

A member of the organization since Jan. 23, Brooks said he wasn’t invited.

“I’m the only African American on the ballot. I’m the only person on the ballot twice,” he said. “You would think that they would have thought to invite me to the debate.”

However, in a letter sent to the Columbia Missourian and to Mary

Ratliff, president of the Columbia branch of the NAACP, on Monday, Brooks outlined other reasons for his falling out with the organization.

Among them, he said was a lack of “grass-roots” support for either of his political campaigns.

His letter accuses the Columbia chapter of being an ineffective and divisive force among Columbia’s African Americans, whose president is a “full participant in permeating bastions of oppression and engaging techniques of psychological warfare used by slave masters of pitting one black (slave) against the other.”

Director of the NAACP’s Region IV office in St. Louis, the Rev. Gill Ford said that although the organization encourages voter education and can take stands on substantive issues, the organization’s policies forbid it from participating directly in candidate’s campaigns, either by helping with petitions or making financial contributions.

Brooks’ action of taking complaints to the press could also likely lead to his expulsion from the organization, Ford said.

“Policies basically forbid this kind of action,” said Ford. “This is contrary to how we do business.”

Although she was aware of his previous campaign in last year’s school board election, Ratliff said she’s never spoken with Brooks, and he’s never attended any local NAACP meetings.

“We just have too many things to do to be concerned with this kind of rhetoric,” she said, in response to his accusations.

His falling out with the NAACP did not affect much of the focus of Brooks’ message, however.

Among issues addressed by mayoral candidates, including incumbent Darwin Hindman and John G. Clark at Paquin Tower on Wednesday night were urban expansion, sidewalk repair, job creation, bus routes and racial profiling.

Brooks responded to several questions by championing the impact of those issues on the African American community.

“Since the 1950s there have been instances of African Americans being brutalized by the Columbia Police,” he said about racial profiling.

He said later, though, that he was not concerned about not providing his perspective to NAACP members at the previous night’s forum.

“Oh that’s not a concern of mine. I did not have any problem at all sleeping last night.” Adding: “Well, if that happens, so be it.”

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