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NAACP Plans Closer Watch on Entertainment Industry

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People is moving ahead with plans to establish a national bureau in Hollywood that would monitor and, it hopes, improve the hiring and portrayals of blacks and other minorities in the entertainment industry.

Mark Clack, the civil rights organization’s national field secretary, said the proposed bureau--which still must be ratified by members and officers--would take over the industry watchdog duties currently carried out by the Beverly Hills/Hollywood chapter of the NAACP. That branch is scheduled to consolidate with the Los Angeles branch, and will concentrate primarily on membership and fund-raising.

“We want to develop a strategy to promote African American and other minorities, and to improve their participation,” Clack said in an interview. “Where we see that goal being met, we wish to honor them. Where we don’t, we hope to convince them to provide greater inclusion. We need to enhance our presence in Hollywood.”

The bureau would also continue to oversee the NAACP’s annual Image Awards, which honor outstanding achievements and positive portrayals by African Americans in film, music, TV and literature.

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Clack maintained that the establishment of the national branch was not due to a rift that erupted between the Beverly Hills/Hollywood chapter and the national NAACP in 1996, when the local branch criticized several black-oriented shows that had been nominated for Image Awards. The leadership of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood chapter said that programs such as Fox’s “Martin” and WB’s “The Jamie Foxx Show” contained negative images of blacks.

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume chastised the chapter at the time, and the disagreement was eventually smoothed out.

“We just feel we need to have the full impact of the national office in Hollywood, and there is only limited impact when a local branch is taking this issue on,” Clack said.

Billie J. Green, president of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood chapter, said she still wants the local group to be active as an industry watchdog. “We will work with the national NAACP to see if our branch can be a part of this,” Green said Wednesday. “We already know that industry. We’re putting our facts together for the national NAACP, and we will hopefully move on from there.”

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Mfume said last December that while he was pleased with increases in the number of blacks performing in films and television, he felt that the directing and writing ranks were still “woefully inadequate” when it came to African Americans.

Clack predicted that the NAACP bureau would succeed where previous efforts by other advocates, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, have fallen short. Jackson in 1994 threatened the TV networks with viewer boycotts and demonstrations if they did not increase the visibility of African Americans and improve minority images. The threats were met with a lukewarm response, and Jackson never followed up on his call to action.

“What Rev. Jackson experienced suggests that there must be a durable national office on the home base,” Clack said.

Preliminary goals and mandates of the new bureau have not yet been determined, but Clack said he hoped a plan would be in place by next spring.

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