Black advisory group will act as GOP conduit for minority concerns
Tucked in an isolated corner of the National Republican Committee headquarters here is a new GOP support group, the Progressive Assembly of Republicans, nicknamed PAR.
The power behind this organization office is PAR's chairman, Dr. Aris T. Allen of Annapolis, Md. Dr. Allen, a convert from the Democratic Party in 1955, is also chairman of the Maryland GOP -- the only black state chairman of either major party.
As one of the "new blacks" who are emerging in Washington under the Reagan administration, he sports the new Republican image with his 10-gallon hat, three-piece suit, and conservative attitude. Allen says about PAR goals:
"We [blacks] have only one major Cabinet member -- Samuel Pierce, secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) -- and we expect more presidential appointments. But appointments are not our thing. We want more than a few blacks in high positions. We seek impact, the kind of influence that generates action that helps black and poor people."
Allen labels PAR "a think tank." He pinpoints its key issues: education, unemployment, housing, energy, social concerns such as civil rights and open housing, and foreign affairs.
"We plan research, verbal approaches, and communication -- to inform the leadership of our party on black issues in this nation," Allen declares. "We plan to be a conduit through which black concerns are studied, defined, and presented to President Ronald Reagan."
Executive director Ronald Thompson runs the PAR shop. His first task is to unify black Republicans through PAR membership. His second task will be to organize introductory research, channeling seminars to areas around the nation. He has set March as the target month for seminars. Initial research projects will cover housing and energy.
PAR will coordinate four groups of black Republicans -- elected officials at local, state, and federal levels; governors' appointees and aides; presidential appointees and party advisers; and members of GOP congressional staffs.
PAR introduced itself to the GOP mainstream Jan. 8 when the black group sponsored a $50-a-plate tribute to Bill Brock, retiring chairman of the Republican National Committee. The featured speaker was Rep. Jack Kemp of New York, a conservative Republican and a man icily criticized by black Democrats. Nearly 500 people attended, 35 percent white.
"We honored Bill Brock at our first public function because he epitomized the philosophy that the GOP is the party of all people," Allen said. "He worked to touch bases with minorities, to make the party more open to blacks, to respond to black needs."
Of congressman Kemp, Allen says, "Congressman Kemp has never been anti-black or anti-social services. His Kemp-Roth bill can help minorities because it seeks to provide financial incentives to minority enterprise, to employ youth, to uplift depressed areas. Its passage will help all of us."
"As black Republicans, we support President Reagan," Thompson said. "We met with him before inauguration. He assured us that he will enforce civil rights, 'even with the threat of the bayonet,' that he will support black colleges, that he will fight drug abuse and crime, that he will work to develop more jobs. . . ."