The Politics of Confrontation

By George E. Jordan

NY Newsday, April 6, 1992

In the name of opening up the electoral process, presidential hopeful Lenora Fulani shouted down Bill Clinton in Harlem last week and scared him away from several planned campaign stops in New York. She also tussled with police when she was denied entry to a nationally televised candidates’ debate at Lehman College in the Bronx.

For Fulani, who is not on Tuesday’s primary ballot and is supporting long-shot candidate Larry Agran, events of the past week were all part of the New Alliance Party’s effort to establish an independent alternative to the Democratic Party, the organization’s prime target of ridicule.

Fulani previously ran under the party banner for president in 1988, and received 217,219 votes. She was the first black and the first woman to appear on the ballot in all 50 states. This year, she received only 406 votes in the February 18th New Hampshire Democratic primary, but her 1992 campaign has so far raised $2.2 million—qualifying for more federal matching funds than Jerry Brown’s $875,506.

The New Alliance Party, started in the early 1980s on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, describes itself as a progressive, black-led, pro-gay, pro-lesbian movement with strong support among blacks. But the party has a long history of unleashing campaigns of disruption against its opponents. It has been described by some critics as a psycho-political cult because of its ties to the therapy clinics that promote the Marxist theories of party founder Fred Newman.

The party has largely been ostracized by groups involved with civil rights and women’s and gay issues. “They want to co-opt every organization they go into,” observed Dan Goldberg, a spokesman for the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, an activist group. “They’re not about coalition building. They are there to just cause controversy. You get the sense they’re not what they say they are.”

Hazel Dukes, a former board president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said she does not believe the New Alliance Party’s claim of broad-based support in Harlem and other black communities. “I don’t see it,” she said. “I’ve never seen it demonstrated in action.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said the New Alliance Party siphoned support and contributions from his 1984 presidential campaign by using the slogan “Rainbow Alliance” as part of candidate Dennis Serrette’s campaign. Serrette has since broken with the New Alliance Party, saying it was a cult.

“The use of the name ‘Rainbow,’ at the same time the Rainbow Coalition was expanding around the country, seemed to make a lot of people confused,” Jackson said in a telephone interview. “They were paralleling our activities.”

The party’s Washington-based Rainbow Lobby—which focuses on issues involving Zaire and Haiti and is among the wealthiest lobbying groups in the capital—now uses a disclaimer on fliers and other literature denying any links to Jackson’s group.

Fulani said she holds special disdain for Jackson and has repeatedly challenged him to a debate. “Jesse sold out,” she said in a recent interview with New York Newsday. “You can’t build anything in this country without being attacked,” she added. “The social Democrats around the country and a lot of left forces … the gay leadership and black leadership in the Democratic Party, that whole crew, are very threatened by what we are building.”

In New York, many New Alliance Party actions appear to clash with the group’s stated goals. While vocally seeking to open the electoral process to all candidates, the party tried to remove Paul Tsongas from the primary ballot. It supports democracy movements overseas, but New Alliance Party members have helped disrupt the meetings of Community Board 14 in Brooklyn, charging that the board was not racially balanced. Fulani said in an interview that her party was at the forefront of attempts to block construction of hospital waste incinerators in the Bronx, but no New Alliance Party members attended a state hearing on the issue two weeks ago.

“Some of the things they stand for I support, but their tactics I find absolutely appalling,” said City Councilman Adam Clayton Powell IV, who enlisted the New Alliance Party to help gather signatures in his unsuccessful run in the 1990 Democratic council primary in Harlem. “They can’t be trusted.”

Part\ members also make up a substantial number of demonstrators at protests by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who says he rents office space from the group at 250 West 57th Street and has a $12.000 contract with one of its nonprofit corporations.

“A lot of people overplay our relationship.” said Sharpton, who is running in the Democratic primary for the Senate seat occupied by Alfonse D’Amato. “There is no formal relationship between us. I don’t have anything to do with the party.”

Sharpton was paid $1,000 by Fulani’s 1988 campaign for an appearance, and his promotion firm, Raw Talent, was reimbursed $725 in January for travel expenses to New Hampshire, according to Federal Election Commission records. New Alliance’s publishing arm, Castillo International, last year published a book about Sharpton, ‘The Man Behind the Sound Bite.”

“Al Sharpton needs to be supported because the work that he’s doing is important,” said Newman, the New Alliance Party founder. “I don’t care what his motives are.”

Another Castillo book has Sharpton, Fulani and Nation of Islam Minister Louts Farrakhan on the cover.

The party’s support of Farrakhan and statements about Jews by Newman prompted the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith to label the party anti-Semitic in a scathing 1990 report.

Newman, who is Jewish, said he is anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic.