The Quiet Riot

"Probably the biggest accomplishment has been Dade County," Smith says. "It passed as close to a model ordinance as possible and implemented it in good faith and as strictly as anybody we've dealt with. It was a big surprise. We waited for them to try to find some ways not to implement it, but in some cases they have interpreted it even stricter than we would have."

At this stage of the boycott are you getting any support from white, Jewish, or Hispanic organizations? Are you seeking that support?

We have white support for the boycott outside Dade County. We have some whites inside Dade County who have privately said that they agree with the fact that Mandela's visit was not handled properly. They've admitted that there's pervasive discrimination in the hotel and tourism industry, they agree with the fact that the Haitians were not treated fairly and that they are not treated fairly by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

But to be quite honest with you, we don't expect, and we have not solicited, support from white groups or from white individuals, even those who may have joined with us in past battles. And that's for two reasons. One, I think it's important this time that blacks fight the bulk of the battle. Two, I think it's important psychologically that black people in Miami who have never won see that we can win a battle that we devised, that we planned, that we monitored, that we operate, that we strategized. It's ours.

The most immediate of your demands is for an apology for the reception Nelson Mandela received in Miami. What form does that apology have to take, and who should issue it?

Let me try to be as direct as I possibly can. The first part of the question is, who should an apology come from? If I spit in your face and my secretary apologizes, I don't think that would really satisfy you. If I spit in your face, even if an apology were enough, it would have to come from me, because I'm the one whose shameful conduct caused the need for an apology to arise. So the acknowledgement of wrongdoing must come from the wrongdoers, and that would either be the county commission, the mayor of the county, the city commission, or the mayor of the city.

The second part of the question is much more difficult to answer. The tone, the wording, the sincerity, who it comes from, how it's released, all of those facts and circumstances would have to be evaluated by the boycott organizers before we can make the determination as to whether or not it's sufficient.

Would you accept as an apology a resolution or an ex post facto proclamation?

You know, we may have to look at all the factors to determine whether it's sufficient. To prejudge it, I think, would be a serious mistake. The apology may be in terms of a $100 million commitment, in writing, to the community. If that's the apology, then I think a lot of people in the community would say, "Hey, they don't have to say the words `I'm sorry' 100 times. We'd rather have the $100 million, and they don't have to even speak to us again."

It may be in the form of naming a street - Seventh Avenue, from 46th Street as far north as can be - Nelson Mandela Avenue. I don't know what the community would say about that, or what the boycott organizers would say about that. I think that would be something we could at least have a debate over, as to whether that would be sufficient.

I want to give the elected officials as broad a range of possibilities to salve the deep wounds they have caused. I don't want to box them into a narrow corner: "You have got to say these words on this date at this place at this time to these people in this way for it to be resolved." I understand politics, a little. I understand the dynamics of this community. I want to give them as much leeway to get out of this as they had to get us into this.

T. Willard Fair, president of Miami's Urban League branch office, says the 80-year-old black organization has no plans to put its support behind the boycott, despite the fact that "it would be easy to go along with the tide." Smith's demand for an apology from elected officials is poor strategy, Fair says, and one bound to further divide Miami along bitter ethnic and racial lines. "It's like me beating my wife up to make her say she loves me. An apology that has to be demanded isn't worth the effort," Fair says. "For you to wait this long for me to make an apology, and then think that that apology is sincere, that's an insult to my intelligence.

"There are folks who were highly incensed at the way Mandela was snubbed," Fair adds. "There are others who didn't even know he was coming to town. Mr. Mandela himself has not said he is upset by the reception he received in this city. He has not said he will never return to Miami. He chose to make the statements he did knowing full well he was coming to a town where 500,000 people think Fidel Castro is the Devil.

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