Lard Corps

Local black leaders are wondering why the U.S. Justice Department called them together to chew the fat about Guantanamo

"I think Wilkes speaks for the alienation in the black middle class, who do not want to provide community leadership to keep people quiet, because we ain't gettin' nothin' out of it," John Due stresses.

At age 61, the CRS's Ozell Sutton is himself a veteran of the civil rights movement. Having been hired in 1950 as the first black journalist at an all-white metropolitan daily newspaper in the South, he chuckles at the concerns of the Miami leaders, most of whom he knows personally. Sutton says local CRS officials had indeed reported that tension was building in Miami, because of what blacks here saw as the Clinton administration's favorable treatment of Cuban refugees at the expense of Haitians. Though he denies there was any hidden agenda for the meeting, he says he isn't surprised that the group was looking for one. Their suspicions, Sutton adds dryly, represent the customary stance a civil rights leader adopts toward any government policy. His job with the Justice Department, he emphasizes, is to listen to the leaders' concerns and report back to Washington. "I have enough confidence in the black community that if I came back next week, they would come," Sutton laughs. "They might curse me out but they would come, and that is all I ask."

Reverend Wilkes suggests that next time the CRS bring something more to the table than the administration's forgone policy. "If you are going to try to make a fool out of somebody, you have to give them something," Wilkes counters. "They had me down there for an hour and a half right at dinnertime without any food in sight. A preacher always gets a dinner.

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