Libyan Gift Is `Family Business,' Chavis Says U.S. Has No Right to Block $1 Billion Donation, He Says
Jo Mannies Post-Dispatch Political Correspondent, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Benjamin Chavis kicked off the convention of the National African American Leadership Summit by declaring that he and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan "are going to get the $1 billion" from Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Chavis, head of the summit group, brought several hundred delegates to their feet at Friday's opening session at the Trans World Dome when he asserted that the $1 billion gift - barred by the U.S. government - amounted to "a family donation."
"Libya is in Africa," and the recipients are of African descent, Chavis said. "If a family member wants to give another family member a charitable contribution, what right does the government have to say `No'? This is family business." A State Department spokeswoman, contacted Friday, said, "We haven't changed our position." If Farrakhan gets the money, he faces criminal prosecution, federal officials have said. The government bars contact with Libya because it suspects the North African country of underwriting international terrorism. Gadhafi offered the money to Farrakhan earlier this year. Chavis said they would use the money to help rebuild black neighborhoods. Farrakhan is to speak tonight. His speech is to begin at 7 p.m. Organizers said other scheduled and confirmed speakers include actor Clifton Davis, Harvard professor Cornel West, members of Congress and other politicians from other states. A prayer vigil is scheduled for 7 a.m. today on the East St. Louis riverfront to commemorate the victims of the 1917 race riots and those who drowned in the Mississippi River seeking to escape slavery in Missouri. Organizers declined to give a specific location for the vigil. A breakfast is being held afterward at the East St. Louis City Hall. As of Friday, about 1,000 people had registered as delegates for the three-day convention, Chavis said. That is far below the organizers' earlier estimates of 20,000 to 30,000. Voting delegates were to pay $100 to register. Nonvoting observers paid $10 each. Convention spokesman Bob Storman said late Friday, however, that no one would be required to pay Saturday to attend or vote on the convention issues. Donations will be requested. Chavis said some people might have trouble paying and called on conventioneers to help those "who can't afford to make sacrifices. …