NAACP Boycott Won't Hurt Tourism on Grand Strand

Article excerpt

ATLANTIC BEACH, S.C. - Wil's Country Cafe sits 50 yards from the Atlantic Ocean beach where, on Memorial Day weekend, thousands of black motorcyclists will gather to drink beer, look at pretty girls and listen to bands.

And no NAACP boycott will stop them.

In fact, never mind the boycott, here's reality: "We've got to eat and this is the biggest weekend of the year," said Wilhemina Scott, owner of the cafe in the mostly black town. "This is when we make our money."

The 2000 Memorial Day Bike Fest will draw more than 100,000 bikers from all over the country to a 45-mile stretch of coastline called the Grand Strand, which extends from the North Carolina border south to Georgetown.

The 20th annual festival is at odds with the boycott, which took effect Jan. 1 to protest the Statehouse presence of the Confederate flag. The banner flies from atop the dome.

Although lawmakers have approved removing the flag and placing it at a nearby Confederate monument, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has said that isn't good enough; the flag needs to be taken off all flagpoles.

Lawmakers who voted to remove that flag last week cited the poor public perception of the state as a primary reason to bring the flag down after 38 years.

Lawmakers last week said that the tourism moratorium, while minor in economic scope, has cast South Carolina in a bad light.

"Do we leave it on the dome and be the laughing stock of the nation?" Rep. Douglas Jennings Jr. asked his colleagues before Wednesday's vote.

"The boycott is being virtually ignored," said Ashby Ward, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

NAACP spokesman Dwight James did not return repeated calls. His group chastised the town earlier this year for its resolve to hold the bike rally despite the moratorium.

Miss Scott will stock extra food and keep her diner, a small place with 15 tables and a counter, open 24 hours to serve the revelers, who have grown in number from around 10,000 in 1980. She will sleep, when she can, on a folding chair.

What boycott?

"I'm pretty happy to have them all here, boycott or no boycott," said Brenda Bramell, who owns both The Kitchen and the Thumbs Up Lounge in this town of around 400.

"We all benefit from it, and both sides need to look at this flag issue as history. …