Black Leaders In Camden Seek Unity With Hispanics Recent Weeks Had Seen Quarrels Over Whether Latinos Are Fairly Represented In City Government.

Posted: June 21, 1995

CAMDEN — Members of the city's African American and Hispanic communities should not fight among themselves for better representation in local government, black activists said yesterday.

Leaders of the Greater Camden County Reinvestment Corp. said county political leaders had frozen African Americans and Hispanics out of key management jobs and policy decisions in Camden.

"Hispanics are fighting for social justice in the wrong arena," said Roy L. Jones, the group's executive director. "In the interest of reconciliation, we extend the hand to Latinos to join in the real fight for social justice."

During the last two weeks, Latino and black leaders have argued over whether Latinos are adequately included in city government. Two weeks ago, Latino leaders staged a rally in which Mayor Arnold W. Webster was accused of denying their community representation at a critical point in the city's future.

Webster, who is African American, responded last week by issuing a report that said Hispanics were fairly represented in his administration.

Camden's population is about 55 percent African American, 32 percent Latino and 13 percent white.

The tension between the communities will result in dueling news conferences this week.

Hispanic leaders have scheduled a news conference for noon today at City Hall, where Jones and Mangaliso Davis met with reporters yesterday.

While Jones and Davis stressed that their fight is not with Latinos, some of their remarks led to a shouting match with Eulisis Delgado, a Hispanic political activist.

Jones and Davis insisted that Latinos should focus on why the county government has no Hispanics in top management positions. The black activists blamed the exclusion on white-dominated political leaders.

"The question that begs to be answered is why haven't Hispanics charged whites with racism?" Jones said.

Delgado responded that Latinos are less than 5 percent of the county's population, and that most of them live in the city - where African Americans and whites hold most of the key municipal positions.

"We're fighting for equal justice," he said. "This is not racial."

Delgado then referred to the Webster administration and said, "Hispanics in there do not call the shots."

Delgado and Carlos Peraza, coordinator of the 30-member Hispanic Steering Committee, said the Webster administration - through Jones and Davis - was dodging the city's problems by shifting blame to the county.

"I think we need to clean up our home here before we go asking anywhere else," Peraza said afterward. "We want to stay focused on where 31 percent of the (Hispanic) population resides."

Freeholder Director Jeffrey L. Nash conceded that the county should have more Hispanics in top management positions. "The problem is, there is a hiring freeze in the county," Nash said. "And we need people in the trenches, not in management."

Camden City Councilman Israel Nieves, who directs the Camden County Office of Hispanic Affairs, is the county's highest-ranking Hispanic official.

Nieves yesterday released a letter he wrote to Webster on city stationary, thanking the mayor and Council President James Mathes in advance for meeting with him today.

Nieves called on Webster and Mathes to create an 11-member committee that would "have sufficient authority to investigate and or carry out public demands that come from any sector of the community." The committee would consist of four African Americans, four Latinos and three whites.

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