Thursday, June 11, 2009

Guests from Hell: The NAACP's Shakedown of the Hospitality Industry

By Nicholas Stix

January, 2002
Middle American News

The race hustlers who have engineered race hoaxes and shaken down one American industry after another have found most hospitable hosts in the hotel and motel industry. Hotel and motel owners have responded to demands for payoffs to blacks by meeting every demand -- and have been rewarded for their troubles with frivolous lawsuits and public condemnation by the very groups whom they have so dutifully served.

Consider the case of Adam's Mark, a St. Louis-based, national chain of 24 hotels. Twenty percent of Adam's Mark executives are black, 60 percent of its employees are "minority," the firm forces all employees to undergo diversity training, and executives at its Daytona Beach hotel had for so long been involved in the planning of Black College Reunion weekend held annually in the Florida city, that BCR representatives made Adam's Mark the official BCR headquarters. And yet, all these initiatives failed to protect Adam's Mark from repeated law suits by black BCR guests seeking to shake it down, and a national boycott the NAACP organized against it, with the connivance of the federal Department of Justice and Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth.

On December 3, Adams' Mark agreed to a settlement that will cost it at least $5 million: The chain will pay $1,000,000 to be split among the five black plaintiffs -- Dante Gilliam, Jamie Morrison, Latoya Straughn, Napoleon Berrian and Mark Simmonds -- who initially sued it; $600,000 to four racially segregated, black Florida colleges; $400,000 to be split among the 400 black guests who were in the Daytona Beach Adam's Mark during BCR 1999; and the hotel chain agreed to forfeit payment on $3 million dollars in contracts that were broken by groups and individuals that had cheated the hotel, in support of the NAACP shakedown. (The four black schools are Bethune-Cookman College, $150,000; Florida A&M University, $250,000; Edward Waters College, $100,000; and Florida Memorial College, $100,000).

And so, all of the BCR celebrants whom the hotel had so assiduously reached out to, ultimately got to stay in the hotel for free, while five of them made a cool, $200,000 profit out of the weekend. Those free stays, shakedown payoffs, and broken contracts will ultimately have to be paid off by Adam's Mark's white guests.

The inspiration for such racial extortion was apparently born in 1990, during a racial love fest hosted for black South African leader, Nelson Mandela, by Miami's black leaders. When leaders from Miami's Cuban expatriate community criticized Mandela for his support of Cuba's communist dictator, Fidel Castro, black community leaders demanded apologies and reparations. (The concept of reparations is not limited to the white man's guilt for slavery and Jim Crow.)

Led by the Florida Conference of NAACP chapters, black activists organized a boycott of Miami, producing a film which they sent free to organizations around the country, telling them not plan events in Miami, irrespective of the fact that such boycotts would disproportionately harm blacks. As Jared Taylor recounted in Paved with Good Intentions, "A year later, the group estimated that it had managed to keep $27 million of convention business out of the city."

The activists demanded that the hospitality industry apologize and pay extortion to blacks, in the form of jobs, college tuition, and other protection money. Had white organizations engaged in such behavior, their leaders surely would have been arrested and tried for extortion and conspiracy; but since these were black extortionists, they were able to operate with impunity, and the targeted industry caved in.

The hospitality industry and its media rushed to serve its new masters. As Brian S. Lonergan put it in a celebratory 1999 article in USAE News, a convention and hotel industry magazine, "Facing the possibility of millions of dollars of lost tourism business, the Miami hospitality community rallied. It worked with [local NAACP leader, Adora] Obi-Nweze to develop a 20-point plan to improve opportunities for African-Americans in Miami.... To date, 115 scholarships have been awarded to students studying hospitality management at Florida International University and over $1 million in cash, on-the-job positions and in-kind services."

Observing the Florida NAACP Conference's winning formula, national NAACP CEO, Kweisi Mfume, decided to "wet his own beak." In 1997, Mfume started publishing an annual report on the hotel-motel industry, rating all major players. The problem is, Mfume's "rating system" provides no criteria, and he almost never gives any white-owned hotel or motel chain a good rating. Only the Cendant and Marriott hotel chains have ever gotten a rating above a "C." And caving in to black extortion demands has now inspired a spate of frivolous lawsuits against hoteliers.

The Adam's Mark hotel chain has been the target of shakedown lawsuits following each of the two previous annual Black College Reunion weekends. In each case, black guests claimed that by being required to wear orange wristbands showing that they were hotel guests, they were being racially discriminated against, and that they were charged higher rates than white guests.

In 2000, Adam's Mark agreed to pay an $8 million settlement, but the settlement was scuttled by a federal judge on technical grounds.

Apparently seeing that there would be no end to the lawsuits, last fall Adam's Mark's Fred Bossert decided to fight them. In early September, Adam's Mark spokeswoman, Sharon Harvey Davis, denied the charges. Davis told me, "No, they're not true. The higher rates are true for all special events -- any high demand event for the city -- Daytona 500, Oktoberfest. Requiring a security deposit is true for all special events that require advance registration. It's a demand that's not specific to Black College Reunion weekend.

"The ID bands are [for] when there are a lot of non-guests trying to enter the hotel, and to make sure that our paying guests have a chance to enjoy the facilities." Davis noted that the same practice is used "most notably in New Orleans during Mardi Gras week. So, it's industry-wide, and it's not just done to African Americans."

So, are you telling me that this is a frivolous lawsuit? "We are saying, that we are going to aggressively defend the lawsuit. Everything we did during BCR week were done to control crowds, and make sure our guests were able to enjoy the facilities of our hotel."

Why is the NAACP targeting Adam's Mark? "I'm not sure," Davis responded, "but I know that we are working hard to keep the doors of communication open to the NAACP, and to find a common ground."

In December, Adam's Mark surrendered.

Hoteliers are learning the hard way, what happens when you lie down with dogs. However, it is most likely the white hotel and motel guests who must subsidize racist black extortionists, who will be waking up with fleas. And that is most inhospitable.

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