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Hazel Trice Edney, NNPA Editor-In-Chief
Published: 07 May 2009

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Republican Newt Gingrich is the former Speaker of the House who once outlined a 10-point-plan called the "Contract With America" that civil rights leaders fiercely attacked as a "Contract on America."
He also once encouraged the Republican Party to disregard authentic Black leaders, saying, "It is in the interest of the Republican Party and Ronald Reagan to invent new Black leaders, so to speak."
Gingrich's leadership style has been described by political commentators such as Dr. Ron Walters, as "aggressively narrow, mean-spirited and even hateful."
Why then would quintessential Black activist and civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton be planning a march and rally near the White House this Saturday, at which Gingrich has been invited to speak? And why did they attend a meeting together last week with President Barack Obama?
Sharpton answered these questions during an interview with the NNPA News Service:
"There is no agreement. He and I are not working together," says Sharpton. "He's coming to say, 'Yes there is a race gap.' But, he and I are not working together."
It all started at Sharpton's National Action Network annual convention last month, Sharpton recalls. Gingrich attended the convention in order to debate Sharpton on issues.
"Every year, I debate a right winger at my convention," Sharpton said. He noted that he has also debated conservative talk show hosts Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly.
"When I challenged Gingrich on racial inequality, he disagreed with me on vouchers, but he agreed with me that there was racial inequality. I said 'you ought to be at our march commemorating Brown vs. Board of Education. He said,' I will'," Sharpton recalled.
That convention also featured a speech by Vice President Joe Biden while Obama was on his tour of Europe. When NAN reached out to the White House for a meeting on educational inequities, Sharpton said it was the Obama Administration that asked Sharpton to attend the meeting with Gingrich, along with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and mayors of two of the nation's largest cities, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also a Republican, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, also a Republican. Villaraigosa was not able to attend.
"The White House said that since he came to my convention, they would invite him to this meeting so they could hear all sides," Sharpton recounted. "We had a very frank and blunt meeting for 45 minutes. I thought it was good."
He said the President has "Asked us to frame something that the administration can deal with to close the race gap in education. Gingrich and I don't' agree on vouchers, we don't agree on other things. I'm not supporting Bloomberg for mayor of New York. I'm supporting Bill Thompson.
But, we have agreed to work with the president in framing an education policy that will deal with the racial inequality," Sharpton said.
This Saturday's march, which Sharpton describes as a "march at the White House; not a march on the White House," will commemorate the 55th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.
Sharpton says Gingrich could eventually play a pivotal role in bridging the gap between Republicans in Congress and the Obama administration on legislation pertaining to the educational inequities and other issues.
"We haven't gotten it changed doing it the regular way. So why keep doing the same thing for 40 years? The one thing that I agree with Obama is that if we keep doing the same thing, we're not going to get a different result," he said. "Besides, if we are getting them to agree with things that will help us, I think we would be stupid not to do that. Gingrich came to my convention. I didn't go to his."

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