There's a new branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Tallahassee. The civil rights activists are reestablishing the group after last year's suspension of the chapter over accusations of violating the elections process.
The new branch's leaders say local issues were one part of the problem, adding the national board of the SCLC is working to reestablish chapters across the country after years of local groups separating and incorporating on their own.
But the new direction is coming with a split from the past. The new branch is no longer affiliated with the Tallahassee Inter Civic Council of the Southern Christian Leadership Council, Inc.
Rev. Joseph Wright, President-elect of the new Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Tallahassee, said, "My only concern is that the community needs to be aware of who the legitimate civil rights group is in this community. The only legitimate civil rights committee that has the backing of the civil rights office would be the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Tallahassee, not council."
Conference, not council, the key words, but president of the Inter Civic Council Rev. William Foutz said his group cannot be dismissed, adding, "We are legal under the state of Florida. We are law abiding of the state of Florida and we are legal to do business in this city and Florida."
Foutz says his group of about 200 members is not affiliated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, although it had worked closely with the conference in the past. However, the new leader of the local branch says the Foutz can expect a cease and desist letter from the national office soon, demanding he drop the use of "Southern Christian Leadership" from its name.
Wright said, "It's misleading."
Foutz says he's not discouraged. After hearing the new branch was forming, he thought the more, the better.
Foutz added, "Everything is positive for me because I believe in, we need more of everyone to support what we call civil rights."
Neither of the groups have a problem with another civil rights group in town, the issue for the new branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference comes down to the name.
Wright said, "This is a good thing, but hopefully through all that has transpired in the past, we'll be able to establish some harmony, unity and be able to bring healing to the community and start focusing on the issues at hand and put down a lot of these little chicken fights, I call it, and look at the big picture."
Wright and the branch's new leaders were elected last month, the election performed with SCLC national officials in town to validate. The SCLC branch, which Wright says has about 100 members, will meet later this month to establish an agenda and announce goals for 2007.
The group will establish an agenda and announce goals for the year later this month.