- The Washington Times - Monday, March 11, 2002

A Cincinnati arts group is demanding $77,350 from organizers of a racially based boycott of the city and promises legal action if the money is not delivered by Saturday.
In a letter sent Feb. 28, the Cincinnati Arts Association accuses a group called the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati of prompting entertainers Bill Cosby, Wynton Marsalis and the Temptations to call off performances in the city.
"You specifically requested that Mr. Cosby not honor his contract with [Cincinnati Arts Association], that he refrain from performing in Cincinnati in support of the boycott you are encouraging," said the Feb. 28 letter.
The letter claimed that the cancellation of Mr. Cosby's two scheduled shows this month cost the arts association $55,850; losses from the Marsalis and Temptations shows were projected at $10,000 and $11,500, respectively.
The coalition is urging performers not to come to Cincinnati, citing the shooting deaths of 15 black men by police from 1995 to April 2001. One of those shootings triggered three days of rioting centered in the mostly black Over-the-Rhine neighborhood downtown.
"We will no longer bend over and let our oppressor ride upon our backs," reads a standard letter to entertainers sent by the boycotters. "We urge you not to come to Cincinnati until we have seen justice for our dead."
Mr. Cosby issued a statement after canceling his appearances, saying that "I still stand by the fact that I feel very uncomfortable playing the concerts at this time in this climate."
For the arts association a member of the local Black Chamber of Commerce the cancellations are hindering their ability to perform community service. The tax-exempt group puts on shows in three venues: the 3,300-seat Music Hall where Mr. Cosby was to perform, the 600-capacity Memorial Hall and a 200-seat room in the city's Aronoff Center for the Arts.
"One of our major missions is diversity, and this boycott is hindering us," arts association spokesman Van Anderson said. "This is what we have to do to pursue some legal remedy."
Any lawsuit by the arts association would rely on an "aggrieved third party" statute, similar to recourse being sought by South Carolina over another race-based boycott by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Federal law prohibits boycotts targeted at parties that had no role in the issue prompting the dispute.
"There is plenty of case law in this, and if they cannot comply with our demands, that is where this is headed," said Edward Marks, a lawyer and member of the arts association board.
The Rev. Stephen Scott, a leader of the boycott coalition, said the group continues to send letters to entertainers in hopes of keeping them out of Cincinnati. The demands of the arts association are being considered.
"We aren't backing off, but we will respond to the association," Mr. Scott said.
The coalition's sanctions are one of two going on in the troubled city, which is 42 percent black. Another group, the Black United Front, is working to deter tourism.
Mayor Charlie Luken calls the boycotts "economic terrorism," while boycotters say they are fighting "economic apartheid."
Both boycotting groups promise that their actions will stop only when a lengthy list of demands is met. The sheer number of those demands including amnesty for those arrested in last year's riots, a 10-year, multibillion-dollar inner city development package and numerous programs to benefit the city's blacks makes that unlikely.
The city is countering with ads aimed at attracting black groups to the city. The ads will cite Cincinnati's concessions to some of the black community's demands, such as the hiring of a black woman as city manager, and run in trade publications and magazines such as Ebony and Black Enterprise, which have a predominantly black readership.


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