- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2005

What do Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Jack Kemp, Brad Pitt and Dan Rather have in common? Stuck? OK, try these: Wesley Clark, Rafael Palmeiro, Quincy Jones, Michael Jordan and Denzel Washington. They all are alumni of an American staple: Boys and Girls Clubs. These and other names are important because they are disappointingly mum about a nasty scandal that is rocking the foundation of one of American’s foremost social-service organizations and tarnishing the name of one of America’s foremost civil-rights pioneers.

The straight scoop is this: A New York Boys and Girls Club that receives government funds loaned $875,000 to a private company for a private venture; one of the beneficiaries of the loan was a man who served as a director of the club and had ownership in the private company. Local and state prosecutors are probing the questionable loan, as well they should because local, state and federal grants are involved.

All the names of the various organizations and individuals involved in this scandal are important — but none more so than a woman named Gloria Brown Wise.

My brothers and sisters in the media have not yet covered this tantalizing story, which puts the general public at a critical disadvantage. Indeed, most of the news has been filtered through a conservative lens or ignored in the altogether. For example, my conservative brethren harp on the fact that the major newspapers and networks turn a blind eye to the scandal because they and Air America Radio are liberal, meanwhile the liberal media claim that conservatives are hyping the scandal to help rebuild Rush Limbaugh’s ratings, which is why Air America Radio started in the first place. The truth rests somewhere in the middle since neither conservatives nor liberals feel comfortable putting clothespin to dirty laundry.

There are two things about the Boys and Girls Club-Air America saga that should have taken surprising turns weeks ago. One is the media should pull together a rap sheet — excuse me — wrap sheet that culls the facts and timeline of this affair, which is giving a bad name to Boys and Girls Clubs in general and the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club in particular. New York’s media heavyweights would have long ago covered such a story if the good name of a similar organization — the National Urban League, the Girls or the Boy Scouts, the 4-H Club, the NAACP, to name a few — were under fire.

What really gets my goat, though, is that Gloria Brown worked so incredibly hard to establish the club, which was posthumously named in her honor. The scandal involving her legacy is being thrashed without so much as a peep from people like Bill Clinton, whose home and office are but a spit and a holler from the Wise club, Wes Clark, who used the backdrop of a Boys and Girls Club in Little Rock, Ark., to announce his 2004 Democratic run for the White House, and other well-known alumni. Even the Congressional Black Caucus, Julian Bond, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton — the very high-profile people who make it their business to make sure America never forgets the long-buried Jim Crow — are mysteriously silent.

Gloria Brown Wise, understand, was a Christian who dedicated her adult life to helping children. As the student body president at Bennett College in 1960, she became the first woman to participate in the early days of the lunch-counter sit-ins (sparking a new aspect of the civil-rights movement during those heady days). She later returned home, to the Bronx, and, by the late 1970s, founded the Youth Activities Committee, the precursor to the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club. Her convictions meant she was a salaried social worker at a juvenile detention facility and a non-paid manager of the YAC. On the club’s Web site, longtime associate Charles Rosen speaks freely about this extraordinary woman: “She created a retinue of people around herself: her church, some of her neighbors, some of her friends, other in the community who were committed to YAC and it was an interesting phenomenon, because she was a black woman in what was then a primarily white community … Gloria was a hard-working Christian woman — in the way in which one epitomizes giving, that’s who she was.”

Now, a number of the pertinents in the scandal have either stepped aside or are pondering doing so, and, as I mentioned earlier, both state and local prosecutors are looking into the particulars of the loan. So there are a number of what we in the business call “newshooks” to keep the story going.

In the meantime, somebody of consequence ought to be speaking up on behalf of the Boys and Girls Clubs, and the litany of prominent alumni is but one place to start. After all, there is far more at stake than the sullying of some lefty media organ.

Sometimes, the Boys and Girls Clubs turn ordinary people toward extraordinary walks of life.

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