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FEATURE The Souls of White Folk BY LOUIS DUBOSE IN PHILADELPHIA PHOTOGRAPHS nly at an NBA game have I seen so many white peo ple crowd into a sports arena to applaud so en thusiastically the performance of such exceptionally talented black people. Negro Night at the First Union Center in Philadelphia was so over the top that even the most cynical political ob servers found it entertaining. Just as viewers concluded that testimonials from inner-city minority en trepreneurs, followed by performances of black gospel groups, followed by performances of black R&B groups, followed by testimonials of black R&B singers who had become leaders in re building the inner city, couldn’t be topped, a real-time, interactive broad cast of a rocking, singing, sanctified, inner-city, African-American, Baptist congregation appeared on the giant video screen in the convention hall. Was the convention itself an homage to Lincoln the last Republican president to offer a programmatic solution to problems confronted by blacks in America? Had we missed a complete transformation of the Grand Old Party, and was African-American Congressman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma really running the show? Well, not hardly. This is not to suggest that there were no African Americans on the convention floor. The 124-member Texas delegation included one black delegate: LaMarque teacher Geraldine Sam, who told me she left the Democratic Party because it takes black voters for granted and offers too few innovative solutions to the challenges she faces in the classroom two complaints Democrats ought to be listening to. There were also Hispanic delegates, but not so many as viewers would be lead to believe two days later on Mexican Night, when San Antonio Congressman Henry Bonilla would take the place of Congressman Watts. That evening of programming included at least one 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER r’ .4r., , BY JANA BIRCHUM speech delivered entirely in Spanish \(with subtitles for the few . like Univision’s “Sabado Gigante” with less cleavage. When the ageless Vicente Fernandez walked onto stage in full mariachi drag, for four minutes of ‘ay, ay, ay, ay singing, he was perhaps the only person in the convention hall dressed with more folkloric panache than the Texas delegates. “He’s left the PRI and joined the Republican Party,” said Politico publisher James Garcia. The Republican Party, and George W. Bush in particular, understand electoral demographics and are reaching out to minority communities. Yet the demographic snapshot The New York Times provided of the delegates on the floor suggests the party has a ways to go. Of the 2,066 delegates, 89 percent were white, 6 percent were Latino, 4 percent were black, and 2 percent Asian. And while it’s a safe bet that most of the congregants at Reverend Herbert Lusk’s Greater Exodus Baptist Church in North Philadelphia are barely AUGUST 25, 2000