For Release: July 19, 2005
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x11
Toyota Should Apologize for Sponsoring Racially-Divisive Speaker Black Activist Group Joins NLPC in Calling on Automaker to Cease Financial Support for Racist and Anti-Semitic Programs
Members of the black leadership network Project 21 are demanding that Toyota executives apologize for subsidizing a speech by the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan at the 2005 annual conference of Reverend Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund.
Project 21 members also ask Toyota to sever any financial ties to Minister Farrakhan, Reverend Jackson and Jackson's groups.
The National Legal and Policy Center is reporting that Toyota sponsored a luncheon titled "Incarceration or Education: The Choice is Yours," at which Farrakhan spoke, in Chicago on June 16.
Toyota was listed a platinum sponsor of the conference, a level estimated to represent a donation of approximately $100,000.
"Toyota has made a major mistake in supporting the likes of Farrakhan and Jackson," said Project 21 member Kevin Martin. "Farrakhan has sought to wrongly blame whites in general and Jews in particular for the plight faced by some black Americans. Jackson's partisanship and history of corporate shakedowns prove him ill-suited to be the leader of the black community he portrays himself as. As a veteran who served in Japan, I am deeply saddened that a Japanese company has disrespected our nation in this way."
In 2001, Reverend Jackson pressured Toyota into increasing its minority hiring and training and increasing spending with African-American vendors and advertisers in the wake of an advertising campaign Jackson considered racially insensitive. Critics of Jackson, including the NLPC and Project 21, criticized Toyota for caving in to many considered to be a financial shakedown.
Toyota's support for Jackson's operations reportedly ended in 2002, however, after Toyota vice president Irving Miller wrote NLPC president Peter Flaherty that "Reverend Jackson is a controversial figure. Toyota does not endorse him or his actions."
NLPC's Flaherty now calls Toyota's apparently renewed sponsorship of Jackson and Farrakhan an act of "bad faith."
A Toyota official told Flaherty that the company did not know of Farrakhan's involvement, but, Flaherty noted, "Toyota has not [uttered] one word of condemnation for Farrakhan or his racist and anti-Semitic agenda."
"Toyota's sponsorship of a speech by Louis Farrakhan is tantamount to sponsoring racism and bigotry," said Project 21 member Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson. "I am shocked to learn that not only is Toyota still bankrolling Jesse Jackson, but that they would endorse a racist like Louis Farrakhan."
Reverend Peterson is the founder and president of the nonprofit community outreach organization the Brotherhood for a New Destiny. Peterson filed assault charges against Reverend Jackson and others after an incident at a public meeting in Los Angeles in December of 2001 at which Peterson sought to ensure Toyota's outreach efforts would not discriminate against conservative black organizations. A trial is pending.
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x11 or Project21@nationalcenter.org, or visit Project 21's website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html. New Visions Commentaries can be found at http://nationalcenter.org/P21NewVisions.html.
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