In today’s Washington Times, columnist Deborah Simmons pushes for an angle on the Air America stealing-from-the-children scandal that’s been underplayed (even as the whole story is underplayed): Who was Gloria Brown Wise, the name on the exploited Boys and Girls Club?
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.