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GOP Expanding Outreach To Blacks

By MELANIE EVERSLEY / Cox Washington Bureau
08-01-00

PHILADELPHIA -- There was a time when such a scene would have seemed surreal.

The emcee for the luncheon laid manicured hands atop the podium and prodded the audience to applaud for the man they all knew from the big screen's "Shaft," the black-oriented action movie from the 1970s.

As the mostly white, well-heeled crowd put their hands together in the Grand Ballroom of the Philadelphia Marriott -- as if they really had seen "Shaft" -- Richard Roundtree jogged onstage.

The black actor praised the principles of self-help touted by the Republican Party, to which he belongs. The audience of GOP conventioneers cheered.

"I just feel comfortable being a Republican," Roundtree later explained.

Roundtree might not have felt so comfortable being a Republican in the days when "Shaft" was popular. He may not have felt comfortable even just five years ago.

But convention organizers say they are kicking off a new campaign of inclusion for America's minorities.

"We are a very diverse party that invites people of all different backgrounds to this convention," said Andy Card, convention co-chairman. "Gov. Bush has reached out in Texas in particular to bring people into the party who have not been active heretofore."