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Tucker, C. DeLores

C. DeLores Tucker

1927–2005

Activist

C. DeLores Tucker never shied away from sensitive political issues. A longtime civil rights activist who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and raised funds for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Tucker spent her life guided by her deep convictions. Her strong will and organizing skills brought her to the attention of those in power. In 1971 she became the highest-ranking African-American government employee in Pennsylvania when she accepted the governor's appointment as the secretary of state. In the 1980s she co-founded the National Political Congress of Black Women, a group that she led from 1992 until her death and which continues to push for women's rights. In the 1990s, Tucker led a crusade to alter the violent, anti-female message in gangsta rap, a message she saw as undermining and even contributing to the early deaths of American youth—especially black youth. Tucker used her considerable skills as a political figure and public speaker to denounce gangsta rap and to persuade the major entertainment conglomerates not to sell it. He husband, William Tucker, once told remarked that she was "one of the most fearless individuals I have ever known. She will take on anyone, anything, if that is what she thinks is right …," according to the Washington Post.

Faith Formed Values

Cynthia DeLores Nottage was born on October 4, 1927, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was the tenth of 11 children in her family. Her Bahamian-born father and her hard-working mother approached life from a Christian perspective and encouraged their children to do so as well. Sundays found the close-knit family together in church, where young DeLores directed the choir and played the saxophone. "My mother and father gave us wonderful values," Tucker explained in Good Housekeeping. "They taught us to be good and loving, and to use our lives to help others."

The notion that she was a "child of the king" helped Tucker to deal with racial slights when she was young. She originally intended to become a doctor, but after an illness that kept her out of college for a year, she changed her course. In 1951 she married William Tucker, a construction company owner who soon built a fortune in Philadelphia real estate. Although the couple never had children of their own, they helped to raise nieces and nephews, and they built a mutually respectful relationship that endured until her passing.

As the civil rights movement gained momentum in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Tucker found the perfect channel for her activism. She joined the NAACP and helped to raise funds for the organization, a task that she still conducts as a member of its board of trustees. She also participated in marches and demonstrations all around the country, joining the Reverend and Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr. in their call for freedom and equality. Tucker recalled those days in the Washington Post: "I realized we always started at the church and marched to the political kingdom, whether local or state or national. And I realized that's where we needed to go to make a difference. That's where the decisions were being made that affected our lives, but we weren't in those seats."

Started Fervent Political Activism

As the 1960s progressed, Tucker campaigned for black candidates and served on the Pennsylvania Democratic Committee. She also became the first-ever black member of the Philadelphia Zoning Board. Her ties to the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania served her well when, in January of 1971, she was named Secretary of the Commonwealth by then-governor Milton Shapp. The appointment made Tucker the highest-ranking black woman in state government, an honor not lost in Ebony magazine, which listed her as among the "100 most influential" African Americans every year during her tenure. She lost the position in 1977, "after charges that she used state workers and resources to produce speeches for which she received $65,000 in 28 months," as stated in a Washington Post report.

After leaving state government, Tucker worked in real estate, sold insurance, and even held a position with the Philadelphia Tribune, but she never lost her commitment to political activism. Starting in 1984, she served as chairman of the Black Caucus of the Democratic National Committee for 11 years, and spoke at the Democratic National Convention five times.

But Tucker's greatest legacy is the new organization she co-founded in 1984: The National Political Congress of Black Women (NPCBW). The NPCBW (now known as the National Congress of Black Women) was formed to advance the interests of the black community, especially its women. The group devised a 10-point covenant plan to reclaim and improve the African American community—focusing on voter registration, education quality and equity, welfare reform that will not victimize poor people, and fair and adequate legal services for everyone. The NPCBW involved itself with broad national issues as well as small local ones—throwing its clout behind beleaguered Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia J. McKinney and other black congresswomen, as well as honoring civil rights pioneers such as Myrlie Evers-Williams, Dr. Betty Shabazz, and Coretta Scott King. Tucker became the national chair of NPCBW in 1992, and served until her death in 2005.

Attacked Gangsta Rap

Under Tucker's direction the NPCBW also included the reform of the music industry in the group's agenda. Tucker herself became enraged by gangsta rap after she saw the effect it had on some of her young nieces and nephews. In Good Housekeeping, Tucker described the plight on one niece who had parroted the bad language she heard in the songs to the point that she had become "at eighteen … a social leper." When she turned her attention to the lyrics of rap songs-especially those of Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur-Tucker was infuriated. Beginning in 1993 with local demonstrations in front of record shops, she began to fight back.

At a Glance …

Born Cynthia DeLores Nottage on October 4, 1927, in Norristown, PA; died on October 12, 2005, Norristown, PA; daughter of Whitfield (a minister) and Captilda (Gardiner) Nottage; married William Tucker (a construction worker and later businessman), July 1951. Education: Attended Temple University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Pennsylvania, and North Philadelphia School of Realty.

Career: Civil rights activist and fundraiser for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1955(?)–2005; first female member of the Philadelphia Zoning Board; Secretary of the Common-wealth of Pennsylvania, 1971–77; president, Federation of Democratic Women, 1977; chairman, Democratic National Committee Black Caucus, 1984–95; co-founder, National Political Congress of Black Women, 1984; national chair, 1992–2005. Founder, Bethune-DuBois Fund, a scholarship and opportunity program for minority youngsters.

Memberships: NAACP (board of trustees), Rainbow Coalition, National Organization of Women, Democratic National Committee.

Awards: Honorary doctorate degrees from Villa Maria College (Erie, PA), and Morris College (Sumter, SC); NAACP Freedom Fund award, 1961; named one of the 100 most influential black Americans by Ebony magazine, 1972–77; Thurgood Marshall Award, 1982; Turner Broadcasting System, Trumpet Award, 2004.

With her sharp command of rhetoric and her elegant, turban-clad appearance, Tucker quickly became recognized for her campaign against gangsta rap. Calling the music "sleazy, pornographic smut," she waged war by passing out leaflets containing the lyrics from some gangsta albums and exhorting people to read them out loud. One person who took the challenge was political leader Julian Bond, who, in a column for the Columbus Times, expressed agreement with Tucker's stance. "C. DeLores Tucker is convinced that this music and the talent that creates it can be a force for good, and that positive images can be sold to young Americans just as easily as the stereotypical visions of sex-crazed young black women and thuggish young black men some of this music promotes," Bond wrote. "If you agree, maybe you'll pay a little more attention to what goes into your youngster's head…. Maybe you might start by letting him know that if he can't recite it at the breakfast table, he can't import it into his mind or your house any other way."

Just as she had in the civil rights days, Tucker decided to take her fight right into the corporate boardrooms of businesses profiting from gangsta rap. The first and most visible target she chose was Time Warner, Inc., a massive entertainment conglomerate that owns records, magazines, movies, television stations, and other forms of entertainment. In 1995 Tucker bought stock in Time Warner, enabling her to gain entrance to the company's annual shareholders' meeting. There she took the microphone and challenged the executives to read aloud the lyrics from albums sold by Interscope Records, a distributor owned in part by Time Warner.

By that time, Tucker had been joined by William Bennett, a conservative author best known for serving as Ronald Reagan's "drug czar." Tucker explained in the Los Angeles Times that, while she disagreed with Bennett's political views, she was completely in accord with him on the issue of promoting better values among youth. "This [issue] transcends politics," she concluded. "This is a human issue. This deals with the most sacred gift God has given the world, and that's the child. We have a responsibility to preserve, protect, and make sure that the child is nurtured with the most positive of virtues and values. Let's make virtues and values something that is a proud badge for everyone to wear."

When Bennett and Tucker took their crusade to television in a commercial condemning Time Warner and other purveyors of gangsta rap, the company executives arranged for a series of private meetings. The media reports that these meetings grew heated when the executives defended the sale of gangsta rap because suppressing it would be censorship and a violation of the artists' rights under the First Amendment. In return, Tucker blistered them for "putting profit before principle." She added in People, "You can't listen to all that language and filth without it affecting you."

Communicated Positive Vision for Music

Tucker found widespread support for her crusade among African Americans, including such notable entertainers as Dionne Warwick, Melba Moore, and activist Dick Gregory. Her support was far from unanimous, however. Supporters of gangsta rap as art accused her of being narrow-minded and of seeing the music as the root of the problem, not as a symptom of widespread anger brought on by deplorable social conditions. As Kevin Alexander Gray noted in Emerge, "When Tucker attacks rappers for racial and sexual violence and the denigration of women, she misses the point and the opportunity to do something about that violence. But rather than listen to the conditions described in gangsta rap and work to change them, Tucker is attacking the expression of those feelings." An alternative view was offered by Bakari Kitwana in the Source: "Although Tucker often goes overboard with at times blanket and inaccurate ranting and raving, the essence of her beef is reflective of a growing segment in the Black community who are against Black people participating in advancing stereotypical and demeaning portrayals of ourselves … If the hip-hop culture is to develop beyond its 'mainstream age,' the hip-hop community cannot be afraid of such criticism."

Tucker also wanted to see progress in hip-hop music. She wanted the artists to convey positive images, and hope, to listeners. She saw violent and misogynistic rap lyrics as a significant contribution to black-on-black violence and single-parent families, the first step, she claimed, toward racial genocide. "If corporate responsibility dictates that we protect the whales, protect the rivers and protect the environment, then the most important of all Earth's resources should be protected," she asserted in the Los Angeles Times. At a time when most women had retired to a leisurely life, Tucker remained hard at work at a task she felt was God-given. "We have to try to save these children," she concluded in People. "They don't have daddies in the home, they don't have jobs, they don't have a support system. They only have us."

In September 2000, Tucker appeared on CNN's Crossfires Chat. In response to a question from an audience member about hip-hop music and artistic freedom, Tucker was careful to acknowledge that while artists do have a right to create works of art, "they don't have a right to stereotypically record music or do anything objectionable to any group." She went on to say, "This music has been proven injurious by psychiatric studies, so there's nothing that can be done but ask the industry to regulate itself. If not, like with cigarettes, we'll have to have government regulation. American people say they feel they're fighting the culture to save their children."

Never Lost Convictions

Tucker's tireless campaigning led her to criticize American television. In 2001, speaking for the Parents Television Council, Tucker publicly deplored the "levels to which the entertainment industry has gone to market its adult-oriented material to children and teenagers," and urged TV sponsors to fund instead family oriented programming. "Just as violent and vulgar programming-the kind that pollutes young minds and encourages them to engage in dangerous and risky behavior-is funded by advertising dollars, so too is wholesome, uplifting, family-oriented programming," she noted.

When Tucker died in Suburban Woods Health and Rehabilitation Center in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on October 12, 2005, America lost a great woman. Her tenacious hold on her convictions will long be admired and the efforts of her activism will long be felt.

Sources

Books

Cepeda, Raquel, ed. And It Don't Stop?: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years, Faber and Faber, 2004.

Notable Black American Women, Gale, 1994, pp. 1155-1157.

Periodicals

Associated Press, October 13, 2005.

Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1995, p. 8.

Columbus Times, September 19, 1995, p. A5.

Diverse Issues in Higher Education, November 3, 2005.

Ebony, July 1972, pp. 60-62; September 1995, pp. 25-28.

Emerge, November 1995, pp. 64-67.

Good Housekeeping, October 1995, p. 30.

Hyde Park Citizen, July 20, 1995, p. 3.

Jet, November 28, 2005, p. 16.

Los Angeles Times, July 5, 1995, p. A1; March 20, 1996, p. A1.

Parents Television Council, May 14, 2001.

People, June 26, 1995, pp. 105-106.

Richmond Afro-American, July 12, 1995, p. A10.

Source, November 1995, p. 22.

Washington Afro-American, August 26, 1995, p. A3.

Washington Post, November 29, 1995, p. C1; October 13, 2005, p. B4.

On-line

"Crossfires Chat," CNN, www.cnn.com/chat/transcripts/2000/9/11/goldberg-tucker/ (September 11, 2000).

National Congress for Black Women, www.npcbw.org (March 14, 2006).

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"Tucker, C. DeLores." Contemporary Black Biography. 2006. Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Tucker, C. Delores 1927—

C. Delores Tucker 1927

Association executive, activist

A Ministers Daughter

Defending the Interests of Democrats, Women

Crusader Against the Gangstas

The Controversy Continues

Sources

C. DeLores Tucker has never shied away from sensitive political issues. A longtime civil rights activist who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and raised funds for the National Association for the Advancement of ColoredPeople(NAACP), Tucker has taken her deep convictions and organizing skills into a new arena. Today she is on a crusade to alter the violent, anti-female message in gangsta rap, a message she sees as undermining and even contributing to the early deaths of American youthespecially black youth. Since 1994 Tucker has used her considerable skills as a political figure and public speaker to denounce gangsta rap and to persuade the major entertainment conglomerates not to sell it. Its an abomination to all of us, after we were taught to sing the songs of faith and hope and freedom in the days of slavery, to let this go on, she told the Chicago Tribune. Id die before Id let that music continue to be.

Tuckers crusade has led her into some unlikely alliances. Being a liberal Democrat who has worked diligently for her party, she has joined forces with Bill Bennett, a conservative Republican and former member of the Reagan and Bush administrations who has also inveighed against offensive rock and rap lyrics. In 1995 Bennett and Tucker mounted an effective dual campaign aimed primarily at Time Warner, Inc., in order to persuade the media giant to sever its ties to record distributors who sold gangsta rap. Tucker explained in the Los Angeles Times that, while she disagreed with Bennetts political views, she was completely in accord with him on the issue of promoting better values among youth. This [issue] transcends politics, she concluded. This is a human issue. This deals with the most sacred gift God has given the world, and thats the child. We have a responsibility to preserve, protect, and make sure that the child is nurtured with the most positive of virtues and values. Lets make virtues and values something that is a proud badge for everyone to wear.

A Ministers Daughter

Cynthia DeLores Nottage was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1927 and was the tenth of 11 children in her family. Her Bahamian-born father and her hardworking mother approached life from a Christian per-

At a Glance

Bom Cynthia DeLores Nottage, October 4, 1927, in Philadelphia, PA; daughter of Whitfield {a minister) and Captilda (Gardiner) Nottage; married William Tucker (a businessman), July, 1951. Education: Attended Temple University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Pennsylvania, and North Philadelphia School of Realty.

Civil rights activist and fundraiser for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, ca. 1955; first female member of the Philadelphia Zoning Board; Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1971-77; president, Federation of Democratic Women, 1977; chairman, Democratic National Committee Black Caucus, 1984; founder and vice-chairman, National Political Congress of Black Women, 1984. Founder, Bethune-DuBois Fund, a scholarship and opportunity program for minority youngsters.

Member: NAACP {board of trustees), Rainbow Coalition, National Organization of Women, Democratic National Committee.

Selected awards; Honorary doctorate degrees from Villa Maria College (Erie, PA), and Morris College (Sumter, SC); NÀACP Freedom Fund award, 1961; named one of the 100 most influential black Americans by Ebony magazine, 1972-77; Thurgood Marshall Award, 1982.

Addresses: Office National Political Congress of Black Women, 600 New Hampshire Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20037.

spective and encouraged their children to do so as well. Sundays found the close-knit family together in church, where young DeLores directed the choir and played the saxophone. My mother and father gave us wonderful values, Tucker claimed in Good Housekeeping. They taught us to be good and loving, and to use our lives to help others.

The notion that she was a child of the king helped Tucker to deal with racial slights when she was young. She originally intended to become a doctor, but after an illness that kept her out of college for a year, she changed her course. In 1951 she married William Tucker, a construction company owner who soon built a fortune in Philadelphia real estate. Although the couple never had children of their own, they helped to raise nieces and nephews, and they built a mutually respectful relationship that endures to this day. In the Washington Post, William Tucker called his wife one of the most fearless individuals I have ever known, adding : She will take on anyone, anything, if that is what she thinks is right.... She is not one who will readily entertain the idea of compromise about anything.

As the civil rights movement gained momentum in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Tucker found the perfect channel for her activism. She joined the NAACP and helped to raise funds for the organization, a task that she still conducts as a member of its board of trustees. She also participated in marches and demonstrations all around the country, joining the Reverend and Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr. in their call for freedom and equality. Tucker recalled those days in the Washington Post: I realized we always started at the church and marched to the political kingdom, whether local or state or national. And I realized thats where we needed to go to make a difference. Thats where the decisions were being made that affected our lives, but we werent in those seats.

As the 1960s progressed, Tucker campaigned for black candidates and served on the Pennsylvania Democratic Committee. She also became the first-ever black member of the Philadelphia Zoning Board. Her ties to the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania served her well when, in January of 1971, she was named Secretary of the Commonwealth by then-governor Milton Shapp. The appointment made Tucker the highest-ranking black woman in state government, an honor not lost in Ebony magazine, which listed her as among the 100 most influential African Americans every year during her tenure. She lost the position in 1977, after charges that she used state workers and resources to produce speeches for which she received $65,000 in 28 months, as stated in a Washington Post report.

Defending the Interests of Democrats, Women

After leaving state government, Tucker turned to national politics. She served as chairman of the Black Caucus of the Democratic National Committee for 11 years and spoke at the Democratic National Convention five times. She also entered the 1992 Congressional race in her Philadelphia district, but she lost in the primary election. Her private business dealings included real estate ventures and a position with the Philadelphia Tribune.

In 1984 Tucker began a new organization that has since grown in power and influence. The National Political Congress of Black Women was formed to advance the interests of the black community, especially its women. The group has devised a 10-point covenant plan to reclaim and improve the African American community--focusing on voter registration, education quality and equity, welfare reform that will not victimize poor people, and fair and adequate legal services for everyone. The NPCBW has involved itself with broad national issues as well as small local ones-throwing its clout behind beleaguered Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia J. McKinney and other black congresswomen, as well as honoring civil rights pioneers such as Myrlie Evers-Williams, Dr. Betty Shabazz, and Coretta Scott King.

Under Tuckers direction the NPCBW has also included the reform of the music industry in the groups agenda. Tucker herself became enraged by gangsta rap after she saw the effect it had on some of her young nieces and nephews. In Good Housekeeping, Tucker described the plight on one niece who had parroted the bad language she heard in the songs to the point that she had become at eighteen... a social leper. When she turned her attention to the lyrics of rap songs-especially those of Snoop Doggy Dogg and Tupac ShakurTucker was infuriated. Beginning in 1993 with local demonstrations in front of record shops, she began to fight back.

Crusader Against the Gangstas

With her sharp command of rhetoric and her elegant, turban-clad appearance, Tucker quickly became recognized for her campaign against gangsta rap. Calling the music sleazy, pornographic smut, she waged war by passing out leaflets containing the lyrics from some gangsta albums and exhorting people to read them out loud. One person who took the challenge was political leader Julian Bond, who, in a column forthe Columbus Times, expressed agreement with Tuckers stance. C. DeLores Tucker is convinced that this music and the talent that creates it can be a force for good, and that positive images can be sold to young Americans just as easily as the stereotypical visions of sex-crazed young black women and thuggish young black men some of this music promotes, Bond wrote. If you agree, maybe youll pay a little more attention to what goes into your youngsters head.... Maybe you might start by letting him know that if he cant recite it at the breakfast table, he cant import it into his mind or your house any other way.

Just as she had in the civil rights days, Tucker decided to take her fight right into the corporate boardrooms of businesses profiting from gangsta rap. The first and most visible target she chose was Time Warner, Inc., a massive entertainment conglomerate that owns records, magazines, movies, television stations, and other forms of entertainment. In 1995 Tucker bought stock in Time Warner, enabling her to gain entrance to the companys annual shareholders meeting. There she took the microphone and challenged the executives to read aloud the lyrics from albums sold by Interscope Records, a distributor owned in part by Time Warner.

By that time, Tucker had been joined by Bill Bennett, a conservative author best known for serving as Ronald Reagans drug czar. When Bennett and Tucker took their crusade to television in a commercial condemning Time Warner and other purveyors of gangsta rap, the company executives arranged for a series of private meetings. The media reports that these meetings grew heated when the executives defended the sale of gangsta rap because suppressing it would be censorship and a violation of the artists rights under the First Amendment. In return, Tucker blistered them for putting profit before principle. She added in People, You cant listen to all that language and filth without it affecting you.

In a bizarre twist, Tucker was sued by Interscope Records and by Death Row Records in the autumn of 1995. The suit contends that Tucker tried to coerce rap recorder Marion Suge Knight, head of Death Row Records, to pull out of his contract with Interscope and distribute his records through a new company that Tucker herself would control. The lawsuit also charges Tucker with conspiracy, threats, extortion, and bribery. Tucker has insisted that the suit is nothing more than an effort to squelch her effective campaign against gangsta rap and its musicians. I welcome my day in court, she told the Washington Post. My record speaks for itself. Their record and records speak for them.

The Controversy Continues

Tucker has found widespread support for her crusade among African Americans, including such notable entertainers as Dionne Warwick, Melba Moore, and activist Dick Gregory. Her support is far from unanimous, however. Supporters of gangsta rap as art have accused her of being narrow-minded and of seeing the music as the root of the problem, not as a symptom of widespread anger brought on by deplorable social conditions. As Kevin Alexander Gray noted in Emerge, When Tucker attacks rappers for racial and sexual violence and the denigration of women, she misses the point and the opportunity to do something about that violence. But rather than listen to the conditions described in gangsta rap and work to change them, Tucker is attacking the expression of those feelings. An alternative view was offered by Bakari Kitwana in The Source: Although Tucker often goes overboard with at times blanket and inaccurate ranting and raving, the essence of her beef is reflective of a growing segment in the Black community who are against Black people participating in advancing stereotypical and demeaning portrayals of ourselves.... If the hip-hop culture is to develop beyond its mainstream age, the hip-hop community cannot be afraid of such criticism.

Tucker too wants to see progress in hip-hop music. She wants the artists to convey positive images, and hope, to listeners. She sees violent and misogynistic rap lyrics as a significant contribution to black-on-black violence and single-parent families, the first step, she claims, toward racial genocide. If corporate responsibility dictates that we protect the whales, protect the rivers and protect the environment, then the most important of all Earths resources should be protected, she asserted in the Los Angeles Times. At a time when most women have retired to a leisurely life, Tucker is still hard at work at a task she sees as God-given. We have to try to save these children, she concluded in People. They dont have daddies in the home, they dont have jobs, they dont have a support system. They only have us.

Sources

Books

Notable Black American Women, Gale, 1994, pp. 1155-1157.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1995, p. 8.

Columbus Times, September 19, 1995, p. A5.

Ebony, July 1972, pp. 60-62; September 1995, pp. 25-28.

Emerge, November 1995, pp. 64-67.

Good Housekeeping, October 1995, p. 30.

Hyde Park Citizen, July 20, 1995, p. 3.

Los Angeles Times, July 5, 1995, p. Al.

People, June 26, 1995, pp. 105-106.

Richmond Afro-American, July 12,1995, p. AIO.

The Source, November 1995, p. 22.

Washington Afro-American, August 26,1995, p. A3.

Washington Post, November 29, 1995, p. C1.

Anne Janette Johnson

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Johnson, Anne. "Tucker, C. Delores 1927—." Contemporary Black Biography. 1996. Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jul. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Johnson, Anne. "Tucker, C. Delores 1927—." Contemporary Black Biography. 1996. Encyclopedia.com. (July 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2871400066.html

Johnson, Anne. "Tucker, C. Delores 1927—." Contemporary Black Biography. 1996. Retrieved July 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2871400066.html

C. DeLores Tucker

C. DeLores Tucker

American activist C. DeLores Tucker (born 1927) has risen to national prominence in African American civil rights circles through her tireless activism and political fundraising.

The struggle to end racism and make her world a more equal, multicultural society dates back to the 1940s for C. DeLores Tucker. In the decades since then she has become a respected-and indeed even feared-personality. She counts among her personal friends and associates some equally stellar activists for the black cause, including Coretta Scott King, the Reverend Desmond Tutu, and Colin Powell. Her career in civil rights has spanned the entire latter half of the twentieth century. In the 1990s, she became a vocal opponent of demeaning images of minorities in rap music and did not shirk from blaming the African Americans she felt were ultimately responsible. Like the other battles she has engaged in, this crusade and her outspokenness earned her enemies. Yet Tucker views the projects to which she commits herself-electing more African Americans to public office, for example, or halting the sale of offensive rap music to minors-as part of a larger goal, "to give our children an alternative environment that will help them shape their character, " Tucker told Washington Post journalist Judith Weintraub. The organizations which Tucker has founded, led, or become involved on a leadership level include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Political Congress of Black Women, the Reverend Jesse Jackson's National Rainbow Coalition, the Democratic National Committee, and the Federation of Democratic Women.

Tucker herself grew up in a nurturing, achievement-oriented atmosphere. Born Cynthia DeLores Nottage on October 4, 1927, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she was one of eleven children of the Reverend Whitfield Nottage, a Bahamian immigrant, and his wife, Captilda Gardner Nottage. Tucker was raised in a devout Christian household in Philadelphia where neither dancing nor music were permitted, and the Nottage daughters were forbidden to date before they were twenty-one. Because her father refused to accept a minister's salary for his church pastorships, Tucker's independent-minded mother became an entrepreneur in order to feed and clothe the children. She founded an employment agency for African Americans who had left the un-industrialized South in search of work, ran a grocery store for a time, then became a landlord. Her daughter would inherit some of those same Philadelphia properties and later faced accusations of being a "slumlord" as she rose to prominence in the civil rights struggle.

Tucker's household and community infused so much support and positive energy into her upbringing that she later said she had been unaware of racism at all until relatively late in adolescence, when she was the only African American in her ninth-grade class. Planning to become a physician, Tucker worked in local hospitals during the summers, and when she graduated from Girls' High in Philadelphia, her father took her to the Bahamas as a treat. On the ship, Tucker realized that minority passengers were given substandard, segregated berths, and refused such accommodations. Instead she spent the night outside on the ship's deck, and shortly afterward was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The serious illness restricted her to a sickbed for an entire year, and her plans for medical school were dashed.

After her recovery, Tucker enrolled at Philadelphia's Temple University. She first became active in the burgeoning postwar civil rights movement when she worked to register black voters during a 1950 mayoral campaign. In July of 1951 she married a friend of her brother, Philadelphia real estate executive William Tucker, and though the two would not have children of their own, they did become foster parents to a number of offspring from their extended families over the years. The real-estate experience Tucker gained first with her mother's holdings and later in business with her husband helped make her a well-known figure in her city. She became the first African American and first female member of Philadelphia Zoning Board, and as the civil rights movement began in earnest in the late 1950s, she discovered more and more outlets into which she could channel her talents. She took part in the major civil-rights actions of the day, participated in the 1965 White House Conference on Civil Rights with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and after his 1968 assassination founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Association for Non-Violence. She was a founding member of the National Women's Caucus, and a co-founder of the Black Women's Political Caucus. For a time she also served as vice-president of the Pennsylvania NAACP.

Tucker's full-time involvement in the civil rights movement made her a prime candidate for a secondary career in politics. The only salaried position of her life came in 1971 when Pennsylvania governor Milton J. Shapp appointed her commonwealth secretary, a post equivalent to secretary of state. She became the highest-ranking African American woman in state government in the United States at the time. The responsibilities of her job were serious; her office was charged with regulating the state's businesses, and she also helped implement an affirmative-action program to equalize the state's hiring practices. But in 1977 Tucker came under fire for alleged improprieties-detractors charged her with using her employees to help write speeches for outside public-speaking engagements. She was dismissed by Shapp, but Tucker defended her conduct and countered that it was her refusal to support Shapp's chosen successor that landed her in trouble; she said the potential governor would likely dismantle the state's affirmative action program once in office. Prominent African Americans such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson also spoke out against what they felt was a politically-motivated firing.

Over the next several years, Tucker herself made several runs for office, but was far more effective as a fundraiser and organizer for other African American political personalities. She was involved in Jackson's presidential campaign in 1984, chaired the Democratic National Committee's Black Caucus for several years after that, founded and led the National Political Congress of Black Women, and served on the national board of trustees of the NAACP. In 1987 she became the first African American run for Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor post; she came in third.

Tucker is usually cited in Ebony magazine's list of the "100 Most Influential Black Americans, " and her sway galvanized into a full-strength force in the early 1990s when she launched a campaign against offensive rap music. Tucker's words struck a chord with the African American community, and the situation spiraled so far out of control that again, her detractors accused her of a range of misdeeds. The fracas began when Tucker learned that her young grandniece had begun using words she heard in rap songs, and the parents of some of her friends severed their children's contact with the youngster. Tucker began looking into some of the "gangsta" rap popular at the time with teenagers of a variety of backgrounds and was shocked to hear lyrics promoting an array of vices, violence, and a culture of disrespect. She was particularly incensed at the music of Tupac Shakur and Nine Inch Nails, both signed to the Interscope label. Launching a public-relations attack on the record-store chains that profited from such records, she began demonstrating outside retail outlets and was even arrested in Washington, DC, in 1993.

As Tucker explained to Chicago Tribune writer Monica Fountain, "these images of black young kids acting like gangstas go all around the world." She objected to such lyrics being sold to minors and asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to launch an inquiry. Both the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus lent support to Tucker's cause. Congressional hearings were held on the subject in 1994, and soon afterward Tucker set her sights on an even larger target, the Time Warner media empire. The company distributed Interscope, whose rap subsidiary, Death Row Records, put out the recordings of some of the most popular gangsta artists. Tucker purchased stock in Time Warner, which allowed her the privilege of attending shareholders' meetings and speaking out. At a May 1995 shareholders' meeting, she stood and asked the executives to read aloud the very lyrics through which their company reaped such profits. They refused. "How long will Time Warner continue to put profit before principle?" she asked at the meeting, according to Fountain's Chicago Tribune article. "How long will it continue to turn its back on the thousands of young people who are dying spiritually and physically due to the violence perpetuated in these recordings?"

Tucker also focused her ire at Time Warner chair Gerald Levin. "I told him about the black males-25 percent are either in jail or under some judicial regulation, " she declared in another Chicago Tribune profile by Sonya Ross. "I said, 'Mr. Levin, how are we going to raise a race of people with no men?"' Tucker has also noted that she has served as surrogate parent to many nieces and nephews, not all of whom went down the right path, and over the years came to realize that cultural forces and images play a large role in shaping self-esteem. Not long after the incident, Time Warner sold its interest in Interscope. Tucker considered it a victory, but Death Row head Marion "Suge" Knight hired investigators and then filed suit against Tucker on behalf of his roster of artists. She was accused of conspiracy and extortion as a result of a meeting with Knight at which two recording artists (who were also National Political Caucus of Black Women members), Melba Moore and Dionne Warwick, were also present. Supposedly the women offered Knight a deal to leave Interscope and sign with a black-owned record company they planned, but Tucker retorted that they had simply asked him to try for more positive messages in his artists' music. He said he would need "distribution" to engineer such a situation, and Moore and Knight agreed then to look into financing for such a possible black-owned enterprise.

Some believed that Knight and the gangsta-rap camp had set Tucker up. A smear campaign had indeed been launched against her, which brought up her 1977 Pennsylvania dismissal as well as the fact that in the 1960s the properties her mother had owned and passed on to Tucker and her husband had deteriorated to substandard conditions. (Tucker recounted in a Los Angeles Times interview with Chuck Philips that back then, she and her husband had "rented to displaced women on welfare with six or seven children who couldn't get housing anywhere else. We tried to help them, but the tenants never paid their rent…. Itgot to the point where they had to all be boarded up.")

Still, Tucker refused to back down in her campaign to stop the potentially harmful messages espoused by gangsta rap. "It's important to pay attention to who is dredging up all these charges, " Tucker told Philips in the Los Angeles Times. "Remember, these are the same people who are out there pimping pornography to your children. Their record and records speak for them." She called for a boycott of a large record chain, and others rallied in support; singer Anita Baker gave a $10, 000 check toward her defense fund. Tucker, a lifelong Democrat, also earned support from unlikely corners-former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett became an ally. The two often appear at the same speaking engagements against rap lyrics. "She's a daunting figure, " Bennett told Weintraub of the Washington Post. "Usually I'm the noisy one, but she's ferocious."

Tucker's attack on offensive images of African Americans is by no means her only work, even though she turned seventy in 1997. She is founder and leader of the Bethune-DuBois Fund, which raises and distributes money for voter-registration drives in African American communities and lends political support to its candidates. She was also influential in the reform movement within the NAACP. As a national executive board member, Tucker spoke out against the financial misdeeds of President William Gibson in 1994, and organized a "Save Our Ship" committee; the board eventually ousted Gibson and advanced Tucker's friend, civil-rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams (widow of slain 1960s activist Medgar Evers), to the presidency. In her lifetime, Tucker has received over 300 honors, is publisher of Vital Issues: The Journal of African American Speeches, and has served as a vice-president of the Philadelphia Tribune since 1989. In the interview with Weintraub of the Washington Post, Tucker did admit to wondering who might fill her shoes: "I wish other people could do what I'm doing so I could step back and retire."

Further Reading

Smith, Jessie Carney, editor, Notable Black American Women, Gale, 1992.

Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1995; November 10, 1996.

Los Angeles Times, March 20, 1996, p. A1.

Washington Post, November 29, 1995, p. C1.

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