Declaring himself a free man, the ousted executive director of the NAACP accused the organization's leaders of being puppets of the corporate establishment and said he had been crucified.
"How can you have a freedom movement if somebody else is paying for your freedom?" Benjamin Chavis said at a rally Sunday, the day after he was fired by the civil rights group. He was surrounded by about 150 supporters including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan."I am committed to the struggle of our people in a way that does not make one want to bend," he said. "Too many of our leaders have bent over."
With his wife, Martha, seated to his left and Farrakhan to his right, Chavis shook a raised fist at his cheering allies.
"We love you," one woman called out.
"We are one," a man shouted.
Chavis told the crowd he was elected executive director of the NAACP last year on Good Friday.
"Now there's been a crucifixion. But today, we celebrate the resurrection," he said.
Chavis was fired Saturday for what board members called an accumulation of problems during his 16-month tenure, including a $2.7 million deficit and his use of NAACP funds to settle a former employee's sex discrimination claim.
Beyond that, board members feared Chavis was steering the organization off from the mainstream, moderate course it has held throughout its 85-year history.
Many members objected to Chavis' alliances with leaders such as Farrakhan, who has been criticized for anti-Semitic remarks.
The rally at Bethel AME Church followed a black leadership summit that the NAACP had called for its Baltimore headquarters but postponed after Chavis was fired. Chavis went ahead with the summit.
The NAACP did not send a representative.