[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/08/04/art.teaparty.npc.jpg caption =" A group of African-American conservatives praised the Tea Party movement at the National Press Club Wednesday."]
Washington (CNN) - Just over three weeks after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People passed a resolution accusing the Tea Party movement of harboring racist elements, a group of African-American conservatives joined hands in a chorus saying: "we are not racists."
On Wednesday, over two dozen black conservative leaders sang the praises of the controversial, grassroots movement during a carefully-organized press conference at the National Press Club in Washington. But the tone grew coarse as the assembled Tea Party supporters, one-by-one, offered scathing rebukes of those who say the movement is rife with racism.
"The Tea Party movement represents one of the greatest citizen uprisings in our young nation's history," prominent activist Selena Owens said as she opened up the event.
Owens then listed what she called "two disturbing misconceptions" about Tea Party groups. The first, Owens said, is that the movement is in bed with Republicans. "This movement came about because both of the major political parties utterly failed us," Owens insisted.
She then quickly turned to the primary reason for the event.
"The second misconception is that this movement is somehow racist. This fallacy was born out of the fact that since the Tea Party movement exploded in strength during the presidency of our nation's first half-black president – that those involved must really be motivated by race, and not principle."
Speaking for the group, Owens said, "This is not a movement driven by race but the love of country, for our Constitution and for the principles of liberty and freedom that are dear to all Americans."
The stream of other black conservatives echoed the sentiments, equally blasting Tea Party movement critics, the Obama administration and – at times – the media who they deem too liberal.
Among the most prominent, and perhaps most well known in the gathering, was Alan Keyes. The former ambassador and Republican presidential candidate – who also briefly challenged then Senate candidate Barack Obama in Illinois in 2004 – offered perhaps the most stinging condemnation of allegations of racism within the Tea Party movement.
Regarding the movement's ideological opponents, Keyes claimed a "sad and stereotypical effort on the part of the Obama faction, Democrats, the media, others who always seem to want to drive the politics of this country in a direction that sees everything through the lens of the phony category of race."
"It's a phony category, of course, because human communities really don't define themselves like breeds of dogs and cats according to physical characteristics," Keyes said.
But detractors believe Tea Party activists are overly sensitive to criticism and overlook racist elements within their movement.
The NAACP resolution, passed July 13, did not brand the entire movement as racist. In fact, it praised activists for frequently speaking truth to power – something the nation's oldest civil rights group has consistently done in its storied pursuit of racial justice.
"We take no issue with the Tea Party. We believe in freedom of assembly and people raising their voices in a democracy," NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous said in a statement at the time.
But the civil rights group did condemn, what it saw, as too few efforts from leaders of the Tea Party movement to drive out racists in their ranks.
"We take issue with the Tea Party's continued tolerance for bigotry and bigoted statements. The time has come for them to accept the responsibility that comes with influence and make clear there is no space for racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in their movement," Jealous added.
As evidence, the group cited racist rants and behavior that targeted Congressmen John Lewis, a veteran civil rights activist, and Emanuel Cleaver during the historic congressional vote to pass sweeping health care legislation. The NAACP also cited racist signs against the president at Tea Party rallies.
The black leaders at the Wednesday press conference called all of it bunk.
The black conservatives denied that rallies featured racist signs. And there is no proof, they claimed, that Lewis and Cleaver were called the "N-word" or spat on, essentially questioning the veracity of two of the nation's most respected African-American lawmakers.
Amid the exchange over that issue, one supporter – Bob Parks of the National Advisory Council – used part of his speaking time to employ a play on words.
"I think with the Tea Party, we are going to hear the 'N-word' a lot in the next few weeks and months," Parks said.
"That 'N-word' is November. And I very much look forward to hearing it."