NAACP President Jealous Looks to the Future

NAACP President and Ceo Benjamin Todd Jealous speaks at the national convention.

By Dennis J. Freeman

Los Angeles-NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous came out swinging for the fences at the civil rights organization’s national convention in Los Angeles.

Jealous, speaking at a press conference to kick off the 102nd NAACP Annual Convention at the Los Angeles Convention Center highlighted the national organization’s agenda for its weeklong conference with a clear vision what he wants to see achieved.

Workforce discrimination, high unemployment rates, especially among African Americans, the elimination of structural racism and the current plight of black men and boys are particular sticking points that Jealous spoke passionately about. Before coming to California, Jealous met with President Barack Obama to discuss these issues.

When it comes to the holding down a job, African Americans nearly double the national rate of 9.1 percent. In comparison, blacks unemployed have climbed to 16.2 percent. It’s worst for black men, which have a 17.5 percent unemployment rate.

 That’s an issue that cannot be ignored, Jealous said. Just importantly, the soaring incarceration rate of African Americans and the buildup of more prisons have to be addressed as well, he added.   

“The black community has been dealing with depression levels of unemployment,” said Jealous. “In California, it is hard to forget the 20th anniversary of the Rodney King tragedy. Chronic high unemployment is there. And our people are even more incarcerated than they were then. Our country is the world’s largest incarcerator. Black men, right now, are five times more likely to be behind bars than black men in South Africa under apartheid. There’s an urgent need to reform our criminal justice system.”

 Besides the roundup of issues and concerns the NAACP will be addressing, Jealous also highlighted a few positive steps the organization is going. Among them is the steady improvement of NAACP online activists, donors and increased membership. According to Jealous, NAACP membership has seen a 24 percent spike in the last three years.

But Jealous’ real passion for this conference is addressing what’s going on with black men and black boys.

“Part of what you’ll see in this conference this week is a real deep discussion about the crisis facing black men,” Jealous said. “This is the time that calls for strong a NAACP. The NAACP has to grow stronger in moments like these. That is what we’re doing. For 102 years, we have been systematically built to bend the arc of the nation for justice.

“In these moments when rights are under attack from coast to coast, when black people are dealing with the impact of 40 years of financial crisis in our communities…it is apparent that we at the NAACP need to be focused and be strong.”

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