NAACP: Relevant Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Civil rights icon Julian Bond shares the stage during a panel discussion with NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous./Dennis J. Freeman/

By Dennis J. Freeman

There are a lot of haters. More than a few doubters have bashed the nation’s oldest civil rights organization. That could only mean the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is doing what it is supposed to do: agitate and make people feel uncomfortable.

For years, people have said that the NAACP has become nothing more than an old relic of the past, an outdated and out-of-touch dinosaur. Well, in attending the organization’s national convention in Los Angeles, my take differs from that view.  The NAACP is still very relevant today.

In fact, the work of the NAACP is needed in this moment in time as much as it was during the heyday of wicked Jim Crow laws and segregation. I feel sorry for those individuals who didn’t attend one panel discussion, who didn’t make it to one workshop and didn’t even bother to show up at an extra curriculum event during the annual NAACP convention.

The NAACP’s convention beautifully laid out the issues affecting black people and folks of color. And there are many. Efforts to suppress the black vote, the plight of black men and boys, the education crisis, present day activism, health disparities, people of color and the criminal justice system and the high unemployment rate are just some of the meaningful topics that the convention offered and held panel discussions on.

These are all meaningful subjects that black folks talk about every day. These are all real issues that not only affect us today, but will impact our kids and their children. We have to look to the future.

Instead of partying and walking down the aisles of frivolous red carpet events, we need to roll up our sleeves and go to work on the things that really and truly matter to us.

The imprint left on me by the NAACP convention is that there is still a lot of work to be done in the name of equality, justice and fairness for people of color. We must continue to fight against the wiles of oppression. We must be proactive in protecting our voting rights.

Black folks have to realize that play time is over. We cannot be quiet and be still when our civil liberties are being threatened. We have to rise up against the elements of bigotry and racism that try to erase all the gains our forefathers made for us. Our survival as a people depends on individuals like you and I getting more involved and standing up for what we know is right.

There can’t be any more standing idle on the sidelines watching what everyone else is doing. We have to get in the game and fight for our team-the team of humanity. NAACP North Carolina State Conference President Rev. William Barber stated during the convention’s redistricting panel discussion that “we’re never, ever, ever going back.”

Legendary actors Harry Belafonte and Louis Gossett Jr. talk about activism during the NAACP convention./Dennis J. Freeman/

In order for us to not go back in time of some of the most horrific moments in America’s history, black people and other people of color must recognize what’s at stake now. The Tea Party movement is nothing more than a thinly, veiled disguised reincarnation of the racist White Citizens Council organization formed in the 1950s.

The current climate of legislation being proposed by states across the country favoring new voter registration and Voter ID laws is rooted in the same segregated laws that kept blacks from going to the polls before the Voting Rights Acts of 1965 was passed.

If we’re not careful, history has a tendency of repeating itself. I’m not trying to go to the back on anybody’s bus. So, we must take the attacks on our freedom and liberties personal. When President Barack Obama was elected as our nation’s 44th president, many people were saying that we have entered the post-race era.

Well, the only people who were saying that were white people and ignorant black folks. If anything, election of President Obama has set off a major backlash when it comes to race relations in this country. This is why we need the NAACP. If not for the NAACP, all of all today wouldn’t be where we are nor have the opportunities afforded to us.        

If not for the NAACP, there wouldn’t be school integration. If not for the NAACP, we’d probably still be sitting in the back of the bus. If not for the NAACP, the doors of Hollywood wouldn’t be as open as it is. If not for the NAACP, equality, freedom and justice would be nothing more than an empty metaphor instead of reality.



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