NAACP Chairmen: ‘Today Is the First Day of Our Next 100 Years’

Leon W. Russell and Derrick Johnson, NBC News, May 19, 2017

Leon W. Russell

Leon W. Russell

When the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in 1909, there were a number of undeniably stark realities facing black Americans that the creation of the NAACP sought to overcome.

We worked to create a future in which a black American could walk down a street without the fear of being lynched.

We wanted black Americans to be able to exercise their right to vote efficiently and effectively, without being beaten, jailed or persecuted for doing so.

We dreamt of a world in which black children would be able to receive the same education as their white peers, one that would permit their parents the opportunity to fulfill the great American Dream of leaving the next generation better off than they.

In 2017, a black American still cannot walk down a street, drive a car, play on the playground or enter their own home at night without the fear of being shot, beaten or harassed by their neighbors or their very own police – the individuals ironically pledged to protect him.

Gerrymandering and other voter suppression tactics like ID laws have made it increasingly difficult and in some cases impossible for black Americans and other communities of color to participate in our nation’s democratic elections. Many are so dissuaded by the expectation that their vote may not count — or will count against them and the safety of their community — often elect not to vote at all.

Almost two decades into the turn of the century and yet millions of black children are still taught in segregated and underserved school – and not just in the South. It is New York City that is home to the most segregated school district in the United States. And at the same time, the gap between the college graduation rates for white students and black students is only increasing, putting that American Dream ever farther out of reach.

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For many, this moment – the realization of how little has still changed amidst such progress – is demoralizing. While our history will mark this moment as one of incredible public engagement, with individuals of all genders and ages taking to the streets and to town halls, it is also a moment of despair and fear.

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After more than 100 years of pushing against the same challenges, what do we do now?

The answer is this: We’re not going to agonize – we’re going to organize.

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We will continue to advocate for the advancement of communities of color in this country, stronger and more resilient than ever before.

Today is the first day of our next 100 years.

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