“I like the way he conceptualized the distinction between human rights and civil rights. I think what the NAACP is doing is taking the courage to make it a moral issue as opposed to a litigious issue,” said Marshawn Wolley, president of the Indiana Democratic African-American Caucus.
As the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) celebrates 100 years of upholding civil rights, its new President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous visited Indianapolis Wednesday to unfold his plans for the future of the historic and ever-relevant organization.
In 1909, the NAACP was formed to fulfill one simple goal — that people of all races, nationalities, genders and faiths are equal. Their mission is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.
As the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP gained momentum during the civil rights movement. Although Blacks have made significant gains, Jealous states the nature of the movement has shifted.
The NAACP is no longer “our parents and grandparents’ organization.”
Jealous, the organization’s youngest president and a fifth generation member of the NAACP, reminds all that it’s up to Americans, not just Blacks, to enforce his message — one country for all.
“We are the canary in the great American coal mine. We don’t just scream for ourselves, we scream for everybody,” repeated Jealous. “This country was founded by radicals, on radical ideas of human equality. The role of a canary is an act of great patriotism.”
Though Blacks are among the first to experience society’s injustices, Jealous states he is focusing on several key ideals after observing the ills taking place in communities across the U.S.
With Jealous at the helm, the NAACP is bringing to the forefront the law enforcement mechanisms that have become shoddy in Washington over the past several years, the housing crisis and sub-prime loans, and employment issues that the country is facing such as fair hiring practices.
“Folks say they don’t want the mistakes that happened in Iraq to happen in Afghanistan. Well, I don’t want the mistake that happened in New Orleans to happen all across this country,” said Jealous.
The man who grew up believing that there was no higher calling than to further the cause of freedom in this country and in the world is also aiming the NAACP’s efforts to law enforcement effectiveness, accountability and safety among communities.
This idea was brought to the forefront after a surge in reports of hate crimes and high profile, suspicious police killings of unarmed individuals. The NAACP currently has open investigations supporting branches in about five states from the influx of hate crimes which they believe stems from President Obama’s rise to the White House.
Other objectives forged by the NAACP include the homicide case closed rate and every child in the U.S. being awarded a worthwhile education.
“We cannot continue to prioritize ballparks and prisons over schools and roads and still think we’re a developed country,” said Jealous. “(The NAACP) is in 1,200 communities across the country. We can spread a message very quickly. The trick is to get focused and synchronized.”
Jealous is using a grassroots effort to implement his plan but must first strengthen NAACP chapters beginning with increasing membership.
Indianapolis’ NAACP branch headed by Cornell Burris has greatly increased membership, yet looks to more individuals — particularly the youth — to get involved. Jealous states the youth’s future is dependent on the NAACP.
“We have 24 committees in this branch, one of our strongest committees is our education committee. The major problem is that we don’t have the bodies to staff those committees,” said Burris. “We live in the 13th largest city in the U.S. and we don’t have a 1,000 members. I’m hoping with our 35-year-old president we will be able to reach out to young adults.”
Some believe it’s unfortunate that the NAACP is still needed today, but simultaneously believe it’s needed now more than ever. Most feel people turn to the organization only during times of trouble.
The NAACP has grown, diversified and is asking individuals to come willingly to correct society’s ills and create a unified nation.
For more information, call the Greater Indianapolis Branch at (317) 236-8992, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.indynaacp.org. For the national NAACP office, call (877) NAACP-98 or visit www.naacp.org.