This week the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, is convening in New York City for its annual convention. This is no ordinary gathering. The organization is marking its 100th anniversary, coming “home” to the state of its origin and the city it called home for much of its existence. There can be no argument that the NAACP played not only a pivotal role in the advancement of Black Americans, but is principally responsible for the nation’s reluctant embrace of the principles of freedom and equality espoused in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Our present level of relative comfort often results in a collective amnesia over the many contributions that the NAACP has made through the years. Its success has raised our expectations of it so high that we fail to recognize its many accomplishments, victories against improbable odds that are responsible for a Black community that has moved into the so-called “mainstream” of society. The days of lynchings, violence against would be voters, legally sanctioned segregation, and widely held theories of white supremacy typified in the junk science of eugenics, are a distant memory. Yet, the impact of that dark period continues to cast a shadow over our nation. We do a disservice to the honor of the NAACP if we slip into a false sense of security simply because we have elected a Black President and fail to remember the lessons of the past.
The names associated with this great organization reads like a “Who’s Who” of American history – Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, Walter White, Roy Wilkins, Medgar Evers, Myrlie Evers, Thurgood Marshall, Enolia McMillian, and Clarence Mitchell just to name a few. Women and men of honor who made a personal commitment to change America despite the inherent personal risks and understanding they would most likely not live to see the fruits of their labor. This was our greatest generation. They stood on the front lines and did the “work” that was necessary to hold America accountable. Our presence in corporate offices, on Wall Street, on predominantly white college campuses, in suburbia and in city halls, state houses and on Capitol Hill, and yes, in the White House, is owed to the painstaking work of the NAACP and other peer groups.
Sadly, NAACP bashing has become a popular sport within our community. There are no shortage of critics of the NAACP but we should be mindful that even at its height, it was always the target of complaints that it was perhaps a bit too status quo or middle class. We pay little attention to such negativity. After all, the NAACP has a history of intense debate over its purpose, as exampled by Dr. DuBois, a founder, who famously severed ties over a dispute over its direction. There is no denying that the organization has weathered some storms and is still finding its way in the 21st century. Many of us are still waiting to see if the NAACP can determine its role in our nation today but are hopeful for what the future holds with new, energetic and young leadership. We do not expect perfection or even hold out hope that the NAACP can address every issue confronting our community. What we embrace is its core mission and those foot soldiers who commit their time, energy and sweat to uphold its ideals.
As the organization’s faithful gather this week, we would like to take a moment to salute its years of service to our nation. We hope the NorthStar community will make a personal commitment to support the work of the NAACP. To show our support, NorthStarNews.com will purchase a Life Membership and hope you will do the same. Consider it an insurance policy.