NAACP Grasping For Relevance After Year Of ‘Black Lives Matter’

By AARON MORRISON, Staff Writer (IBTimes)

Published: July 15, 2015

PHILADELPHIA – “It’s been a rough year.” Those were among the first words spoken Sunday night by presiding officer Leon Russell to attendeesas the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s national meeting was called to order, underscoring the series of travails the nation’s oldest civil rights organization had experienced during the past 12 months.

Since its last national gathering nearly one year ago in Las Vegas, the extinguished lives of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, John Crawford III, Tony Robinson, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray and an untold number of other young African-Americans at the hands of police sent shock waves of protests through local communities and around the United States. However, the NAACP’s dignified calls for peaceful justice stood in stark contrast to massive youth-led demonstrations that took over city streets and sparked some violent clashes with police departments accused of unjustly ending black lives.

Those instances were followed by a surprising scandal in early June regarding the organization’s integrity after a white NAACP branch president in Washington state was revealed to have been masquerading as a black woman for years. That fizzled quickly, though, eclipsed by national tragedy when an armed white man entered a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina and gunned down nine African-American worshipers attending Bible study, in a failed attempt to spark a race war.

It was in the wake of that terror attack on the black church — a critical foundation for many civil rights organizations – that the NAACP seemingly rediscovered its voice, renewing a campaign launched 15 years ago to see a symbol of segregation and white supremacy stripped from places of prominence in the Deep South. Now, after claiming victory just days before its 106th convention began, leaders said the way forward required increased intensity in their collective fight against injustice.

Playing an integral role in the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse groundshas apparently reinvigoratedthe NAACP, which has prioritized the restoration of voting rights protections gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013 as its next order of business, its president Cornell William Brooks said.

But, perhaps most importantly, the organization wants a seat at the table — locally and nationally — on criminal justice and policing reforms, and plans to hammer home that point next month by continuing its tradition of nonviolent demonstrations with an 860-mile civil rights march from Selma, Alabama to Washington, D.C.

“I know that we are strong!” Brooks, who joined the organization exactly one year ago, said in a keynote address Monday evening. “I know that we are courageous! I know that we are powerful! I know that we will not stop! I know that we are here to stay!”

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