Chairman Leon W. Russell Gives Opening Mass Meeting Speech at 114th NAACP National Convention

A Tree and Its Fruit 

(Matthew 12:33-37; Luke 6:43-45) (KING JAMES VERSION) 

15Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast’ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast. 

THIS EVENING I AM LIFTING UP TWO PASSAGES FROM TWO DIFFERENT WRITERS IN ORDER TO SET THE TONE FOR MY REMARKS. 

(Mr. Chair, I know this is serious, but you bring humor to stuff and I could hear you say, “Get your bibles out cause I’m taking you to church.”) 

FIRST, I WOULD ASK THAT WE CONSIDER THE WORDS FROM MATTHEW, CHAPTER 12, VERSES 15 THROUGH 20 FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT.  

I ALSO ASK THAT YOU THINK ABOUT THE WORDS OF JAMES WELDON JOHNSON, COMPOSED AS A POEM BY THE FIRST BLACK EXECUTIVE SECRETARY OF THE NAACP. WORDS WHICH ARE PART OF THE NAACP NATIONAL HYMN. 

I CONSIDER BOTH OF THESE PASSAGES TO PROVIDE LESSONS FOR OUR NATION AND OUR PEOPLE AS WE BEGIN THIS 114TH ANNUAL CONVENTION OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE.  

LET’S BEGIN WITH OUR BIBLICAL NOTE. THE 20TH VERSE OF THE 12TH CHAPTER OF MATTHEW SAYS: 

WHEREFORE BY THEIR FRUITS YE SHALL KNOW THEM. 

IN 2016, THERE WAS A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN THIS COUNTRY. THAT ELECTION RESULTED IN A NEW RESIDENT BEING INSTALLED AT THE PEOPLE’S HOUSE AT 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE IN WASHINGTON, DC. 

RECENT AND CURRENT HISTORY RECORD THAT ON JANUARY 21, 2017, A BAD TREE WAS PLANTED IN THE PEOPLES’ YARD. INDEED, THE GROUNDS OF THE WHITE HOUSE WERE INVADED BY RAVENOUS WOLVES, CLOAKED AS SHEEP. FALSE PROPHETS, IF YOU PLEASE. THAT BAD TREE BEGAN TO GROW, SPREADING ITS ROOTS ACROSS THE LAND AND BEARING BAD FRUIT WHEREVER IT TOOK HOLD. SO, MR CHAIRMAN WHAT ARE YOU SAYING? GLAD YOU ASKED. EVEN BEFORE THE ELECTIONS OF 2016, THE TREE STARTED TO DROP BAD FRUIT. IT DESCENDED A GOLDEN ESCALATOR SPEWING HATRED AND FEAR ABOUT IMMIGRANTS BEING MURDERERS AND RAPISTS. IN THE YEARS SINCE, THOSE SEEDS HAVE CONTINUED TO DROP. SEEDS OF ANTISEMITISM, SEEDS OF MISOGYNY, SEEDS OF HOMOPHOBIA AND SEEDS OF RACISM: SEEDS THAT HAVE NEVER BEEN DORMANT BUT ALSO SEEDS THAT HAVE NEVER BEEN SO PROLIFICALLY SPREAD FROM OUR NATIONAL HOUSE. THE WHITE HOUSE. 

AND SO, I REMIND YOU THAT “BY THEIR FRUITS YE SHALL KNOW THEM.” A BAD TREE CANNOT BEAR GOOD FRUIT. YOU CANNOT EXPECT THORNS TO PRODUCE GRAPES AND THISTLE WILL NOT GENERATE FIGS. YET, WE, AS A PEOPLE, CONTINUE TO EXPECT GOOD RESULTS WHEN WE CONTINUE TO ALLOW BAD TREES TO BE PLANTED IN PLACES WHERE PUBLIC POLICY IS MADE. THE IRONY HERE IS THAT WE SEE AND FEEL THE BAD FRUIT BUT WE FALSELY OR NAIVELY BELIEVE THAT WE CANNOT MAKE A DIFFERENCE. WE CONTINUE TO ALLOW PEOPLE TO BE ELECTED TO OFFICE BY FAILING TO ENGAGE IN THE ELECTORAL PROCESS. EVEN WHEN IT IS CLEAR THAT THE POLICIES THAT THESE PEOPLE ESPOUSE PROVIDE NO POSITIVE PROMISE FOR US OR OUR COMMUNITIES. BY THEIR FRUITS, YOU WILL KNOW THEM AND IF YOU KNOW THAT A BAD TREE IS CREATING BAD FRUIT, THEN YOU, WE, ARE INSTRUCTED BY MATTHEW TO CUT IT DOWN AND THROW IT INTO THE FIRE.  WE HAVE THE POWER. THAT POWER IS OUR VOTE.  WE KNOW THE FRUIT IS BAD BECAUSE WE HAVE EXPERIENCED ITS BITTER AND POISONOUS EFFECTS. WITH OUR VOTES WE CAN CHOP DOWN THE FOREST OF BAD TREES THAT HAS SPROUTED FROM 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE AND SPREAD TO STATE CAPITOLS, LEGISLATURES, CITY HALLS AND SCHOOL BOARDS ACROSS THE COUNTRY. WITH OUR VOTES AS OUR VOICES AND OUR TOOLS, WE CAN AND MUST CLEAR THIS VENOMOUS PLANT FROM OUR PUBLIC POLICY MAKING PLACES AND WE ARE OBLIGED TO REPLACE THESE BAD PLANTS WITH GOOD PLANTS. POLICY MAKERS WHO TRULY EXHIBIT THAT THEY CAN AND WILL PRODUCE GOOD FRUIT, WHEN THE GROUND IS CLEARED AND OPPORTUNITY FOR NEW PRODUCTIVE GROWTH IS PROVIDED. 

ALL THAT SAID, I WANT TO TURN TO THE SECOND PASSAGE. VERY OFTEN, WE HAVE BEEN TAUGHT BUT FAIL TO HEED THE LESSONS LEARNED BY OUR PREDECESSORS. TODAY, WE ARE CONFRONTED BY POLICY MAKERS IN 2023 WHO HAVE BASED THEIR PERSONAL QUEST FOR POLITICAL POWER ON CAMPAIGNS CLEARLY INTENDED TO DENY THE TEACHING OF OUR HISTORY BECAUSE IT MAY CAUSE SHAME OR MAKE SOME PEOPLE FEEL BAD. THEY CONTINUE TO WAGE A WAR ON EDUCATION AND TO CREATE NEW WAYS TO CRIMINALIZE OUR BROTHERS AND OUR SISTERS. WE ARE REMINDED BY JAMES WELDON JOHNSON THAT: 

STONY THE ROADS WE TROD  

BITTER THE CHAST’NING ROD FELT IN THE DAYS WHEN HOPE WAS YET UNBORN. 

WE MUST UNDERSTAND THAT THE PROGRESS MADE IN THE LAST CENTURY ON BEHALF OF BLACK AND BROWN PEOPLE, ON BEHALF OF WOMEN AND THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY ARE UNDER ATTACK.  WE, HAVE ALL AT ONE POINT IN THIS NATIONS HISTORY FELT THE IMPACT OF THOSE STONES IN THE ROAD, WE HAVE ALL FELT THE BITTER STING OF BIGOTRY AND BIAS AND WE HAVE ALL BEEN THREATENED BY THE SENSE OF HOPELESSNESS ENGENDERED BY THOSE CRUEL AND HATEFUL POLICIES. 

AND SO, I COME TO BOSTON THIS EVENING TO DECLARE THAT THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE AIN’T GONNA, AND WE WON’T  LET NOBODY TURN US AROUND. WE REFUSE TO ABIDE THE BAD TREES THAT ARE PLANTED IN OUR PUBLIC POLICY MAKING VENUES. WE WILL EDUCATE, WE WILL ADGITATE, WE WILL LITIGATE, WE WILL ADVOCATE AND WE WILL INSIST THAT OUR COMMUNITIES UNDERSTAND THAT THEIR FREEDOM AND OUR DEMOCRACY ARE AT STAKE.  WE MUST USE OUR VOTE TO HEW OUT OF THIS FOREST OF DISCORD A BRIGHTER FUTURE FOR OURSELVES AND ALL WHO WILL FOLLOW US.  WE CAN NOT LET POLITICIANS WHO CLAIM TO BE CHRISTIANS RECLAIM US AS CHATEL. WE CANNOT ALLOW NEW LAWS PRESENTED AS THE PATH FORWARD, EVEN WHEN THEY ARE, IN FACT, REWRITTEN VERSIONS OF THE FUGITIVE SLAVE ACTS OF THE 19TH CENTURY, TO BECOME THE GOVERNING LAWS OF OUR LAND.  

WE UNDERSTAND THAT WHEN YOU CREATE A WAR ON WOKE, YOU ACTUALLY MEAN TO CREATE A WAR ON AWARENESS. WE ARE CLEAR THAT IF WE ARE NOT THE EXPLICIT TARGET TODAY, WE WILL BE TOMORROW. 

SO, THIS EVENING THE NAACP CALLS FOR A FULL STOP ON HATE.  WE CALL ON THESE YET TO BE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO WAKE UP AND RECOGNIZE THAT IF WE ARE TO THRIVE AS A NATION AND AS A PEOPLE WE MUST ACCEPT THAT “E PLURIBUS UNIM”; OUT OF MANY, ONE, IS OUR NATIONAL GOAL. WE ONLY THRIVE AS A NATION WHEN ALL OF US HAVE OPPORTUNITY, WHEN EACH OF US HAS AN EQUITABLE SHARE OF OPPORTUNITY AND WHEN WE EMBRACE OUR SHARED HUMANITY. FULL STOP ON HATE, FULL STOP ON BIGOTRY AND FULL STOP ON ALL EFFORTS TO TAKE THIS NATION BACKWARD. 

WE CONTINUE TO MARCH WITH A STEADY BEAT TO THAT PLACE FOR WHICH OUR FATHERS AND MOTHERS SIGHED. 

WE UNDERSTAND THAT WE HAVE TREAD OUR PATH THROUGH THE BLOOD OF THE SLAUGHTERED. WE WILL NOT GO BACK, NAACP. 

WE WILL NOT ALLOW THE BAD TREES OF POLICY MAKING OR THE BAD TREES OF INTERNAL DISSENSION TO DENY US THE VICTORY. 

WE WILL FIGHT ON WITH OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS, OUR ORGANIZATIONAL PARTNERS AND ALL THOSE WHO HAVE FELT THE STING OF CRUELTY TO ENSURE THAT ALL OF US ARE INDEED FREE AND EQUAL. 

WHEN WE FIGHT EVIL TOGETHER, WE WIN TOGETHER. WHEN WE WIN TOGETHER, WE THRIVE TOGETHER. TOGETHER EVERYONE ACCOMPLISHES MORE. 

NAACP WE WILL THRIVE TOGETHER.  

THE NAACP IS AN ADVOCACY ORGANIZATION. OUR MISSION IS TO BE THE VOICE FOR OUR COMMUNITY ON ALL ISSUES OF PUBLIC POLICY. OUR STRENGTH IS OUR NETWORK OF MEMBERS, UNITS AND PARTNERS. WE ARE NATIONAL IN SCOPE WITH OVER 2000 CHARTERED UNITS WITH MEMBERS IN 49 STATES AND STATE AREA CONFERENCES. WE ARE SUPPORTED BY PARTNERS INCLUDING MEMBERS OF THE PANHELLENIC FAMILY, THE MASONIC ORDERS, VETERANS ORGANIZATIONS AND OTHERS. OUR ADVOCACY EFFORTS ARE SUPPORTED BY OTHER CIVIL RIGHTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE ORGANIZATIONS.  

WHAT BINDS ALL OF US IS AN ENDURING COMMITMENT TO CREATE AN INCLUSIVE SOCIETY. A SOCIETY THAT IS FREE FROM HATE AND BIGOTRY AND THAT RECOGNIZES THE HUMANITY OF ALL PEOPLE. OUR WORK IS ROOTED IN THIS STRUGGLE AND THE FRUIT OF OUR LABORS HAVE ENURED TO THE BENEFIT OF EVERY PERSON RESIDING IN THIS NATION. 

WE CONVENE HERE IN BOSTON AT A TIME WHEN THE FRUITS OF OUR LABOR ARE BEING CHALLENGED BY THE FORCES OF RETROGRESSION, FEAR AND HATE.  WHITE SUPREMACY IS OPENLY ESPOUSED BY POLICY MAKERS AND POWER BROKERS AT ALL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT AND MANY IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR.  

WE SEE THE COURTS ROLLING BACK LONG HELD PRECEDENTS THAT PROTECTED CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS. RECENT RULINGS WITH RESPECT TO VOTING RIGHTS, WOMENS REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH, AND AFFIRMATIVE ACTION CLEARLY POINT OUT THE DANGER OF FAILING TO UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF WHO IS NOMINATED AND CONFIRMED TO SIT IN JUDGEMENT OF OUR NATIONS MOST IMPORTANT QUESTIONS. THE CURRENT SUPREME COURT IS A MAJOR RESULT OF ALLOWING A BAD TREE TO SPREAD BAD SEEDS. ELECTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES AND THE FRUITS OF OUR FAILURE TO CONVINCE EVERY ELIGIBLE VOTER OF THE IMPORTANCE OF THEIR PARTICIPATION IN THE ELECTORAL PROCESS IS EVIDENCE THAT WE HAVE MUCH WORK TO DO. EVERY UNIT OF THIS ASSOCIATION MUST BE A PART OF THE NAACP CIVIC ENGAGEMENT PROCESS. YOUR POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEES MUST BE ACTIVE AND YOU MUST COOPERATE AND COLLABORATE WITH ALL OF OUR PARTNER GROUPS TO ENSURE THAT POLICY MAKERS ARE PUT IN PLACE WHO TRULY BELIEVE IN GOVERNMENT FOR ALL PEOPLE BY ALL PEOPLE. 

CURRENT ATTACKS ON DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION ARE LIKEWISE EFFORTS THAT WE MUST VIGOROUSLY COMBAT. OUR ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT EFFORTS HAVE CENTERED AROUND THE FACT THAT THE BLACK COMMUNITY MUST HAVE ACCESSIBILITY TO EVERY OPPORTUNITY FOR WEALTH BUILDING AND ECONOMIC PROSPERITY PROVIDED TO ANY OTHER SEGMENT OF SOCIETY. INTERNALLY, WE REQUIRE CONSIDERATION BE GIVEN TO THE USE OF BLACK OWNED BUSINESSES WHENEVER AND WHEREVER POSSIBLE. THIS EFFORT HAS CENTERED PARTICULARLY ON SMALL BUSINESSES AND WE WILL CONTINUE TO ADVOCATE ON BEHALF OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN EVERY COMMUNITY THAT REFLECTS THE MAKEUP OF THOSE COMMUNITIES. WE ALSO RECOGNIZE THAT REAL ECONOMIC GROWTH IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY WILL ONLY COME WHEN OUR CONSTITUENTS HAVE ACCESS TO OPPORTUNITY AT ALL LEVELS WITHIN CORPORATE AMERICA. WE INSIST THAT OUR CORPORATE WORKPLACE MIRROR THE DEMOGRAPHICS OF THE COMMUNITIES IN WHICH THEY EXIST. WE CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR INCLUSION FROM THE FACTORY FLOOR TO EACH AND EVERY “C-SUITE”. OUR TALENT AND SKILLS MUST BE REFLECTED IN SUCH A WAY AS TO BUILD WEALTH AND ECONOMIC STABILITY FOR ALL AMERICANS. THE NAACP MUST DOUBLE DOWN ON OUR EFFORT TO PROMOTE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AT ALL LEVELS AND IN EVERY WORKSPACE. 

A BEDROCK ISSUE FOR THIS ASSOCIATION IS THAT EVERY CHILD HAS EQUAL ACCESS TO AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE A STRINGENT HIGH QUALITY, FREE PUBLIC EDUCATION. HERE AGAIN, WE SEE THE BAD SEEDS PLANTED IN 2016 SPREADING THEIR DETRIMENTAL IMPACT. EVERY DAY THERE SEEMS TO BE A NEW EFFORT TO RESTRICT ACCESS TO BOOKS, THE VERY BASIC TOOLS OF A GOOD EDUCATION, DEFLECT FUNDING TO PRIVATE ENTITIES THAT HAVE NO ACCOUNTABILITY TO THE PUBLIC AND NO OBLIGATION TO ACCEPT ALL STUDENTS. THIS EFFORT TO DESTROY PUBLIC EDUCATION INCLUDES A WAR ON TEACHERS AND TEACHER’S UNIONS. THE BAD SEEDS ARE BOUND AND DETERMINED TO RETURN PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO A STATUS THAT EQUATES TO SEPARATE AND UNEQUAL.  THE NAACP AND OUR ALLIES MUST RECOMMIT AT EVERY LEVEL TO SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION THAT WILL PROVIDE A STRONG FOUNDATION FOR OUR STUDENT’S SUCCESS AS THEY ENTER A DIVERSE WORKPLACE AND AN EVER-CONSOLIDATING WORLD EXPERIENCE. TRULY, THE FRUITS OF OUR LABORS IN THIS AREA WILL TELL US WHO WE ARE. 

OVER OUR 114 YEAR HISTORY THIS ASSOCIATION HAS BEEN A STRONG ADVOCATE FOR ENSURING THAT EVERY COMMUNITY HAD ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE. HEALTHCARE IS ANOTHER AREA WHERE THE SEEDS OF SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION AND INSTITUTIONAL RACISM CONTINUE TO PRODUCE BAD RESULTS. IN THIS ARENA WE MUST ENSURE THAT OUR SYSTEM OF PUBLIC HEALTHCARE UNDERSTANDS AND TAKES INTO CONSIDERATION THE REAL SOCIETAL BARRIERS TO THE DELIVERY OF APPROPRIATE HEALTHCARE TO EVERY INDIVIDUAL. IN 2023, WE ARE CALLED ON TO BE LOUD PROPONENTS SPEAKING ON BEHALF OF EVERY WOMAN’S RIGHT TO REAL HEALTHCARE WITHOUT THE INTERFERENCE OF POLITICIANS OR THE INFLUENCE OF OTHER PEOPLES BELIEFS. THE FACT, NOT AN OPINION, THAT A BLACK WOMAN IN THE UNITED STATES HAS A GREATER CHANCE TO DIE DURING CHILDBIRTH THAN ANY WOMAN IN ANY OTHER PLACE IN THE WORLD, INCLUDING THOSE PLACES WE CONSIDER TO BE THIRD WORLD OR UNDERDEVELOPED, CRIES OUT FOR THE ADVOCACY WE SEEK TO PROVIDE. WE CANNOT LET HATE AND FEAR DECLARE SECOND CLASS CITIZENSHIP ON ANYONE. THE NAACP CALLS FOR WORLD CLASS UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE, NOW! OUR PREDECESSORS SACRIFICED TO CREATE A MORE PERFECT UNION.  WE ARE DUTY BOUND TO WORK TO ENSURE THAT VISION IS MADE REAL. 

A SENTINEL ISSUE FOR BLACK AMERICANS CONTINUES TO BE THE VESTIGES OF THIS NATIONS ORIGINAL SIN. CHATEL SLAVERY WAS ENFORCED BY A SERIES OF BLACK CODES AND FUGITIVE SLAVE LAWS THAT HAVE IN A VERY REAL SENSE LED TO THE EVOLUTION OF TODAY’S AMERICAN SYSTEM OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE. BLACK COMMUNITIES CONTINUE TO BE SEEN AS PLACES AND PEOPLE WHO MUST BE CONTAINED AND CONTROLLED IN ORDER TO PROVIDE FREE LABOR RATHER THAN SERVED AND PROTECTED BY A FORCE OF CIVIL SERVANTS COMMITTED TO THE WELL BEING OF EVERY PERSON. WE CONTINUE TO HEAR LIP SERVICE ABOUT HIGH CRIME RATES, BASED PRIMARILY ON POLITICAL CAMPAIGN RHETORIC, RATHER THAN FACTS.  THE SEEDS OF BAD TREES GROWING IN OUR STATE CAPITOLS CONTINUE TO CREATE WAYS TO CRIMINALIZE OUR PEOPLE, RATHER THAN CREATE CONDITIONS THAT LEAD TO STABLE PRODUCTIVE COMMUNITIES. THE NAACP IS COMMITTED TO SOUND CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM THAT INCLUDES SENSIBLE GUN CONTROL REFORM THAT CREATE SAFE COMMUNITIES FOR ALL AMERICANS. OUR CALLS FOR DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN THE PROFESSIONAL RANKS OF EVERY CRIMINAL JUSTICE AGENCY ARE VITAL AND EVERY UNIT OF THIS ASSOCIATION AND ALL OF OUR COLLABORATORS MUST ENGAGE IN THE EFFORT TO CREATE POSITIVE PRODUCTIVE CHANGE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE ARENA. 

THE ENVIRONMENT HAS ALWAYS BEEN A SIGNIFICANT INFLUENCE. TODAY, AS WE WITNESS SOME OF THE MOST EXTREME WEATHER CONDITIONS AND CLIMATE RELATED CHALLENGES THAT OUR WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN, THE NAACP MUST BE A VOICE FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF REAL EFFECTIVE AND ONGOING EFFORTS TO REVERSE THE NEGATIVE IMPACT OF HUMAN DEVELOPMENT ON OUR CLIMATE.  TO DO ANYTHING LESS IS AN ABSOLUTE THREAT TO THE CONTINUED EXISTENCE OF THE PLANET AND THE SURVIVAL OF MANKIND. WE MUST COMMIT TO IDENTIFY AND CHANGE THOSE THINGS THAT ARE LEADING TO THE DEGRADATION OF THE PLANET, WHICH IN TURN LEAD TO ILLNESS AMONG THE POPULATION AND NATURAL DISASTERS WHICH THREATEN NOT JUST THE MOST VULNERABLE AMONG US, BUT THAT THREATEN ALL OF US. OUR EFFORTS IN THIS AREA WILL BE JUDGED BY THE NATURE OF THE WORLD THAT WE LEAVE THOSE WHO COME AFTER US AND NOT BY THE AMOUNT OF WEALTH WE LEAVE TO THEM. EVERY UNIT MUST ENGAGE HERE, WHETHER IT IS CREATION OF A DISASTER RELIEF PLAN OR PARTICIPATION IN A REAL DISASTER. WE MUST ENGAGE, LEARN AND USE THE KNOWLEDGE GAINED TO CREATE A BETTER FUTURE. 

WHEN WE THINK ABOUT THE WORK OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE, IT IS INCUMBENT ON US TO CONSIDER WHAT WE ARE DOING TO ENSURE THE NEXT GENERATION OF FREEDOM FIGHTERS IS READY AND EQUIPPED TO TAKE UP THE FIGHT. THIS IS A CHALLENGE THAT IS MUCH MORE OF AN INTERNAL TARGET. WE MUST HARKEN BACK TO A TIME OVER 80 YEARS AGO WHEN JUANITA JACKSON MITCHELL INSISTED THAT THE NAACP CREATE A CADRE OF ENGAGED AND MILITANT YOUNG FOLKS TO CARRY ON THE BATTLE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE. UPON HER INSISTENCE THE NAACP YOUTH AND COLLEGE DIVISION WAS CREATED.  JACKSON-MITCHELL UNDERSTOOD THAT LEADERSHIP IS A LEARNED TRAIT AND THAT SERVICE TO COMMUNITY IS A DEMONSTRATED CHARACTERISTIC. WE MUST NURTURE OUR CHILDREN AND INTENTIONALLY PROVIDE THEM WITH LEADERSHIP SKILLS AND OPPORTUNITY. WE ARE NOT CALLED UPON TO TURN OVER THE REIGNS OF LEADERSHIP IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS ARENA TO THOSE AMBITIOUS ENOUGH TO SEEK IT. REALITY, SAYS THAT OUR YOUNG PEOPLE MUST BE A PART OF OUR TEAM. THEY MUST RUN THIS RELAY RACE WITH US AND WHEN THEIR LEG OF THE RACE COMES UP, WE MUST HAVE PREPARED THEM TO RECEIVE THE BATON AND COMPLETE THEIR PORTION OF THE RACE.  IN 2023, WE NEED TO STEP UP OUR GAME IN TERMS OF SUPPORT OF OUR YOUTH COUNCILS, HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE CHAPTERS AND OUR YOUNG ADULT COUNCILS. FRANKLY, SOME OF US HAVE LEFT OUR YOUNG FOLKS FLOUNDERING. WE DON’T INCLUDE THEM IN OUR ACTIVITIES AND WE FAIL TO SUPPORT THEM IN THE MANNER WE SHOULD.  OUR YOUNG PEOPLE REPRESENT THE TREES THAT WE WILL PLANT.  WE ARE OBLIGED TO MAKE SURE THAT EVERY UNIT HAS A THRIVING VIBRANT AND ACTIVE YOUTH COUNCIL.  WE MUST SUPPORT THEIR ACTIVITIES AND PROVIDE THEM WITH RESOURCES NECESSARY TO FUNCTION. THE SAME IS TRUE OF OUR COLLEGE CHAPTERS. THEY DON’T EXIST IN A VACUUM AND WE CAN’T JUST CALL ON THEM WHEN WE NEED TO SHOW UP AT A RALLY.  OUR YOUTH FROM BABIES TO COLLEGE STUDENTS MUST BE INCLUDED IN EVERY FACET OF OUR WORK AND THEY MUST BE INCLUDED IN THE DEVELOPMENT AND DISTRIBUTION OF RESOURCES INTENDED TO SUPPORT THE MISSION OF THIS ASSOCIATION.  JUANITA JACKSON MITCHELL IS WATCHING US THIS EVENING. ASK YOURSELF, IS SHE HAPPY WITH WHAT SHE SEES IN BOSTON TONIGHT? YOU SHALL KNOW THEM BY THEIR FRUITS. 

I HAVE DISCUSSED A NUMBER OF THINGS THIS EVENING. ALL OF THEM ARE PRIORITIES FOR THIS ASSOCIATION. BUT IN A VERY REAL SENSE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I NEED TO ADDRESS THIS EVENING IS CIVIC ENGAGEMENT. ALL OF THE OTHER ISSUES THAT I HAVE RAISED DEPEND ON LAWS, REGULATIONS, FUNDING AND ADMINISTRATION. ALL OF THIS IS WRAPPED UP IN ONE IMPORTANT PART OF THE SOCIAL COMPACT. THE ABILITY TO CREATE AND IMPLEMENT PUBLIC POLICY WILL DETERMINE THE IMPACT OF ALL OF OUR WORK ON THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN THE COMMUNITIES WE REPRESENT. EVERY UNIT OF THIS ASSOCIATION MUST BE COMMITTED TO AN ACTIVE AND DYNAMIC PROGRAM OF CIVIC PARTICIPATION. THE NAACP MUST ADVOCATE FOR EQUAL ACCESS TO THE POLICY MAKING ARENA. THAT ACCESS INCLUDES PARTICIPATING IN ELECTIONS, HOLDING PUBLIC OFFICE AND PARTICIPATING IN EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES THAT WERE CREATED TO CARRY OUT PUBLIC POLICY. IF YOUR UNIT IS DOING NOTHING ELSE IT MUST HAVE AN ACTIVE CIVIC ENGAGEMENT PROGRAM THAT PROMOTES EDUCATION ON THE ISSUES AND THAT AMPLIFIES THE NEED FOR EVERY ELIGIBLE PERSON TO ENGAGE IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS. FAR TO OFTEN, WE HAVE DECIDED THAT OUR VOICE DOES NOT COUNT OR WON’T MAKE A DIFFERENCE. IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE NAACP TO WORK TO CHANGE THOSE NEGATIVES ATTITUDES INTO POSITIVE ACTION. WE HAVE A DYNAMIC CIVIC ENGAGEMENT PROGRAM AT THE NAACP. OUR PARTNERS ARE READY TO COLLABORATE WITH YOU. YOU MUST BE READY TO COLLABORATE WITH THEM. WHEN WE WORK TOGETHER, WE CAN ALL THRIVE TOGETHER. 

THIS NATION BELONGS TO ALL OF US. WE CANNOT ALLOW THE BAD TREES PLANTED AMONG US TO POISON OUR COMMUNITIES AND DESTROY THE PROMISE OF OUR NATION. WE ARE THE NAACP; WE ARE WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.  IT IS OUR CHARGE TO CUT DOWN THAT FOREST OF BAD TRESS AND REPLACE IT WITH TREES THAT WILL BEAR GOOD FRUIT FOR ALL WHO DWELL AMONG US. WE MUST ORGANIZE TO CAST OUT THE HATE AND THE FEAR THAT BREEDS DIVISION AND DESTRUCTION.  WE ARE THE NAACP, WE THRIVE TOGETHER. 

WE ARE THE NAACP, WHEN WE FIGHT TOGETHER FOR JUSTICE AND EQUITY WE THRIVE TOGETHER. 

NAACP WHEN WE THRIVE TOGETHER, WE WIN. 

FULL STOP ON HATE, NOW! 

WHAT DO WE WANT? 

FULL STOP ON HATE! 

WHEN DO WE WANT IT? 

NOW!                     

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