|At National Conference: Despite Hardships, Bond Predicts 'Grander Victories' for the NAACP
By: Hazel Trice Edney
Originally posted 7/11/2007
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, while pointing to the ills of America that he says have been exacerbated by the administration of President George Bush, told the NAACP annual convention this week that the organization must now prioritize its own refueling and growth for ''grander victories'' over injustices.
“There is nothing more important for us to be doing right now than ending felony disenfranchisement elsewhere and registering voters. If you don’t believe one vote counts, look at the Supreme Court!” Bond told the audience of thousands in prepared remarks at the 98th Annual NAACP Convention, themed
''Power Beyond Measure'', in Detroit.
“But there are other things we must do too. We must make strengthening our Branches and State Conferences a first priority, building membership where it is low and insisting on activism where Branches are moribund. We must expand our outreach to and collaboration with our coalition partners – the time has long passed when we were the only soldiers in this fight. We cannot and should not go it alone.”
The Detroit convention hosted by the nation’s largest NAACP branch, comes on the heels of a national appeal from Bond for the public to “show some love'' to the NAACP by giving money.
Interim CEO Dennis Hayes, who stepped into leadership after former Verizon executive Bruce Gordon stepped down abruptly, has announced that the organization had to cut its Baltimore headquarters staff from 119 to 70 people. He said the organization had used more than $10 million in reserves over the past three years to cover shortfalls. Gordon cited disagreements with the organization’s 64-member board as a reason for his resignation.
Despite financial woes, Bond, who kicked off the convention with his speech on Monday, said the civil rights battles ahead underscore the continued need for the NAACP.
“As we find ourselves re-fighting battles we thought we had already won, we are reminded that the NAACP is as needed now as ever,” he said, citing surveys that show increasing belief in the work of the NAACP.
“A 1993 leadership study by Brakeley, John Price Jones, Inc., showed 75 percent of Blacks believed the NAACP the leader among groups with civil rights, social justice and race relations agendas. An October 1995 US News and World Report poll reported 90 percent of Blacks supported the NAACP. In an April 1998 poll conducted by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, 81 percent of Blacks reported a favorable opinion of the NAACP.”
Ultimately, he announced the results of a survey taken just two weeks ago:
“Conducted by the respected firm Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, this poll confirms that our work is both valuable and valued. The NAACP has the highest favorability of 17 organizations working in the civil rights arena. The NAACP is viewed favorably by almost all Blacks – 94 percent, including 70 percent who view it very favorably, and by three-quarters of the general public. Fully 93 percent of Blacks surveyed believe the NAACP represents the interests of the American-American community, and 67 percent believe this strongly.”
Financial difficulties being no stranger to the NAACP or other civil rights organizations, Bond said its work must be unhindered even as it rebuilds.
Consistent with past years - Bond did not spare the Bush administration scorching criticism. In recent years having described the political operations of the Administration as like “the Taliban” and “snake oil”, Bond used the flowery words of Thomas Jefferson to make his point:
“A little patience and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles.
It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt,” he quoted Jefferson. “If the game runs sometimes against us at home, we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake.”
Cautious to avoid mention of political parties so to stay within Internal Revenue Service guidelines, Bond was obviously making reference to the presidential race, in which many voters –Republican and Democrat –have used polls to express hope for change in the direction of the nation.
Meanwhile, as a part of its philosophy, “No permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interests,'' the NAACP this week prepared to reward Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), the reputed dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, with the coveted Spingarn Medal, the highest honor that the NAACP bestows.
Conyers, a member of Congress for more than 35 years, earns consistent A’s on the organization’s annual Legislative Report Card and now chairs the House Judiciary Committee, which has the power to champion NAACP civil rights causes.
“Last fall’s midterm elections did not increase the number of Blacks in Congress, which is 43, but it vastly increased their power, elevating more of them to key positions than ever before in our nation’s history,” Bond told the audience.
He expressed hope that, meanwhile, answers to a litany of major civil rights and economic problems will come legislatively.
“Indeed, for most of us, the notion that race ought not be considered in remedying racial discrimination is ludicrous,” he said. “Now the ludicrous has become law.”
He was referring to the most recent blow to civil rights, the Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 decision that tightened prohibitions on how school districts can use race in assuring racial diversity in the classroom. Civil rights leaders say the ruling eliminates some of the remedies legalized by Brown v. Board of Education.
“The Bush Court, on the same day the bald eagle was removed from the endangered species list, removed Black children from the law’s protection,” Bond said. “The truth is, there are no non-racial remedies for racial discrimination. In order to get beyond race, you have to go to race. To suggest racial neutrality as a remedy for racial discrimination is sophistry of the highest order.”
The answers are simple, said Bond. Among them, “no more Bush appointees to the Supreme Court! No more appointees, period, who cannot see that there is no constitutional equivalence between race-conscious efforts to segregate and race-conscious efforts to integrate public schools.”
He said the second answer is to help school districts find solutions that will fit within the permissible range of race-consciousness, expressed by Justice Anthony Kennedy.
From the recent rejection of Bush’s immigration bill by members of his own party, to continued criticism of his handling of Hurricane Katrina and the war, the Bush Administration has been repudiated, said Bond.
“What happened on Election Day last November was not an election – it was an intervention! ‘The people, recovering their true sight,’ have begun to ‘restore their government to its true principles.’
The organization also attempted to wipe out the often self-inflicted negative self-image of African-Americans by having a mock funeral to ''bury the N-Word.''
Still, he said, the NAACP must now prioritize its focus inward.
“We’ve experienced some real losses at the NAACP in recent months. We lost our CEO, who couldn’t align our mission with his. We’ve lost more than 70 valuable employees because of the downsizing our finances forced upon us. But we know if we cannot bear the cross, we cannot wear the crown.”
He outlined the organization’s strategy for recovery.
He said the NAACP is in the early stages of a drive to put one hundred million dollars in the NAACP treasury by its Centennial in 2009. Leadership 500, spearheaded by the board’s Vice- Chair Roslyn Brock, has already contributed $230,000 to the Centennial Campaign, he said. He said each member of the board of directors and Special Contribution Fund has also agreed to contribute at least $15,000 by year’s end.
But, the backbone, he said, is in the community: “Our state conferences and branches, as always, also have put their shoulders to the wheel. They’re raising money too. They won’t let us down.
They will lift us up...Our programs are continuing, our purpose and commitment are strong, our dedication to justice is unwavering.
We are poised for 'greater efforts and grander victories.'''