PHOTO ABOVE: Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, A’shanti F. Gholar, President of Emerge and Olivia Watkins, Co-Founder of the Black Farmer Fund
By Amy V. Simmons
The theme for the NAACP’s 112th Virtual National Convention, which ran July 6-14 – “Always Fight Forward” – embodied the true spirit of their mission as it continues to adapt to the 21st century.
Since its inception, the historic organization has always operated on a continuum where the past is prologue, and that there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to the fundamental issues facing African Americans, just new manifestations of these.
For more than a century, the NAACP has always been focused on action, solutions, and the future as well. After all, “advancement” is the second word in the organization’s title.
Virtual Sunday Church Service, Regional Meetings, ACT-SO Youth Competitions, Awards Ceremonies, Networking Events and more have been streamlined and quick, yet thorough enough to ensure an enjoyable and enjoyable experience. informative for all thanks to this constantly evolving technological format.
At the opening ceremony, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson set the tone for the event by explaining how many of the current challenges can be directly attributed to the previous presidential administration, white supremacists , social media misinformation, disinformation and propaganda.
“We are seeing a dramatic shift in public discourse in a direction that none of us would have imagined just five years ago,” he said.
Acknowledging that many of these challenges are just technologically enhanced versions of the hate, bigotry and discrimination the organization has always fought against, Johnson encouraged members to stay focused.
“NAACP, we started with this fight and will continue this fight – 112 years after our inception,” he said.
There was a wide range of breakout sessions and workshops for participants of all age groups, with a strong focus on young people, who take the lead when it comes to focusing on some of the most important issues for them.
For example, sessions like the peer-led Gen Z Culture Talks – which focused on topics such as identity exploration, self-care and mental health – provided safe, non-judgmental spaces for young people can talk about issues that may be difficult to discuss with even their most progressive elders. It also gave these elders a chance to learn these things and become better equipped to support this new cohort of leaders and activists.
During the session titled “We Can’t Breathe – Environmental and Climate Racism is Killing Us – Literally”, activists, thought leaders and experts explored this complex topic, bringing new perspectives to an ongoing battle. has been going on for almost 50 years.
Olivia Watkins, co-founder of the Black Farmer Fund, spoke about advocating for policy that supports the equitable management of land trusts, support for an increase in urban farms, direct investment and the “urban-rural pipeline”, while that Savonala “Savi” Horne, executive director of the North Carolina Black Lawyers Association’s Land Loss Prevention Project, emphasized the importance of land loss prevention, property status issues and the protection of the property of the heirs.
Black farmers already play a key role in sustainability and environmental stewardship, even in small numbers, but need to be very careful about equity around expanding agricultural use in the renewable energy industry, she added.
According to polls, black and brown communities often care more about environmental issues than you might think, said Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali, vice president of environmental justice, climate and community revitalization at National Wildlife Federation. Ali also stressed the importance of continued advocacy around infrastructural inequalities and strengthening STEM education.
Opportunities for intergenerational collaboration also played a major role in this year’s congress.
During the “Voting Rights, Redistricting, and Elections” session, DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison spoke about current struggles for voting rights and the need for African Americans to focus and stay active.
The vote is the great equalizer and must be guarded and protected, Harrison said.
When it comes to the latest battle for the right to vote, staying away while the house is on fire waiting for the firefighters to show up is not an option.
There won’t be superheroes flying in and saving us – we all have an active role to play, Harrison said.
“We can’t face the future without facing the past,” said Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), current chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, as she called on intergenerational coalitions to fight together.
It is important to engage and fight in person as well as online, she said.
Asked about the ongoing discussion around the filibuster, Beatty said Vice President Harris was in talks with members of the Senate regarding a “carve out” provision regarding current voting rights legislation HR 4 – also known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Act – to protect him from the rule that requires 60 to 50 votes to pass.
Mandela Barnes, who is the first African American to serve as lieutenant governor of Wisconsin and the second African American elected to a statewide office, spoke about the many recent voter suppression actions in Wisconsin, the importance of judges, the redistricting and gerrymandering of prisons.
Barnes is particularly concerned about how delays in reporting the 2020 census — information that directly affects how district lines are redrawn — are being exploited by the GOP nationwide as election season nears. midterm, he said.
A’shanti F. Gholar, president of Emerge — the only organization dedicated to recruiting and training Democratic women to run for office — and host of “The Brown Girl’s Guide to Politics” podcast, said she was also adamant that people are paying more attention to what the state-level process looks like. Gholar also underscored the critical role that activists, leaders and other stakeholders are playing in these tumultuous times.
“We have to use our voices…there are people who will listen to you – we have to fight misinformation and apathy,” she said.
Additional sessions, trainings, workshops and forums focusing on education, men’s health, economic empowerment, reinventing policing and public safety, the role of black women as leaders, labor matters and more.
Next year’s convention is scheduled to take place July 14-20 in Atlantic City.
For more information, visit: www.naacp.org.