A Week of Power and Determination: NAACP’s 113th National Convention Takes Place

PHOTO ABOVE: NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson addresses convention delegates. (Photo/NAACP)

By Amy V. Simmons

It was fitting that the theme for this year’s NAACP National Convention – “This Is Power” – underscored the sense of empowerment many delegates felt after years of separation and the determination to move on. before.

The occasion also marked the return of the convention to Atlantic City for the first time since 1955.

NAACP National Board Members, Foundation Board Members, NAACP State Conference Presidents, Chapter and Local Presidents, Youth and College Leaders, and Delegates attended the six-day event, which ran from July 14-20.

It was good to be back, said Karen Boykin-Towns, vice chair of the NAACP National Board of Directors.

“While we’ve been able to get the job done during the pandemic, there’s something to be said about not being able to be together, having a community, being able to have hugs or punches – but you can feel the energy here,” Boykin-Towns said. “What I am most proud of is that despite the pandemic, we have continued to work and do important work. So, you know, now all roads lead to Boston – but kudos to the New Jersey team, because they did a phenomenal job under difficult circumstances.

The winners of the Theatrical Shorts competition pose with NAACP leadership after it was announced they would all be attending the 2023 Image Awards ceremony in Hollywood. (Photo/NAACP)

The national convention provides an opportunity for leaders and members to reflect and set priorities for the year ahead, said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson.

“Together, the NAACP reaffirmed its commitment to freeing our institutions from the disease of white supremacy to ensure true democracy so that Black Americans can use our collective power to advance on key goals such as generational wealth creation. “, did he declare. said. “While much progress has been made during our time in Atlantic City, our work is far from done. We look forward to taking him back to our roots next July when we visit our brothers and sisters in Boston, the very first local branch of the NAACP. All roads lead to Boston.

In addition to the official business conducted during the regional and general sessions, the daily program included mass meetings, luncheons and breakout sessions. Convention highlights also included the ACT-SO contest, author talks at the NAACP Experience exhibit center, and offsite entertainment events.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn addresses attendees at the Spingarn Freedom Fund Awards Dinner. (Photo/NAACP)

During the general legislative session held on July 19, members voted on several resolutions.

The NAACP Resolutions Committee makes resolutions that propose changes or amendments to NAACP policies and programs. Convention delegates normally pass resolutions in July and submit them to the NAACP Board of Directors for ratification in October.

Among the resolutions presented at this year’s convention were those on environmental justice, voting rights, U.S. policy on Haiti, police reform, critical race theory, racism as a public health crisis, as well as an emergency resolution banning all assault weapons.

In conjunction with the California/Hawaii State Conference, the NAACP branch in Philadelphia introduced a resolution opposing discriminatory lending practices.

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The resolution reaffirmed previous resolutions that had the same objective, such as “Home Appraisals and Mortgage Lending Discrimination” (2015), as well as “Rent to Own Schemes and Predatory Lending” and “Support of Regional and Municipal Public Banking” (2019). ). .

In the 2022 resolution, a call was made for scrutiny and review of policies and procedures by regulators, and for an addendum to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) urging lenders to disclose data to HMDA and to comply with Community Reinvestment Act requirements in order to improve fair outcomes. There was also a call to develop a partnership to create financial freedom centers to provide financial education and fight racial discrimination in mortgages, among other services.

During the closing plenary session on July 20, three short films by black filmmakers were screened as part of the short film competition.

Afterwards, convention delegates were asked to vote for their favorite entry. The filmmaker with the most votes would win tickets and a free trip to the 2023 NAACP Image Awards in Hollywood.

However, the delegates were so impressed with the participation of each filmmaker that they started chanting “Send them all!” “.

Shortly after, NAACP National President Derrick Johnson announced that all three filmmakers would be attending the Image Awards, prompting the crowd to sing along to this year’s convention theme, “This is Power,” response to the unexpected decision.

The films and directors are: “Strike a Match” by Asia E. Marche and Mackenzie Foy,

“Say Your Grace” by Bree Webber and “#Through Our Lens” by Timothy Richardson and Shiko Njoroge.

There was also an illuminating panel discussion titled “We Must Dismantle White Supremacy” with NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson; Reverend Marshall Mitchell, pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania; L. Joy Williams, president of the Brooklyn branch of the NAACP, and Tim Wise, author and activist.

Kyle Bowser, senior vice president of the Hollywood Bureau of the NAACP, served as moderator.

At the heart of the discussion was the need to address the systemic and entrenched nature of white supremacy.

It goes well beyond social media signals of virtue and reactionary measures, Wise said in his opening remarks.

“If the focus is on calling people on Twitter, [if] that’s kind of the end goal of your activism, or attacking someone on facebook for saying something in a way you don’t like, rather than talking about the systems and structures that produce this dysfunction, [or] schools that produce spaces that produce this dysfunction, I think that won’t get us very far,” he said. “In fact, that’s what’s leading to the kind of backlash we’re having right now. We have states that ban talking about racism because it makes white people feel bad.

Our approach to white supremacy must be decidedly black when addressing its origins and evolution, Johnson said.

“The definition of who was white in 1920 is not the same definition today,” Johnson said. “In fact, there are many ethnic groups that in 1920 and 1909, when it was created, none of them were considered white, because they were not white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

As democracy wanted [that] more people agreed on this concept of white supremacy, they started inviting more people into the whiteness class.

The members of Region Two gather for their business meeting. (Photo/Leona Dixon)

When you understand this privileged class notion of white supremacy, you realize black people will never be part of it, so we must continue to stand up for black people and other disenfranchised communities, Johnson said.

In addition to addressing white supremacy through public policy, Johnson said the corporate sector must also play a role.

“It’s not enough to have a soup kitchen because people are hungry,” Johnson said. “You have to [ask] ‘why are people hungry?’ and solve this problem.

Marshall said the black church, which has traditionally operated collectively as a wheel within a wheel, must return to its powerful militant roots when it comes to dismantling white supremacy.

“I know there are 35,000 black churches across the country that should be involved in subversion and probably have a few less revivals,” he said.

There was a discussion of how this solutions-based activist infrastructure has worked in different ways within mainstream culture over the years – such as the Black Panther Party’s free breakfast and community education programs. in the 1960s. The emphasis was on revising previous solutions or implementing new ones.

During the discussion, a lively exchange took place about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the nation, as well as the role that white privilege and supremacist ideas have played in managing it and other public health crises.

Williams decided it was time to land the rhetorical plane.

“Saving white people is not my ministry,” she said. “Part of this rise of white supremacy is also that we think about how to convert them or fix them, or how to bring them to the table so that they are less mean or less directive with us. . And it’s not power, because you’re still thinking about your oppressor.

It’s not about singling out individual people doing the work or being mean, Williams said. It’s about prioritizing ourselves.

“When we go to Brooklyn, New York, when we go to see lawmakers, when we go to see the governor, we’re not asking for a favor to improve our lives and our community. We go there with all the power we know we have to demand what is ours and what our community needs.

On the final night of the convention, House Majority Whip James Clyburn received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP. The Spingarn is awarded annually by the NAACP to recognize the highest or noblest achievement by a living African American.

Clyburn was joined by members of the Congressional Black Caucus and later received a congratulatory call from President Joe Biden the following day. Much of Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential race was due to Clyburn’s influence in the race.

The congress was an overall success, reinvigorating the mission of the organization.

“The NAACP National Convention is important to every branch,” said Philadelphia NAACP president Catherine Hicks. It gives us the opportunity to come together, not just to see each other in person and place names with faces, but to bring the “call to action” and resolutions we voted on back to our respective communities.

and branches of the NAACP. The theme was “This is Power” – every meeting, workshop, luncheon, awards ceremony and social event throughout the week made this theme evident.

Boykin-Towns felt the same way.

“I think the main conclusion is that we are the power – we have the power,” she said. “It’s power, where we can come together and talk about the issues that matter most to our communities and align

us with the resources and information we need to now traverse this entire nation and activate it. That’s all for me.

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