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One nation for the people

BENJAMIN TODD JEALOUS and HAZEL N. DUKES | 4/12/2011, 5:23 p.m.

The past two years have been marked by major progress, despite massive challenges, and a worrying resurgence of far-right activity urging massive resistance to our momentum. We must keep pushing forward. We have come too far to let ourselves be turned back now.

Together with our allies in the civil and human rights community, the NAACP and our allies have advanced an agenda that has successfully increased rights for women at work, expanded health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans, cut the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine by more than 80 percent, saved more that 150,000 teachers' jobs, and created more than 3 million more jobs throughout the economy.

At the same time, we know 8 million American jobs have been lost and not replaced, more than 2.5 million Americans have lost their homes and 5 million are at high risk of losing their homes, schools are closing at unprecedented rates, and Americans continue to be imprisoned at an alarming rate. In each case, people of color are generally worse off, and Black Americans are bearing an especially high portion of the burden.

Despite having such evidence of what we can accomplish together, we have seen voter participation rates plummet--from Shelby County, Tennessee, to Alameda County, California. This has been especially true amongst Black Americans.

Simultaneously, far-right extremists have found their way back into the nation's political discourse and helped reenergize a retrograde agenda that includes attacks on every pillar of our civil rights protections, from the Voting Rights Act to the Civil Rights Act to the 14th Amendment itself.

Now is the time to get everyone off the sidelines and back onto the battlefield.

We must be bold and aggressive in turning this situation around and we cannot remain quiet in the face of such clear and imminent danger. Our faith tradition teaches us to run and not get weary, walk and not faint. We have made great progress and many strides, but we must press forward because our work is not simply for us--but for the future of our children and their children.

The history of the NAACP and our allies has always called on us, in the face of disparity, injustice and rising hate, to build big, diverse coalitions that dream bold dreams and win big victories. Mobilization is our core value. Building big coalitions to fundamentally push America forward has always been our guiding principle.

We did it when we fought the rampart lynching in the South, when we desegregated the military, when we dismantled Jim Crow and passed the Voting Rights Act, and when we made health care reform a reality for 32 million Americans. All of these victories were won because we worked to build large and diverse coalitions, and dared to dream big victories. Today is no different.

This is why we are building a broad coalition of "ONE NATION Working Together," a coalition that will work to bring America together and put America back to work for its most precious resource: its people.