KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, July 13–In a fiery speech at the NAACP’s Youth Night Public Mass Meeting, Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, put the nation on notice. “It is time to revive and resurrect the movement for change” in America, he stated. “I am asking you to help us revive America against those who seek to divide us.”
At the core of a more-than-hour-long address was a need to put America back to work. “Jobs must be put at the top of the government’s agenda,” Jealous charged to a roaring reception. Only jobs, he declared, “will get us out of the great recession.” He noted that it was jobs that led the nation to recovery during the Great Depression.
Jealous said that the nation was enduring a prolonged nightmare, and “We need a mighty army that looks like America” if we are to ever achieve the American dream.
When he called out the Tea Party fanatics and its negative philosophy rooted in division, there was a thunderous response from the throng assembled in Kansas City’s Convention Center for the NAACP’s 101st annual meeting.
His address came on Tuesday, a day after First Lady Michelle Obama, substituting for her husband, electrified the delegates as she stressed the need for the nation’s children to develop better and healthier eating habits, lest they be among a terrible statistic of the nearly half of African-American children who will develop diabetes.
“If we don’t do something to reverse this trend right now, our kids won’t be in any shape to continue the work begun by the founders of this great organization,” Mrs. Obama said. “They won’t be in any condition to confront all those challenges that we know still remain.
“So, we need to take this issue seriously–as seriously as improving under-achieving schools, as seriously as eliminating youth violence or stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS or any of the other issues that we known are devastating our communities,” she added.
As part of her “Let’s Move” initiative, Mrs. Obama is proclaiming desserts off limits. Clearly, it’s a massive undertaking for a generation nourished on fast foods and sugar-laden snacks, but the first lady is adamant that obesity in America has to be curtailed.
Perhaps if the nation’s young people would focus on something other than stuffing themselves with calories, like many of the participants in the NAACP’s ACT-SO (Afro-Academic Cultural Technological Scientific Olympics), they might lose some of the unnecessary weight. Exemplary of these young people are Michael Edwards of Tallahassee, Florida; Bria Taylor of Los Angeles; and Demetrius Moore of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Edwards, 18, was a first-prize winner in architecture and graphic design. “My dream is to become an architect,” he said, and maybe one day to attend Florida A&M University, like his mother.
Taylor, 16, won her gold medal for dance. Her ambition is to “one day be a member of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company,” she said.
Moore, 15, was a second-place winner in mathematics. His dream to become a teacher has been given a decisive boost from the contest and his victory.
The dreams of the thousands of young people at the conference are in keeping with the hopes and aspirations illuminated by Roslyn Brock, chair of the organization’s board. They will be, she said during her keynote address, the leaders who “will fashion a new spirit of activism strengthened by the wisdom of our elders.”
With a program book of some 160 pages filled with workshops galore, the NAACP’s convention is a typical amalgam of issues and personalities, including the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, scheduled for later appearances.
On Tuesday, the organization passed a resolution condemning racists and bigots in the Tea Party, but the final word on the issue will not come until the NAACP’s national resolutions committee decides. In a related development, the NAACP was attacked following comments from Jealous about their negative influence. They assailed the leader, charging that he should spend more time chastising the New Black Panther Party for “its racism.”
“First of all, we are concerned with bigotry wherever it occurs,” Jealous said. “Both need to expel bigots from their ranks.” The New Black Panther Party, however, he added, is no way as influential as the Tea Party.
Meanwhile, the NAACP made a number of significant announcements at the convention, including raising nearly $200,000 for the Haiti relief effort. The organization, along with more than 150 other groups, is planning a massive march for jobs on October 2.