“The crisis is over at the headquarters of the NAACP,” declared Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization during its 102nd annual convention in Los Angeles last Monday. Jealous was not referring to the organization’s house organ-the cherished publication, like its parent, is doing very well.

What Jealous was crowing about was the NAACP’s membership, which over the last six months has registered a 24 percent increase rate, making that three years in row of significant growth. Moreover, he said, “We are in the black, and it’s good to be in the black.”

And to what does he attribute this phenomenal turnout around in a nation mired in an economic quagmire? “It has a lot to do with leadership, and that starts right at the top with Chairman Roslyn Brock, right down to our staff and through the tireless efforts of branch leaders across the country,” he explained in a later interview.

Yes, there was much to be optimistic about, he continued, but all was not rosy. There are still a multitude of challenges to overcome, including ending the death penalty, reducing hate crimes, and stopping a government that spends more capital on state pens than the Penn States.

“The dilemma we face,” he said during his speech, “is to obtain what we are fighting for while holding on to what we have.” That paradox amounted, he lamented, to “protecting our voting rights [while] fighting to get voting rights for the formerly incarcerated.”

There was sporadic and scattered applause as Jealous cited an extended misery index, particularly the ongoing menace of the Tea Party fanatics who seem intent on holding the government hostage as the debt ceiling deadline looms. But he brought the huge, half-filled ballroom of delegates to its feet when he invoked the example of the righteous warrior Gideon from the Bible. “We must sound a mighty alarm…and is that Gideon’s army among us this morning?” he asked.

“Are there any Gideons among us today?” Jealous repeated. “Are there any committed to leading our people out of America’s crisis and into America’s promise? And so as I take my seat today, I call upon each of you today-the fabric and the heart of this great association-to join me in rising up in this turbulent time.

“Let us rise up like Gideon in the face of unemployment and foreclosures!” he asserted. “Rise up like Gideon to defeat and turn back the attacks on our rights! Rise up like Gideon to defeat educational disparities and the re-segregation of our schools!

“Rise up like Gideon to defeat the increasing health disparities and rampant pollution in our communities,” he said.

The audience was now on its feet. “Are you ready to go into battle?” he further incited. The resounding applause and cries of “Yes, we are,” echoed from wall to wall, and Jealous had his army primed for protracted struggle.

Chairwoman Brock achieved a similar moment of epiphany during her address the previous day, repeatedly citing her theme “We can’t let courage skip this generation,” as she admonished the young among the hundreds of delegates to pick up the torch and carry in the fight against injustice and discrimination.

Like Jealous, she mentioned a number of positive developments under her watch, but also the steep hill to be climbed before the mission was accomplished. “The meltdown of America’s economic system in 2008 was a tremendous shock and sent a body blow to the entire country,” she said. “We bailed out those who had gambled with our money in order to stabilize the economy for everyone. But while Wall Street is booming again, those of us on Main Street and the rest of us on the side street can get no relief or support.”

Brock devoted a good portion of her time to the inequities that imperial communities of color, with an emphasis on the educational disadvantages faced by African-American children. “We will not stand for a system that only delivers a quality education to children who win a lottery to go to a charter school,” she charged. “We didn’t fight racial discrimination to end up with a school system that segregates on the basis of luck.”

“Affirming America’s Promise” was the convention’s theme, and speaker after speaker paid more than a passing nod to it, none more fervent than L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “Education is the civil rights issue of today,” he began. “The lack of success is as insidious today as it was before Brown v. Board of Education. With a 50 percent high school dropout rate for Black and Brown Americans-that is unacceptable.” It is time to address the achievement gap in America, he blasted.

California Gov. Jerry Brown was equally outraged about the attacks on President Obama. “They are attacking him like no president ever before.” The current crop of Republicans, he added, “make Nixon look like a liberal.”

One of the most heartening sights at the convention was the presence of so many young people, not just those who have traditionally been in attendance for ACT-SO, the Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics, but the hundreds in yellow T-shirts demonstrating for the hungry. They had been assembled by the organization’s local branch and sponsored by a consortium of companies, including Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

As usual, New York’s NAACP stalwarts Hazel Dukes and the Hon. Laura Blackburne were prominently featured in workshops and during the plenary sessions. It was surprising to see former New Yorker Dedrick Muhammad, once an aide to the Rev. Al Sharpton, at the convention serving as the new senior executive director of Economic Programs.

Attorney Frankie Muse Freeman was awarded the Spingarn Medal, the NAACP’s high honor. “Frankie Muse Freeman has dedicated her life’s work to the civil rights movement,” said Brock. “She broke down barriers as a member of the NAACP’s brain trust during the 1950s and as the first woman to serve on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Her determination serves as an inspiration to us all.”

Some of this inspiration has obviously touched the current relatively youthful leadership at the top of the NAACP in the year since it went from conventions at 12th Street and Vine in Kansas City to Hollywood and Vine this year, as cited by Eric Garcetti, president of the Los Angeles City Council. Don’t be surprised to see even further improvements and developments next year when the organization and its members convene in Houston, Texas.