Friday, July 17, 2009

The New NAACP: Armed and Read for the Silver Rights Movement by Akindele Akinyemi

In many cases most Black Republicans I know feel that the NAACP cater to the special interest of the left such as Planned Parenthood and the National Teacher Association. They also cater to the Democratic Party. While most of this is true we must acknowledge the past 100 years of the NAACP.

If W.E.B. DuBois and Ida B. Wells were alive today both would be turning over in their grave to see the very organization that they help founded in 1909 become something less than. The NAACP was established on February 12th of that year, the 100th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the president who freed the slaves with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

However, we have an obligation to make the next 100 years of the NAACP more profound and impactful.

The first thing we need to do is address the "C" in NAACP. "Colored" is such an outdated word used to describe Blacks that I personally take offense to hear anyone, Black or White, use it. We are in the 21st century.

The second thing is reducing the number of board members on the NAACP. 64 people on Board of Directors for the National NAACP is too much and should be shrunk to 24 members at the most.

Now do not get me wrong the NAACP has great lumanaries including General Colin Powell, Vernon Jordan, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Dr. Dorothy I. Height and Andrew Young.

But this is what I would like to address.

We are no longer in the civil rights movement of the 1960s but the silver rights movement of the 21st century. We have successfully integrated the lunch counters but we are still struggling to integrate the dollar. We have an economic crisis domestically and globally.

Before the economic crisis we had too much access to leverage (debt), too much confidence, and not enough knowledge (financial literacy). Today we seem to have too little access to credit, and too little consumer confidence, which is in part a result of having, guess what - no understanding of how money and the system really works.

When you add to this the number of job losses tied to an economy trying to de-leverage at the same time, across broad swatches of industry in America and around the world, and you have a perfect storm. If you thought the banking crisis was bad, think what happens if there is a fundamental breakdown of consumer confidence in America; a nation where 70% of the $14 trillion U.S. economy is on the back of the U.S. consumer. Sounds insane doesn't it?

The NAACP, through its young adults, can create a new movement of silver rights activists.
This movement must be a campaign around direct-action. Direct action economic change; direct-action social change; direct-action educational change -- in the lives of real people, living in real communities. But we need to understand that the NAACP mission should never just be local but global. Understanding that we are global citizens who must create solutions for global issues across the our world is necessary to build economic engines to become self-sufficient without always seeking an handout but a handup.

The NAACP must come to reality when it comes to educational reform. Trying to support public education in urban areas must be more than just ostracizing vouchers, tax credits and charter schools. Here in the State of Michigan we have well over 100,000 students enrolled in charter schools statewide. How can we continue to ignore the number of students and parents involved in charter schools and not give them a chance?

For example,
charter public schools in Detroit exceed the local district on 24 of 27 tests - up from 20 last year. They tie on two additional tests and are within 1 point on the remaining exam. Yet, at any given forum the NAACP, in many cases, still ignore charters and cater to the failing Detroit Public School System. It's time to engage all of our stakeholders in education to create a solution.

I mean, has the NAACP ever reached out to groups like BAEO or MAPSA or the Center for Educational Reform?

The NAACP also ignore the need for vouchers in chronically failing school districts. When I look at the Congressional Report Card and look under Sen. Dick Durbin from Illinois will he receive an "A" from the NAACP for pushing for the elimination of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship that help hundreds of black children in Washington D.C.? Will the Republicans who voted against this receive an "F" for supporting vouchers? It's time to scrap the report card method unless we are going to be fair and balanced.

According to The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts, a study published by Civic Enterprises that shared the perspectives of high school dropouts, approximately one-third of all children, and 50% of minorities in public schools, drop out of high school nationwide. In many of the nation’s “dropout factories,” the percentage of dropouts far outpaces the percentage of graduates.

This is not good for the 21st century way of thinking, and it is an economic death sentence if not changed for black communities nationwide, or almost 100 million Americans. Can we afford to write-off almost 100 million Americans, or approximately a third of our nation’s population?

Stakeholders must show kids the relevancy of education is to teach them that they have ownership of their grades, academic performance and destiny. Teach them language of money at an early age.

Without question, financial literacy is the means by which one moves from simply avoiding the poverty trap to embracing a true prosperity agenda; for themselves, their families and their communities.

Our children deserve better and to be quiet on this issue and not include all educational partners at the table is not a realistic way of solving the educational crisis. If the NAACP is going to continue being the boldest then we need to see a philosophical shift in ideology in terms of educational attainment and direction.

We cannot also allow our Historically Black Colleges and Universities to slide. They play a revolutionary role in changing the direction of both our educational community as well as rebuilding our middle-class in the inner city. We need more than just starting NAACP chapters and protesting when we disagree with Clarence Thomas or Ward Connerly.

Our civil rights movement was waged in the streets of America. Today the movement will be waged in the suites of America; from the corporate boardroom to government offices, to the classroom of our children.

And it will be not so much protest based, although some protesting of some might indeed be needed from time to time, as partnership based. The issues in the silver rights era will be that of changing one's perspective, not their policies. Of real and measurable progress and not just passionate and powerful preaching - although we could still use some of that too.

Where the civil rights movement was principally about race and the color line, silver rights will be principally about issues of class and poverty. And as civil rights leaders needed partners and coalitions, new era silver rights leaders will need the same, starting with a powerful and empowering partnership with civil rights movement leaders themselves.

Poverty shown to the world over, through the eyes of Katrina. The image of the Katrina victim who could not receive their $2,000 in FEMA funding because they did not have a bank account to wire it to. More than 50 million Americans today have no bank account, in this, the richest country in the world.

This is where the NAACP needs to move if it wants to continue being relevant. We not just only have a Black President (Barack Obama) but a Black Chairman of the Republican Party (Michael Steele). Recently, both men addressed the NAACP . Political diversity is necessary in the next phase of the NAACP. To continue calling Black Republicans names and brushing us off (even though some of us are members of the NAACP such as Michael Steele and Dr. Alveda King) is negative and will further tarnish the image of the NAACP by showcasing the image that it is a left-wing of the Democratic Party.

The NAACP also must take a stand on local issues that are affecting the Black community such as the ever growing drug trade, the arms race in our community (guns), and expressing the need for personal responsibility. If President Obama is urging people to have their children to turn off the XBOX and control your home then the NAACP must lead the way when it comes to moral issues. That does not mean the NAACP must become a faith-based organization but with the number of clergy who are life members of the NAACP I cannot understand why would you allow Planned Parenthood to sponsor your events, and other interest groups that has harmed our community? Abortion is genocide, the destruction of marriage in the Black community is genocide, the failure of education in our community is genocide and the feminization of men in our community has equated into genocide because our men have allowed their emotions, through the gun, to decide who lives and who dies.

Not addressing the ever-growing prison culture in our community has led to chaos and disorder. We have more people walking around confused about relationships, more people walking around with 10 or more tattoos on their bodies, illiteracy is extremely high, sagging our pants and women wearing scarfs in public looking like slaves. The NAACP must join forces with other faith-based and non-profit organizations who are dedicated to create a counterculture to combat these negative forces.

If the NAACP wants to be taken seriously for the next 100 years then allow our young adults in the organization, like current CEO Ben Jealous, to make unpopular decisions, take a serious stand on educational reform efforts and enter the silver rights era. Otherwise, we will continue going to the NAACP dinners every year at Cobo Hall to look at each other eat while our community is going to hell in a handbasket.


maidintheus said...

As usual, you hit all the bases: The obvious, the not so obvious, and the hidden.

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