An Open Invitation to Join the NAACP

BLOG President's Corner

What inspires a man or woman to challenge authority when its laws and policies are discriminatory?  Where does the selflessness come from that leads people to risk their lives for equality? How does a child come to realize the nobility in fighting for justice?

At what point does a leader muster the courage and vision to lead?  How difficult is it to speak truth to power, knowing change and acknowledgment of that truth may come well after your death.  In these questions lies the 100 year history of the nation’s oldest Civil Rights organization.  For over a century, the NAACP and its branches have engaged governments and called upon the consciousness of its citizens to end discrimination and finally wipe out the taint of racial inequality.

While Jim Crow gained in strength, lynching became the preferred method of intimidation, and the story of the Springfield race riot of 1908 traveled the country, black and white men and women were meeting to discuss the civil rights of “colored” Americans.  Out of a mostly African American group known as The Niagara Movement and a mostly white organization known as the National Negro Committee was born the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909.  Men and women, like you, they were able to see beyond the realities of their time and willing to invest in the future.

Through legal, legislative and regulatory action, civil disobedience, public discourse and awareness campaigns, voter registration drives, get-out-the-vote activities, scholarships, negotiations, advocacy and trainings, the NAACP has remained an unextractable and undeniable part of America’s progress.

The struggle continues, as disparities exist in so many areas of our society and complaints of discrimination and hate crimes continue to pour into our offices.  We have also inherited the residual effects of legal segregation, just an historical minute ago, in communities afflicted with poverty, unemployment, drugs and youth violence.  We continue to feed the prison pipeline—black and brown males dropping out and going from high school to prison.

We invite you to join the Boston Branch NAACP.  Your leadership is needed equally as much today!  This is the Right Place and the Right Time to get involved.

Michael A. Curry, Esq., President
Boston Branch NAACP

Misplaced Priorities

Misplaced Priorities

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Misplaced Priorities

misplaced-prioritiesRecently, the NAACP National Office released a report entitled “Misplaced Priorities” which provides a sobering look at the practice of over-incarcerating and under-educating in our society. The findings of the report are compelling and should inspire local communities, such as Boston, to re-evaluate our criminal and education policies. “We will be working with local statisticians/researchers and criminal justice advocates to assess the local issues regarding incarceration,” said Michael Curry, President of the Boston Branch NAACP. “However, this national perspective sets the table for a conversation on misplaced priorities and the pipelining of young black and Latino men from school to prison. Every second we waste is a life misdirected, a family fractured and a dollar lost!”

The following are some high-level findings from the report:

  • Smart on Crime
    • Simplistic “tough on crime” policies are expensive and ineffective. We need to be “smart on crime” instead.
    • That means we need to stop locking up non-violent drug abusers and the mentally ill, and start treating them.
    • Substance abuse programs and educational opportunities are cost-effective – they lead to a marked reduction in crime, and thus a reduction in prison spending.
  • Environment for success
    • Rising prison budgets and falling education budgets are unsustainable, and send our youth the wrong message about the future. We must create an environment for success and achievement.
    • We cannot be competitive as a nation if we are leaving half of our children behind. Investing in human potential is ultimately what will grow our economy.
    • The impact is magnified by what we see in high incarceration neighborhoods, which are linked with lower test scores
  • Invest to Educate Not Incarcerate
    • We as a nation can no longer afford to invest in incarceration at the expense of higher education.
    • Over the last two years, the budget battle between prisons and universities for state discretionary dollars has been fought, and won, by prisons in virtually every state in the county.
    • Between 1987 and 2007 and found that after adjusting for inflation, funding for higher education grew by a modest 21 percent, while corrections funding grew by 127 percent, six times the rate of higher education.
    • We must shift dollars from prisons back to education and invest in the future of our country-our children.
  • Why Conservatives support downsizing prisons?
    • With nearly all 50 states facing budget deficits, it’s time to act with courage and creativity to save taxpayers money and downsize prisons.
    • Conservative leaders must lead the way to downsize prisons and do so in a way that maintains public safety, and be smarter with the public’s money.
    • It is indeed possible to reduce prison population and maintain public safety. In the case of Florida and New York: Over the past seven years, Florida’s incarceration rate has increased 16 percent, while New York’s decreased 16 percent. Yet the crime rate in New York has fallen twice as much as Florida’s.

To view the full report, click here.

A Case for the Continued Relevance of the NAACP

A Case for the Continued Relevance of the NAACP

BLOG President's Corner

I have heard people question the continued relevance of the NAACP, and advocate for a post-racial America after the historic election of the first African American President in 2008. They contend that we have finally fulfilled Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream as more and more Americans appear willing to judge a person based on the content of their character, versus the color of their skin. Today, in the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners do occasionally sit down together at the table of brotherhood, although I question whether anyone would argue that Mississippi, a state that Senator McCain won by over 150,000 votes, has become an oasis of freedom and justice.

Michael CurryYou can find little black boys and girls joining hands with little white boys and girls in parts of Alabama, but it’s delusionary to believe the walls of racial inequality or hatred have fallen. I’m reminded of a quote by Dr. King that is still applicable today, where he says, “A society is always eager to cover misdeeds with a cloak of forgetfulness, but no society can fully repress an ugly past when the ravages persist into the present. America owes a debt of justice which it has only begun to pay.” This is not about reparations, but deals with a society’s willingness to face the vestiges of inequality in our attitudes and institutions that are not easily dispensed with by casting a vote—although that’s progress.

As post baby-boomers, most of us can’t recall what it was like to be forced to sit at the back of the bus or get hosed. However, we do remember Rodney King and James Byrd, the Jena 6, church burnings, the unsettling racial anxiety caused by Barack Obama’s candidacy, the arrest of Professor Gates and subsequent remarks by a local police officer, the hurling of the “N-Word” at Congressman Lewis hours before the historic House vote on national health reform. W.E.B. DuBois reminded us, “Nothing can be solved that can’t be faced.”

Yes, issues of race are now intertwined with a host of other issues, and there has been significant progress. However, I invite the people who advocate this post racial America to join an NAACP branch anywhere in the country. They will meet the victims of employment discrimination and become aware of archaic policies and laws that were intended to perpetuate segregation. They will come to understand that racism is not always malicious, calculated or conscious, but oftentimes a convergence of prejudice and power and privilege that determines where you live, whether you get that loan, how often you’re stopped or arrested, if you’ll get hired or laid off, the quality of education your children receive, or what medical regimen your doctor will prescribe. We, NAACP’rs, remain eternal optimists, or we wouldn’t be engaged in the business of civil rights, but we continue to pursue Dr. King’s dream where, “…one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

Our work is sometimes one of deep division, where it’s simply just easier to ignore the past and romanticize the present, in order to maintain one’s sanity, prevent confrontation—or avoid guilt. However, the voices of African slaves, abolitionists, equal rights activists continue to ring in our ears and fortify our resolve. As the president of the first chartered branch of the NAACP, I ask that you heed their call and I urge you to join us.