NAACP Chairwoman Roslyn M. Brock urged convention attendees Sunday to take action and vote in the midterm elections.
“We have to leave Las Vegas with the zeal to vote in November for individuals who believe that their victory, is in fact, our victory,” Brock said. “African-Americans have played and will play a critical role in the outcome of this year’s election.”
Brock also called for a willingness to work on both sides of the aisle politically, citing the organization’s decision to support Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., in a June runoff election to deny tea party challenger Chris McDaniel.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., addressed attendees and celebrated the longevity of the organization via prepared video statements.
In 2010, Brock was elected as the 14th chairperson of the NAACP national board and is the youngest person and fourth woman to hold the position.
The annual convention’s theme this year is “All in for justice and equality.”
A major focus of the convention was last year’s U.S. Supreme Court 5-4 vote that invalidated a section of the Voting Rights Act that required certain states with a history of discrimination to get federal permission before changing voting laws and practices. Critics say the ruling has made it easier for states to impose new voting restrictions.
This year’s convention is the organization’s 105th, and coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case when the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional state laws that created separate public schools for blacks and whites.
It’s important that we continue to set the tone for civil rights in America and in the world, Robert “Bobby” Bivens, former national board member of the NAACP said.
“This time is more important than probably anytime in history because we have all of these various groups, in particular the tea party, that’s trying to take people of color backwards in history in terms of their civil rights,” said Bivens, who is currently president of the Stockton, Calif. chapter.
“Our fight is not just for African- Americans our fight is for America and when African-Americans, through the NAACP’s work make gains, everybody benefits,” said Bivens.
“We have been at the forefront, we will continue to be at the forefront,” said Bivens.
NAACP leadership and several longtime members emphasized the continued relevance of the organization.
Teresa Haley, president of the Springfield, Ill. chapter, said it’s important for younger generations to be educated on and reminded of civil rights issues.
Younger people don’t think it’s as important as those who sacrificed for those issues, Haley said.
“When I come to the national convention, it’s like a revival for me. It’s a reminder of where we’ve come from, where we’re at today and where we’re trying to get to,” Haley said. “It refuels our batteries.”
The current generation needs a wakeup call so that it can take up the mantle, Malcolm McCollough, a recent Morehouse College graduate in political science said.
McCollough is a fellow of the NAACP’s Freedom Summer program, developed to train new civil rights leaders on the anniversary year of Freedom Summer, a 1964 Mississippi campaign to register African-Americans to vote.
“The older generations are scared because they don’t want our political apathy to result in all of the sacrifices that they made going to waste,” McCollough said.
McCollough said he wants to work with the organization to stop what he sees as voter apathy among the 23-year-old demographic that he belongs to.
McCollough said Brock’s speech was a wake-up call for him, but that there is still a need for motivation amongst his peers as well.
“I needed a speech like that and I hope to give a speech like that someday,” said McCollough.
The organization said about 4,000 people are expected to turnout before the convention ends Wednesday with an appearance from Vice President Joe Biden.
The convention was held last year in Orlando, Fla.
Contact Alexander Corey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0270. Follow @acoreynews on Twitter.