Wednesday, 05 November 2014 00:00

NAACP President Cornell Brooks tells Akron crowd his top priority is restoring voting rights

Written by Marilyn Miller | Akron Beacon Journal

The new president of the NAACP told a group of about 300 people at Tangier on Sunday that the No. 1 item on his agenda is to fully restore the Voting Rights Act.

Cornell William Brooks, a civil rights attorney and ordained minister, said this November is the first election in a generation without the protection of the Voting Rights Act, alluding to the laws Ohio and other states have passed that diminish voting opportunities.

“It’s something your mothers, and fathers, foremothers and forefathers sacrificed their lives for, and that civil sacrifice is now left hanging in the balance,” he said.

“In the constellation of our constitutional rights, the North Star is our right to vote. We will not allow the light to go out, or the light to dim. We will not allow the light to darken. We will stand and fight for the right to vote,” he continued.

Brooks, the featured speaker at the 58th annual Freedom Fund Dinner to benefit the Akron NAACP chapter, talked about the images in the national headquarters of the NAACP that speak of what the NAACP is, what the NAACP stands for, and what the NAACP stands against.

“We as a nation are emotionally transfixed and visually mesmerized by certain images, so much so that we hold our cellphones at arm’s lengths and capture pictures of ourselves, self-portraits or selfies,” he said.

Brooks said it is noted in his biography that he is a graduate of Yale Law School, but what is less noted is that he is a graduate of Head Start. And, before his father became a doctor, he was a janitor.

“My point being: We have to invest in our youth,” he said. “We aren’t looking for our youth to join the NAACP, but to lead it.”

He posed a question from his moral curiosity about what would happen “if we took a selfie of social justice.” He said it could be titled “voting rights” or “criminal justice” or “income and equality” or “a new vision of the NAACP.”

Brooks said the selfie of the criminal justice system would show that 2.2 to 2.3 million people are behind bars, 65 million Americans have criminal records, 1 out of every 4 adults have criminal records and 1 out of 4 people are being arrested by the age of 23. He said you will also find young people in Ferguson, Mo., standing up for and standing against the death of Michael Brown, and standing against the brutal assault of not one teenager but on an entire generation.

“There are those who would try to explain the tragedy with complicated criminal and constitutional theories, but the fundamental facts are these: We have an unarmed teenager who meets an adult, with a gun, a badge and training. The teenager is suspected of jaywalking and the teenager ends up dead,” he said.

“A selfie of social justice says that if we have a generation of young black, brown and brilliant youths never having been profiled or their dignity assaulted by those who have been sworn to protect and serve the community who do not understand the best way to protect a community is to first respect the community,” he continued.

Brooks said you will find a band of freedom fighters called the NAACP who for the last 105 years has taken a strong stance against criminal injustice.

“We did it when it was called lynching then and we do it when it is called police brutality now,” he said. “And in the case of Trayvon Martin we have to teach our youth not to leave home in a hoodie because you might come home in a hearse.”

Brooks told the audience the NAACP will continue to fight against racial profiling as well as for civil rights and equal rights. He said the NAACP believes if a person has committed a crime and paid his or her debt to society he should be given a second chance or the first chance he or she never got.

Brooks talked about the effectiveness of the NAACP and how it was instrumental in the drive to adopt the ban-the-box policy at Walmart and Target, which doesn’t automatically exclude people with criminal records from being considered for employment.

Brooks talked about growing the numbers of the NAACP and continuing the organization’s freedom fight. He quoted Frederick Douglass, who said, “There is no progress without struggle.”

Brooks said the NAACP will continue to fight for equal rights.

“We will never give in. We will never give up and will not sit idly by. Playing possum is not consistent with our philosophy,” Brooks told the crowd, who stood in applause. “We are relentless. We will push until victory is won.”

Link to original article from the Akron Beacon

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