NAACP’s Economics Department Participates in We Are One Conference in Phoenix, Arizona

On December 1 - 4, 2011, the NAACP’s Economics Department participated in the We Are One Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Over 500 community and labor organizers convened to learn how to create and advocate for a progressive agenda that unifies African American and Latino communities and strengthens all Americans.  The conference began on Friday, December 1, 2011 with leaders from various civil and labor rights organizations including Benjamin Todd Jealous, President  & CEO of NAACP, welcoming the audience and encouraging them to continue the fight for social justice. President Jealous stated, “We are fundamentally activists. We turn anger into answers, crisis into causes and causes into celebrations!”  President Jealous was joined by representatives from the National Council of La Raza, the Advancement Project and civil and labor rights leader Bill Lucy in encouraging the audience to work, organize and plan together to build a better future for all Americans.

 Immediately following the opening session, conference participants attended a panel discussion on community mobilization around the voter suppression efforts that are occurring nationwide. The panel highlighted how these voter suppression laws threaten to undermine the record level of political participation witnessed during the historic 2008 Presidential election by blocking access to millions of people, many of them our most vulnerable citizens.  Rev. Jesse Jackson, who served as the keynote luncheon speaker, continued the momentum as he spoke about the importance of Black and Latino partnerships and stated that even though at this moment we have our freedom, we still need to fight for a level playing field. “It’s hope time! It’s fight back time!” Rev. Jackson proclaimed to an excited crowd.

On Friday and Saturday, participants attended panels on key social justice issues such as immigration, jobs, education, housing, health care and the economy. The NAACP Economics Department presented at various panels.  Charles Lowery, NAACP Director of Fair Lending and Inclusion, presented at the housing panel where he discussed the history of the housing crisis and how African American and Latino communities have been adversely affected by housing and economic policy decisions over the past several decades.  Dedrick Muhammad, Senior Director of the Economics Department along with Nicole Levey, Education Coordinator at SEIU presented on the Great Recession to Progressive Action, where they discussed our current broken economy, the history of racial economic inequality as well as challenged participants to create a progressive economic agenda that benefits all Americans. Also, participants attended breakout sessions that allowed them an opportunity to brainstorm on how to mobilize their communities around these social justice issues in order to affect sustainable change.

In the spirit of building broad based coalitions, the NAACP Economics Department hosted receptions to allow NAACP members and members from labor and immigrant rights organizations, like Center for Community Change and Promise Arizona, an opportunity to begin building partnerships. Also, President & CEO, Benjamin Todd Jealous and the NAACP Economic Department briefly talked about their work and their vision for the NAACP in 2012.  The conference concluded with a mass rally at Occupy Phoenix on Sunday.

To access a copy of the economic justice presentation, visit our website at www.naacp.com/econ.  For a copy of all other presentations, visit the www.weareonemovingamericaforward.org. Also, for a more interactive timeline of the conference, check our Twitter Feed at NAACPEcon.  In the near future, video of the plenary sessions and panels from the conference will be available on our NAACP Economics Department YouTube channel. A picture slideshow on our Facebook page, NAACP Financial Freedom Center, and Twitter will be available in the near future as well.