Full Text: Chairman Roslyn M. Brock’s Address to the 105th NAACP Annual Convention

My name is Roslyn M. Brock, and I’m all in for justice and equality.

The theme of this year’s convention is inspired by our location, The City of Las Vegas, which refers to itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World.  In Vegas, as some affectionately call it, you can find opportunities for shopping, dining, performances, and yes even, gambling.  Our theme borrowed a phrase from the gaming industry to inspire our imagination and to challenge our determination. 

We want delegates to double down on their efforts to accomplish the mission of the NAACP which is “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and discrimination.”  Our theme is “All In for Justice and Equality.”

In this city the term “All In” typically means wagering your entire hand gambling. But we are not here to gamble with our future, our children’s future or the future of the millions we fight for daily across this world.

This is serious business! We must channel our collective energies to risk everything we have for freedom.  We want to urge you to put it all on the line on behalf of those with whom we serve.

Half-hearted measures are not sufficient to solve the crises of our time.  We must be proactive and not reactive to deal with the setbacks we have experienced in recent months.  We cannot continue to play defense.  We have to be on the offensive.  Wave after wave of oppression continues to come our way.  But we can prevail. 

Victory won’t come easy and it doesn’t come cheap!  To serve the present age, we have to go beyond the episodic and reactive responses to assaults on justice.  The pressure keeps coming, but we must prevail. For too long we have waited on someone or something to ignite our fire and passion. But now we must do as the young people “Show up”, “Rise Up” and “Turn Up”!

We came together when Trayvon Martin was murdered. We demonstrated, and we wore hoodies.  But his killer was acquitted and stand-your-ground laws have stood their ground.  These dangerous laws that make our communities more vulnerable to violence are still in force today.  The pressure keeps coming, but we must prevail.

We were all moved to action when 270 Nigerian girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram. We marched and petitioned and used the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls on Twitter. But the girls have not been rescued.  Girls and women still suffer from gender-based violence from Nigeria to Nevada.  Most of the world has moved on.  Never forget that a tweet is no substitute for a sustained world-wide movement to demand respect for human rights, particularly the rights of girls and women!  The pressure keeps coming, but we must prevail.

We protested and became enraged over the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma this year.  While we rejoice in the states that have won victories over the death penalty, we have not yet consigned capital punishment to the ash heap of history where it belongs. The pressure keeps coming, but we must prevail.

On the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, we renewed our commitment to quality public education for all children.  Beyond integration, education is the real goal. We do not begrudge those who support charter schools as one approach to address failures of the education system.  But, the overwhelming majority of our children are in neighborhood schools and they equally deserve quality teachers, adequate facilities, enhanced resources, appropriate class sizes, and the kind of education that will prepare them for life in the 21st century.  The pressure keeps coming, but we must prevail.

In Detroit, Michigan, thousands of people have had their water turned off; hard working citizens have lost their pensions; and street lights have been turned off leaving communities more vulnerable to danger. What kind of a nation have we become? We must embrace the crisis in Detroit, because the crisis is not limited to that city.  This is a challenge for all Americans.  They should not be treated as if their struggle is happening in a foreign land for which we have no responsibility. These are our fellow Americans.  They bare our brothers and sisters. Change also has to be brought to Detroit—this slow-motion disaster that is the shame of America.  The pressure keeps coming, but we must prevail.

It has been more than a year since the Supreme Court undermined the Voting Rights Act.  There was a chorus of protest and dismay, but instead of Congress responding to this travesty by strengthening the Act, more and more states are trying to assault and restrict the right to vote. We’re grateful to Attorney General Eric Holder who stopped Florida’s Secretary of State from conducting a massive purge of voter rolls.

We can restore the Voting Rights Act. But we must unite in a national campaign to educate all Americans about the power of their vote. We can not do this work alone - but it can not be done without us.

We must prevail because when we look at Chicago, Illinois, since the beginning of this month close to 200 shootings have occurred with at least 34 of them resulting in death. This year 1,000 individuals have been shot in this city. These shootings are taking the lives of our next generation at alarming rates. The problems are so profound that even an 11-year old young girl Shamiya Adams who attended a sleep over lost her life.

We need a moment of silence for the soul of Eric Garner, the gentle giant from Staten Island, NY who was killed by police on Thursday in New York You may have seen the video on the news or online. I urge you to watch it, as painful as it might be. And ask yourself the question, what was Mr. Garner's crime? Allegedly, he was selling cigarettes on the street.

The police used a choke hold banned more than 20 years ago which took his life. The prevailing fact is, Eric Garner had just acted as a peacemaker on the street in a dispute that the police were late to break up.

The officer's killing of Mr. Garner is a matter for a criminal investigation and the NY State Conference NAACP will not let it be swept under the rug or reduced to an internal investigation. We demand justice for Eric Garner and the kind of police reform that insures that something like this will never happen again. The pressure keeps coming, but we must prevail.

Friends, I still have hope and I am inspired by the theme of our convention but allow me to amend it by adding four very important words. You see, a the poker player can declare himself to be “all in” – but our work is too deep, too broad, and too wide for individual. Imagine with me the possibilities of an amended theme that embraces the concept that “We are all in this together” I am all in.  He is all in.  She is all in.  They are all in.  We are all in, and “We are all in this together!”
Together, we must continue the commitment of generations of activists who came before us. We must replicate the resolve of the heroes and sheroes whose names we know and the names of those we cannot call.  Together, we must honor the legacy of those who have suffered, bled and died for the cause of justice and equality.
We have to leave Las Vegas with the zeal to vote in November for individuals who believe that their victory is our victory. African American voters will play a critical role in the outcome of this year’s elections. Indeed, we already have.

A prime example is recently when veteran conservative Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran appealed to us to support him in his runoff for the Republican nomination for US Senate. We responded to his call and made the difference to elect someone who was really conservative over someone who was too extreme.

The survival of our republic depends on our success.  Our agenda is essential.  It is about the fundamental building blocks of a decent and thriving society. All people—need living wage jobs, affordable quality health care, excellent schools, a clean environment, safe neighborhoods, and a truly fair justice system.

Let us resolve to forge a more perfect union in America. We survived the Civil War. We survived Jim Crow. We thrived when we united to fight against injustice through the courts, through legal protest, and civil disobedience.

We face many challenges. But we have much to celebrate as well. Every one of us is a beneficiary of the heroic work of our movement for more than a century. Let us go forth from this warm city in the desert burning with determination to make this year the year that we went “all in for justice and equality.” Courage Must Not Skip This Generation!

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