On Saturday, July 11, the NAACP commenced its Centennial Celebration and Convention at the midtown New York Hilton. Thousands of NAACP members from all over the country descended to participate in a weeklong conference which will culminate with the final plenary speech given by President Barack Obama.
With a long history of support and protection for people of color, the NAACP plans to conduct important forums with speakers such as Attorney General Eric Holder; Governor of New York State David Paterson; Congressman Charles Rangel; and, the Reverend Al Sharpton.
To kick off the convention, there was a Saturday press conference held at the Hilton where the upcoming week’s events were outlined by Benjamin Jealous, President of the NAACP, Julian Bond, Hazel Dukes and Roslyn Brock. Activists from World Can’t Wait, myself and Iliana Correa, attended.
The background to this whole story started about 3 months ago. After organizing protests at the Army Experience Center in NE Philadelphia, I received a list of about 100 stops that the “Army Strong” tour had planned over the summer. On that list was the NAACP Centennial Convention in New York City.
Those of you who understand the insidious nature of this Army recruiting tour can understand how some activists decided we had to challenge the NAACP, who came out against the war in Iraq, to disinvite military recruiters. Part of the convention is a 2 day job fair where over 2,000 mostly black and Latino youth are invited to participate, along with the general public.
An intern in the World Can’t Wait office asked a very simple question, “Why would the NAACP, who stands up for the rights of all people of color allow their youth to be enticed by the military to kill other people of color?” On June 17, 2009, she wrote a letter to the President and CEO, Benjamin Jealous, asking him just that. This letter was also circulated to every New York State chapter location, all sent certified mail.
A few days later, the World Can’t Wait office received phone calls from various NAACP chapters expressing their dismay over the invitation of the recruiters to their upcoming convention. A dialogue within the members of the NAACP grew, and with that, it was decided that there was some interest for activists to further protest the attendance of the Army Strong tour, as well as other military recruiters invited to the job fair at the convention.
We attended the press conference on Saturday. Iliana identified herself as the writer of the June letter, and asked the leadership why, after defending the rights of all people of color, and denouncing the war in Iraq, they would entertain the “Army Strong” tour and military recruiters at the convention? Ben Jealous did not answer the question directly. He said that the NAACP has a long history with the military and supports veterans. I asked why in this time of less than truthful recruiting tactics being used to entice youth into the military, the NAACP would provide them access to youth. Mr. Jealous’ response was vague, but he said the military would not be dis-invited. Others on the stage at the press conference did not answer this question, although they looked concerned over it being asked.
Outside the convention, World Can’t Wait activists talked with people attending. We got a mixed reception; a few people said we shouldn’t be there with the anti-war message; others said the NAACP had the right to have recruiters present, and that youth needed jobs. Some people were outraged to hear recruiters were being allowed to have access to youth under the authority of the NAACP, with some saying they wouldn’t let their children go into the military to fight these unjust wars. NAACP convention staff and security tried to keep us from talking to people, but we still got out very many flyers, especially to young people.
Over the next week New York activists will participate in several demonstrations outside the Hilton Hotel, on 6th Avenue between 53rd and 54th streets, demanding the recruiters be dis-invited. We will conduct our own press conference on Tuesday, July 14th starting at 11:30 AM, as the job fair opens at noon, and rally until 2 PM.
Sign the open letter to the NAACP below which will be read and delivered on Tuesday.
The job fair will be held Tuesday and Wednesday. Join us there! Say no to the military recruiters.
In addition, we plan to protest outside when Barack Obama speaks, against the expansion of the war on Afghanistan, the un-manned drone bombing of Pakistan, and calling for prosecution of those Bush era officials responsible for torture.
Contact World Can’t Wait @ 866 973 4463, worldcantwait.net for more information.
World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.