In view of the recent uprising of racial tension that our nation is experiencing, it is important to be acquainted with frontline organizations dedicated to the fight for racial justice and equality.
The NAACP is an organization most of these readers have heard of, but one which some of our younger audience may not be familiar with—especially at the local level. Our organization’s history—both nationally and locally—is complicated, and, in some cases, legendary. The NAACP’s purpose is both definite and expansive. Our mission statement and organizational preamble root us both in America’s original purpose and in her eventual outcome. Ours is a broader story of emancipation, as well as a hearkening to American ideals.
The fundamentally American nature of emancipation is itself a lurid tale. Legally, Black men were able to vote before white women, but Jim Crow made this impossible until the 1960s. And since then, the NAACP has become more mainstream if not less revolutionary.
It is imperative to note that this 111-year-old organization is more needed now than ever. Our history grants us legitimacy, while current events cry out for our needs. It is important that the Black community know what we’re doing, why we’re a necessary part of the fabric of the broader emancipatory movement, and how they can get involved.
As examples: When a grocery store manager brought their car to work with a noose hanging from the rear-view mirror, the NAACP responded swiftly, demanding and securing both the dismissal of the manger and the implementation of diversity training. When a young Black man was profiled and ejected from the lobby of a local hotel at which he was a guest, the NAACP once again led the way in demanding accountability. In this case, the issue was so satisfactorily resolved that the NAACP held its annual gala at the same hotel. And when the City threatened to burden disproportionately Black property owners and their property deeds from the new labels required for masonry buildings, the NAACP led the successful coalition to roll back those onerous burdens.
But we will not be painted as simply reactionary. We have led the charge, with our leadership as chief petitioners, to pass the Portland Clean Energy Fund, which will provide new clean energy jobs to people of color. We have also proactively worked with high schools to preempt bigotry—bridging the urban/rural divide—so that we may understand each other across cultures. We have joined forces with predominantly Black immigrants to secure their rights as equal partners to the Oregon Health Authority’s contracts for non-emergency medical transportation.
And throughout these efforts, we have invited into the fold white people who respect Black spaces. It is the history of this organization, its advocacy, its storied name, its hearkening to fundamentally American ideals, and its willingness to work with allies, that set us apart—both historically and contemporarily.
To learn more about the work of the NAACP and what it’s doing at the local level for the benefit of Black people, visit us at www.pdxnaacp.org, and join the fight!