By Carmen Berkley
One year ago our sister’s son Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri by one of our brothers on the local police force. The tragedy of Michael Brown’s death was full of complexities regarding race and racism and we as a labor movement knew we had to confront those complexities head on.
As the Ferguson community was reeling in the wake of Michael Brown’s death, labor worked to listen to community leaders, provide support for the October march calling for criminal justice reform, and participate in neighborhood meetings. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka came to Ferguson to meet with local labor leaders about the situation and delivered a difficult speech about labor’s role in building communities that are not only economically sound but also racially cohesive. But addressing the causes of Michael Brown’s death is going to take more work than just marching and listening.
When the people in a town like Ferguson erupt into protests over racial disparities, the layers of inequality leading to that moment are generations in the making.Over the years police forces across the United Sates have been increasingly militarized, public education has received less and less funding, and attacks on voting rights have created a voting base that lacks the information they need about jobs, housing and raising wages for all, not just the wealthy few at the top.
The labor movement, America’s workers who drive the buses, build the roads and lay the foundations of our cities must be united.
We will confront racism within our own movement directly which is why earlier this year, the members of the AFL-CIO Executive Council created a Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice to explore racial and economic disparities within the labor movement itself.It’s clear the labor movement has been desperate for this discussion, with its inaugural town hall being standing room only. And that is only the beginning.
Groups like the Black Lives Matter movement and Not 1 More, born out of the events in Ferguson, are striving to shed light on the issues of criminal justice reform and institutional bias in policing. Labor remains supportive of the movement and has joined in on the work. Members of the AFL-CIO Civil, Human, and Women’s Rights Department have been on ground in St. Louis training local formerly incarcerated union members on the labor movement’s Common Sense Economics mass incarceration program. The training offers people a history of incarceration practices in the United States and outlines the devastating effects mass incarceration has on communities of color.
As we continue to honor the memory of Michael Brown one year on, we must also continue to have these face to face conversations. We need to commit to be out in our communities, breaking the isolation and fighting back against racism in solidarity. That’s how we all win.
Civil, Human & Women's Rights Director
Would you deny yourself food and water for justice? For a chance to get the attention of the high court? Even the the highest court in the land? Would you starve to bring attention to the need for criminal justice reform and an end to the death penalty?
For the first time, the NAACP State Conference joined with the Abolition Action Committee, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, Equal Justice USA and more than 50 other organizations to sponsor "Starving for Justice," the 22nd Annual vigil to end the death penalty held in front of the U.S. Supreme Court each year.
What we saw was grassroots activists, from everywhere, from Canada and from all over the United States, who were making personal sacrifices to make a statement about the need to end the death penalty. Murder victim family members were there to say, "the death penalty could never be justice for us." Family members of those on death row were there to say, "the death penalty is prone to error and there is no way to correct the mistake once it is carried out." Faith leaders were there to say, "the death penalty is immoral and against the teachings of God." And, across the board, people of color were there to say that the death penalty is egregiously racist and biased.
Why do we kill people, who kill people, to show that killing people is wrong?
NAACP policy calls on freedom fighters to stand against the death penalty and to work for repeal in their states. We must all work for its abolition in our country and all over the world.
BALTIMORE, MD – Today, the Supreme Court delivered a historic victory for marriage equality, ruling 5 to 4 that the Constitution requires that states grant equal treatment to same-sex couples with respect to marriage and must recognize same-sex marriages performed outside of their state.
The NAACP has long advocated for marriage equality. In 2012, the NAACP Board of Directors voted to support marriage equality as a continuation of its steadfast commitment to equal protection under the law. The NAACP constitution states our objective to ensure the “political, education, social and economic equality” of all people. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. To this end, we co-authored with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. an amicus brief for this case.
From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President and CEO:
“The NAACP applauds the Supreme Court’s historic decision on marriage equality as it affirms that all Americans are created equal and entitled to certain unalienable rights. No one should be exempt from the promise of justice, fairness and equal protection under the law. Today gay and lesbian couples can stand beneath the canopy of the Constitution and clasp their hands in marriage in every state, as a matter of love and justice. In the continuum of historic Supreme Court decisions such as Brown v. the Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia, today’s ruling sets our country on a new course toward a more fair and more just America. When our National Board of Directors resolved to publicly endorse marriage equality in 2012, they did it because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Advocating on behalf of marginalized communities is who we are. Discrimination has no place in our society. Justice is an American ideal that should be extended to every person and every community.”
From Rosemary Lytle, NAACP State Conference President:
"On this historic day, the NAACP Colorado Montana Wyoming State Conference stands with those who fight for freedom everywhere, applauding the U.S. Supreme Court decision today in Obergefell v. Hodges which reaffirms human dignity under law -- the Constitutional guarantee that every American has the right to marry the person they love. The NAACP State Conference rejoices with same-sex couples across our states as we welcome marriage equality as the law of the land -- and we thank the National Board of Directors for having the vision to make the affirmation of marriage equality as a civil right a mandate for NAACP freedom fighters more than three years ago. Even as we stand on the side of love today, we know that this -- like the early days when Loving v. Virginia affirmed the right of mixed race couples to marry -- is not the end of our work. The NAACP State Conference pledges to continue to tell the stories of, and to fight for the rights of diverse people, until there is acceptance not only in law and the courts, but in hearts and minds."
By Anthony Cotton
A coalition of community groups, including the NAACP, the National Lawyers Guild and Colorado Progressive Action said Wednesday night they have begun circulating a petition to recall Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey.
"During the 11 years that Morrissey has held office, Denver's tax-payers have paid millions of dollars to settle police brutality cases, some of which have resulted in the death of innocent civilians. Morrissey has never once filed charges against law enforcement officers in any excessive use of force cases," the group said in a news release.
The recall movement comes less than a week after Morrissey announced that his office would not press charges against the two Denver police officers who shot and killed Jessica Hernandez in January.
Lynn Kimbrough, a spokeswoman for Morrissey, said Wednesday night that the DA's office was aware of the petition, but would have no comment.
The statement said 53,925 signatures from registered Denver voters were needed by Aug. 4 to continue the recall effort.
Black Lives Matter.
That was the message of our peaceful moment and photo opportunity Thursday, August 14, 2014, on the steps of Colorado Springs City Hall.
We mourned the murder of unarmed teen Michael Brown. We expressed condolences to his family. We stood in solidarity with his hometown of Ferguson, Missouri as it calls for justice and an end to police brutality.
In Missouri, in Colorado, in California, in New York ... the list has grown far too long. Police brutality is killing us and it must end.
Read Lisa Walton's news story and view Mark Reis' photographs here.
Hear the inspirational and aspirational message of Keynote Speaker Lamell McMorris when the NAACP State Conference hosts its Annual State Convention, the inaugural Rocky Mountain Civil Rights Leadership Institute. Freedom Fighters and the leaders of government, business, faith, community, civic and other organizations will convene at locations in Denver, Colorado and Aurora, Colorado beginning October 16, 2014 and ending October 18, 2014.
Themed "All In For Justice & Equality" the Institute will feature hands-on, interactive, skill-based opportunities to build strategy around the NAACP's Five Game Changers and to plan how participants will take what they learn back to their communities.
On October 16, attendees and community members will convene for a Gospel Explosion & Food for the Soul Welcome. On October 17, participants will work during a NAACP Game-Changer Day of Action before re-convening for the Freedom Fund Community Awards Reception & Gala featuring keynote McMorris, recording artist Tony Exum Jr. and other special guests. On October 18, participants will convene for an Opening Plenary, work together in their Game Changer caucus groups, be challenged by compelling speakers and workshop leaders and gather for a final Closing Plenary ceremony.
Registration is open. Click here for details.
"There are gaping disparities in academic achievement and health, disproportionate impact in criminal justice policy and police attention, and there is a cry to build economic and environmental sustainability in our communities," said State President Rosemary Harris Lytle. "So the NAACP must answer. We have adopted policy at our Annual Convention, now we will adapt that policy for use in our State-Area Conference and later we will take it back to our local communities.
"This is how we change the game, issue by issue, so that together we can create long-lasting change where it is needed most."
Thought Leader, Strategist, Change Agent, Lytle is a newspaper journalist turned NAACP Freedom Fighter and CO MT WY State Conference President. She was elected Chair of Midwest Region IV for the NAACP 105th Annual Convention. Rosemary first joined the organization at age 16 after winning an Essay Contest sponsored by the Gary Branch NAACP. For 8 years, she served as President of the NAACP Colorado Springs Branch. In December, she was appointed to the NAACP President & CEO Search Committee which selected Dr. Cornell William Brooks. Her hot topics: criminal justice reform -- including death penalty abolition & community re-entry for those previously incarcerated, labor & economic justice, climate action, ending the educational achievement gap, LGBTQ equality, health equity, voting rights, ending discrimination in all its forms.