Recently I participated in a training conducted by Kevin Myles, the National NAACP Director of Training. The training was about becoming a highly functional local unit. As I listened to Kevin, it made me realize what he was explaining to us, are the characteristics that Black people have had to possess to exist in this county for the last 400-years.
Kevin shared that the NAACP’s CHARGE is, “Any indignity against people of color will be challenged by the NAACP, in the press, in the courts, in the streets, and at the ballot box.”
He reminded us that leadership is about our behavior, not our position. Leadership is not a solo act, and a leader must possess humility, the ability to communicate well, and the capacity to accept critique.
Kevin talked about two kinds of peace, one that indicates the presence of justice, and one where there is an absence of conflict, and how it is sometimes necessary to disturb the one to create the other. He reminded us that people love people who don’t hold them accountable.
Leaders never cede the moral ground, and we should never sacrifice substance for expediency. And we must always guard our credibility, it is our weapon.
Leaders of the NAACP are called to speak truth to power. We are a protest organization and we do not do what is popular, but what is right. It is our job to take the hits and be a lightning rod for our community. The. NAACP speaks out to give voice to our community’s concerns, and we stand in the gap to absorb anger and pain that our community often faces.
A leader must trust in the collective wisdom of our people and especially in the other leaders in the trenches with us. We are not each other’s opponents, and if one of our ideas cannot survive the scrutiny of our friends, they will not survive the assault of our enemies.
Kevin concluded our training session reminding us, though we have seen some dark days, we may have some darker days ahead.
This training made me think about the shoulders we stand on. It made me remember, that the work we do is not in vain. We are the living, breathing fulfillment of the Ancestor’s dreams. We come from people who did not just survive slavery but thrived despite slavery, and we continue to thrive as we continue the fight for true freedom.
African Americans were enslaved longer than we have been free. There were approximately 12.5 million Africans taken by American and European slave traders and brought to the Americas. Over 1 million did not survive the trans-Atlantic voyage. Many of those individuals refused to accept a life of captivity and the horrors of the Middle Passage, they chose starvation and suicide.
The chattel slavery system, which existed in the United States, was one of the cruelest than anywhere in the world. It was designed with no hope of ever being free. Slavery was the driver of global capitalism and the foundation of America’s economy. Profits from slave trading and slave-generated products funded many educational institutions and the creation of fine art in this country. It is the reason for the generational wealth of many white families.
The cruelty of slavery did not just end with physical and mental cruelty; slavery stole our history, our names, our languages, and much of our culture was destroyed. What it couldn’t destroy was our grit and determination or our enduring faith in God, which is why we are survivors.
Even in suffering, we have always had the ability to transcend our oppression. After centuries of terror, we never attempted to retaliate but continued to strive for justice and equity. We believed in this country more than it ever did in us. Black Americans fought in every war America was engaged in. And we have fought even longer to be treated as full citizens.
What we didn’t do, was turn our mistreatment into hate. After the murder of Emmitt Till, his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley said, “I don’t have a minute to hate, I will pursue justice for the rest of my life.” Dr. King told us “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, love can do that.” We set the standard for the world in our fight for freedom.
In the face of ongoing systemic racism, we continue to demonstrate resilience and excellence. Never becoming our oppressor, we created beauty out of ashes. Our culture continues to be appropriated by others. Our music, our rhythm, and even our blues is a wonder to behold. We were taught that greatness is in us, and the standard is to strive to always be the best at what we do.
Today as we face a renewed attack on being Black in America, as we fight battles that we thought had been won decades ago, we must stay focused. We cannot give up or give on. We are fighting for our future, for our children yet to be born.
Even though there has been too many years of struggle, too many tears cried, there has also been a lot of victories won. We have a great legacy, amazing examples, and a responsibility to do our part. We too have a Charge to Keep.