What’s next for NAACP?

Published 9:03 pm Monday, February 9, 2009

More than 400 of Suffolk’s leaders gathered on Sunday for a celebration of sorts. In a church meeting hall in downtown Suffolk, the group honored some of the city’s elders and raised a little money for important work that it would like to accomplish in months and years to come.

The event was the 43rd annual Freedom Fund Banquet and Centennial Celebration, held by the Nansemond-Suffolk chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Thursday marks the national group’s 100th year, and part of the idea behind Sunday’s event was to memorialize the century of progress that blacks have experienced in America.

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The contrast between the lives of people of color 100 years ago and today is, of course, stark. The NAACP and its members have often played a significant role in promoting and accomplishing that social change. The political and legal pressure the group exerted throughout the years helped ensure that black Americans would eventually escape the officially sanctioned bigotry and violence that defined so much of their lives under Jim Crow.

That a man with an African father now sits in the Oval Office in Washington, D.C., is a testament to the success of the work of the NAACP and other civil rights organizations. Surely, there is individual bigotry in the hearts of small men throughout the land. But the election of Barack Obama is the latest evidence that the United States has discarded the old ways of racism and moved into a truly post-racial era.

There is still a place for the NAACP in this new era, as evidenced by the white faces amongst Sunday’s celebrants and honorees in Suffolk. But it will be important for the organization to continue to move forward, just as the nation has.