One out of every 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, but when it comes to Black men that figure rises to one in nine. This fact, from the U.S. Department of Justice's most recent statistics (2006) is just one reason why the NAACP last fall declared a State of Emergency.
In a report that cited "overly aggressive handling" of Black youth and unequal treatment throughout the criminal justice system, Interim NAACP President Dennis Courtland Hayes called for the justice system to "live up to its Constitutional obligations to serve and protect all Americans with dignity and fairness irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender, religious faith and other differences. Violence and intimidation of our young people is not acceptable, is against the law and must end now."
Disparities in the criminal justice system, in education and health are just a few of the topics to be discussed at the NAACP's Alaska-Oregon-Washington Area State Conference Spring Convention, to be held in Portland this weekend from March 14 to March 16. The event will be held at the airport Ramada Inn and Suites, 6221 N.E. 82nd Ave. The Portland Branch of the NAACP, led by its President Ms. Charlene McGee will host the Convention.
"We have all these social issues we'll be dealing with, but also some economic ones such as contracting," said Oscar Eason president of the Alaska/Oregon/Washington State Conference, and a Seattle branch member. "We have a bill on the governor's desk right now that (Gov. Gregoire) will be signing that allows for vigilanteism and gives a free rein to police officers in stopping people."
In Oregon, African Americans and other minorities are more likely than other groups to be victimized by crime. Eason said people leave with conference with renewed energy and the strength to continue fighting for justice.
Founded in 1909 as the National Negro Committee, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded to ensure equality under the law for all people, to end race prejudice and discrimination and to achieve civil rights by legal means. Arguably it remains the best known and most influential civil rights organization in the country.
"The reason we're coming to Portland is that it's one of the oldest branches," said Esmeralda Allen, of Corvallis, chair of communication and publicity for the conference. "Unfortunately it was inactive for three or four years, but now it's got a new leadership of young people and we think they can get it to take off and get some action going.
"We want to give them a lift and support them and let them know the NAACP has their back."
Allen said that the struggle for civil rights matters to everyone. "There are so many issues we need to address," she said. "We've got to get our kids not to go to jail: we've got to get our justice system to be more just."
Organizers expect at least 100 people to attend the event including sizable numbers of people from Alaska and Washington states. The two-day meeting will include workshops, meetings, an independent program for NAACP college chapters, a luncheon and a banquet with dinner and dancing.
Keynote speaker at the luncheon was scheduled to be Judge Greg Mathis. The Skanner learned late that a death in the family may have cancelled his visit. A lifelong NAACP member, Judge Mathis made some bad choices when a teenager in Detroit. But after starting out on a career of crime, drug dealing and gang involvement, Mathis changed direction, got his GED and began studying to be a lawyer.
Saturday's banquet will feature Rachael Smith as master of ceremonies, while the guest of honor and main speaker will be state Sen. Margaret Carter.
Workshops at the conference will include: Health Empowerment; Educational Advocacy; Emergency Preparedness; Voter Registration and Community Mobilization;
Presenters will include: Cashauna Hill, chair of Portland NAACP's legal redress committee, Judge Adrienne Nelson, Detective Dena Lewis, Seth Seward, Opio Sokoni, and JoAnne Bowman.
The National Association for the Advancement Of Colored People's (NAACP) Alaska-Oregon-Washington State Area Conference Spring Convention: March 14 through March 16, at the airport Ramada Inn and Suites, 6221 N.E. 82nd Ave.
The convention workshops are open to the public, however, if you wish to attend either the Luncheon or Banquet, call Todd Allen at 541-757-2390 immediately to reserve your place. Visit the Portland Branch of the NAACP's Web site at www.pdxnaacp.com.