(NNPA) - As the NAACP Annual Convention in St. Louis, Mo., hosted First Lady Michelle Obama, its new chair had already taken a moment to shake up the racial debate Obama's husband sparked with his presidential campaign.
In her first speech as chair of the largest and oldest civil rights organization in the U. S., Roslyn M. Brock, the youngest ever chair of the NAACP, envisioned the "browning of America" this week while debunking persistent myths of a so-called "post-racial" society.
"We are proud to have an American of African descent in the White House. However, the historic election of President Barack Obama did not miraculously transform race relations; end racial profiling; hate crimes; or intolerance in America," Brock told a packed audience of NAACP delegates, sponsors and supporters in Kansas City Sunday evening. "Contrary to popular belief, we do not live in a post racial society. America must be commended for significant race progress, but we are not there yet. When you consider rising hate crimes and insurgence of the tea party movement along with conservative ideologues who seek to turn back the clock on civil rights gains, there is still much more work to be done."
Though not as tart as her predecessor, Julian Bond, whose speeches were often punctuated with unflattering descriptions of the Bush Administration such as "snake oil" and "the Taliban", Brock's words were equally as strong. Her prepared text exuded remarkable vision and consciousness as she pointed out racial progress and in the same breath racial stagnation.
"Today's civil and human rights challenges are far different from those faced by our predecessors. Yes, we can … drink at public water fountains, but the drinking water in our homes may not be safe because of lead toxins;
"Yes, we can … move into sprawling multi-million dollar homes in the suburbs, but the terms of our mortgages differ from our neighbors;
"Yes, we can … send our children to public schools, but in some states the text books they read are 20 years old and school boards have decided to rewrite history by removing all references to slavery and its devastating impact on our society.
"Yes, we can … be treated at hospital emergency rooms, but often there are huge gaps and disparities in the quality of care we receive, which contributes to higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions," she said.
She appealed to the audience to recommit to the mission of making "hope more appealing and despair less convincing in a nation where urban centers are collapsing under the weight of inadequate health care; lack of affordable housing and massive home foreclosures; high infant mortality; declining public school systems; uneven distribution of wealth; limited economic resources; double digit unemployment; extreme violence with black on black crime and an exploding prison population."
Brock is 45, born in 1965, but she is no fledgling civil rights leader.
As she aptly pointed out, she became a member of the youth and college division of the NAACP as a college freshman in 1984. She said that her election as chair last year along with the selection of 37-year-old Benjamin Todd Jealous nearly two years ago, "signals the passing of the baton to the next generation of civil rights leaders who will become the 'New Frontline' for social justice advocacy in our nation."
But, without mentors and trailblazers, the fire would be difficult to maintain, she indicated, crediting family and friends and key board members including Bond, former NAACP Chair Myrlie Evers-Williams and the late NAACP icon Benjamin Lawson Hooks and civil rights icon Dorothy I. Height for their love and support. While frequently referring to struggles of the past, Brock remained focused on the future:
"In 1927, one of our founders, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, stated, "We must never lose sight of the preservation of our liberties." As she made these remarks, she surveyed a growing national current of racial hostility and division. It was a time of great successes and setbacks; and a time of great political accomplishment and promise.
"Today, we face a similar period of political and social change – a period that presents us with both a host of challenges and opportunities. Much of the conversation emerging around change in America's landscape center on hot button political issues like the size and scope of government; states' rights; higher tax rates; health care reform; illegal immigration; environmental protections; and rising crime and violence. There is an additional issue that I refer to as the "browning of America."
With that, Brock listed a string of statistics showing how in just a few decades, White people will no longer dominate America's racial fabric.
• Three out of 10 people in this country are people of color.
• Eighty-five percent of new workers will be women; minorities and new immigrants.
• By 2020 more than a third of American children will be Hispanic, African- American and Asian.
• By 2040, minorities will represent more than half the U.S. population.
In its 101st year, these statics mean a heightening need for the NAACP in shaping the nation's legislative policies critical to preparing America for what some may deem her "rendezvous with destiny."
Brock concluded, "The silence in America has been deafening as individuals who feel locked out of a prosperous society repeatedly ask the question 'is anybody listening….does anybody care?'"
Citing NAACP conferences and chapters from coast to coast, she declared, "The NAACP cares, and we are concerned about what's happening not only in the White House but also what's happening in your house, your house, and your house … the NAACP is on the job committed to ensuring change that we believed in; change we voted for and most important, change we know must happen in our nation."
First lady Michelle Obama says Americans need to change their eating habits to avoid producing the nation's first generation of children who live shorter lives than their parents.
Obama spoke Monday at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's national convention in Kansas City.
She charmed the standing-room-only audience at Bartle Hall with quips from her childhood, when she walked to school and ate whatever her mother put in front of her.
Obama touted her "Let's Move" campaign to cut childhood obesity, a problem she says will lead to other illnesses, such as diabetes.