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NAACP Declares at Annual Convention: Our Votes MatterLeaders Gear Up for Election Day

The NAACP convened its 107th annual convention in Cincinnati this month, with voting rights and Black lives at the top of the agenda.

Thousands of business, political leaders and celebrities came together for the convention — themed “Our Lives Matter, Our Votes Matter” — from July 16-20 at the Duke Energy Center, where NAACP President Cornell William Brooks used his keynote speech to address the recent slayings of Black men and police officers.

“This is an anguishing hour,” Brooks said. “Amidst this anguishing hour of our American democracy, we’re reminded of older words, spoken by a fiery activist. Words that yet whisper with a fierce ferocity of truth into our hearts. She wrote, and said, ‘Year after year, the butchery of men, women and children continues in spite of plea and protest.’

“This foremother of the Black Lives Matter movement, a founder of the NAACP, Ida B. Wells, did not utter those words in reference to the 990 lives lost in 2015 at the hands of police,” Brooks said.” She did not lift up those words in response to the 522 lives lost at the hands of the police thus far in 2016. Ida B. Wells did not speak these words at the 107th conference of the NAACP in 2016, but rather, she said those words at the first annual NAACP convention in 1909.”

Brooks said Wells’ words are a stark reminder that Americans are dying at the hands of the police at a rate not unlike the early part of the 20th century.

He said that while many Americans are tempted to give into despair, the NAACP understands that hope is not a moral luxury, but a necessity.

“We come to this 107th convention unrepentant in our hope,” Brooks said. “Unapologetic in our praise. Unforgiven by our enemies for our determination, because we will not turn back.”

The events of the four-day conference included sessions and workshops, luncheons, a youth dinner, a youth concert and the Spingarn Dinner/Freedom Fund Banquet.

Dozens of prominent figures attended the yearly event, including attorney Benjamin Crump, Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman of Ohio, Rep. Sean Maloney of New York, singer Chrisette Michelle, comedian Sheryl Underwood and actors Nate Parker, Yara Shahidi and Tika Sumpter.

The NAACP holds its convention annually to establish policies and programs of action for the ensuing year.

During the assembly, officers and respective committee members vote on resolutions in legislative meetings that will govern the organization.

With this year’s convention falling on an election year, the association specifically focused on voter education, voter registration and restoring the Voting Rights Act.

Brooks said the NAACP will not sit by while 50 million Americans are not yet registered to vote and restrictive voter ID laws loom over several states.

“[In] Alabama, 500,000 votes hanging in the balance because of voter ID laws,” Brooks said. “In the state of Texas, 600,000 votes hanging in the balance. There is one organization that stands between America being a voteless and hopeless people, that would be the NAACP.

“So you be clear,” Brooks said. “Our presidential contenders … Secretary Clinton, Mr. Trump, members of Congress, you be clear. We are serving notice. By hook or crook, by courts or the street, we will protect the right to vote.”

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