NAACP interim CEO and President Derrick Johnson speaks at an Aug. 29 luncheon at the National Press Club in northwest D.C. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
NAACP interim CEO and President Derrick Johnson speaks at an Aug. 29 luncheon at the National Press Club in northwest D.C. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

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NAACP interim President Derrick Johnson on Tuesday defended the civil rights organization’s relevance amid today’s political climate in which he says President Donald Trump’s policies, statements and actions hurt all Americans.

Speaking during a luncheon at the National Press Club in northwest D.C., Johnson addressed a variety of topics, most notably the need for a group such as the NAACP as Trump throws his weight around.

“If you move across this landscape and in many communities, the NAACP is the only vehicle individuals have to raise their voice and ensure that democracy exists,” he said. “NAACP has never been a large, city operation. It is in communities where no one knows of them.”

Before Johnson’s remarks, the organization released a statement lambasting Trump’s executive order Monday to lift the ban on military-style weaponry and attire for state and local law enforcement agencies.

“Unfortunately, elections have consequences,” Johnson said. “We have to deal with some of these executive orders until 2020.”

Johnson, who became the interim president at the organization’s 108th annual convention last month in Baltimore, offered a brief history lesson on how national decisions originated from small towns.

For instance, the Shelby County vs. Holder case ruled in 2013 by the Supreme Court started in Colombiana, Alabama, a town with a population of about 4,500. The court determined a portion of the Voting Rights Acts of 1965 called preclearance in Section 4 unconstitutional, which subjected states with a history of discrimination to a federal review before election rules and procedures changed.

The clearance requirement rule in Section 5 of the act, which would determine the length of time that states must follow the rule, wasn’t ruled on. Now all states could change polling locations, voting requirements and redraw electoral districts without federal intervention.

That’s why Johnson said voting remains a major subject for the NAACP going into next year’s midterm elections.

“For the first time, I can agree that this is the most important election coming up,” he said. “Why would someone need to fill out an application to exercise a right [to vote]? Voting is paramount.”

During the question-and-answer portion of the luncheon, Johnson addressed other topics, including:

• Symbols of racist statues, monuments and flags shouldn’t be on public property;

• The NAACP’s willingness to meet with Trump, but only to discuss policy proposals and not just for a photo op; and

• The white supremacists at this month’s violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, who Johnson labeled “domestic terrorists.”

Johnson said voting will be the catalyst to help improve communities and change public policy.

“Those who have the right to vote have say. Those who don’t, don’t,” he said. “Your vote is your currency. If you’re bankrupt and you go to the store, you can’t purchase anything. If you’re exercising your currency and you collect that currency with others who have your interest, you can purchase the grocery store.”

Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP branch in D.C. and advocacy and policy for the national organization, said his office will help prepare and offer solutions to register voters from the group’s 2,200 units nationwide and overseas.

“This will help educate voters on what’s going on in their communities,” said Shelton, who attended the luncheon. “We know from what we do in Washington, impacts people all over the country and frankly the world.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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  1. The NAACP has not been relevant for more than 30-years. The consequential Negro leadership has become a social cabal worthless to the Black Americans in the United States and around the world. When you stay at the best hotels, eat the best food, and money and sex is put on the table, the NAACP’s trousers fall to the floor like bobby-socks.

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