Former US Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. gives the keynote address July 24 at the Clarence M. Mitchell Luncheon where he spoke on the need for NAACP members to fight for voting rights. His remarks were made during the 108th annual NAACP convention in Baltimore. (Roy Lewis/Washington Informer)
**FILE** Former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder (Roy Lewis/Washington Informer)

BALTIMORE – The NAACP held its 108th annual convention and this year’s theme, strong and immovable, highlighted how President Donald Trump’s policies will ruin communities of color.
Since the convention officially began Saturday, July 22, members and supporters of the civil rights organization passionately and unapologetically slammed Trump’s proposals on criminal justice, education and voting.
The Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the NAACP Detroit branch, called Trump’s voter fraud commission “a scam.”
“If you want to fix something, Mr. Trump, about our election [process], let’s start with the people on your own commission,” Anthony said while hundreds in the audience clapped and yelled inside the Baltimore Convention Center on Monday, July 24. “And above all, get the Russians the Hell out of our national election. I apologize. I’m from the city of Detroit and sometimes when I think about all this stuff, I get the inner-city blues.”
The NAACP also took care of its own business this week by appointing Derrick Johnson as interim CEO and president of the organization. Johnson, of Jackson, Mississippi, served as the vice chairman on the group’s national board of directors and president for the Mississippi State Conference of NAACP.
Jackson said about 52 percent of blacks in the United States reside in the South, which also has some of the most damaging voter laws.
“This is a crucial time for the NAACP,” Johnson said. “People have the audacity to ask if we’re relevant because we are not demonstrating in the streets…We’re going to be here. We exist in a way in which no other organization can show up.”
One of the group’s future plans focuses on the 2018 midterm elections.
Led by the NAACP’s D.C. branch, attendees picked up copies to highlight when U.S. senators and governors are up for re-election.
Hundreds of colorful 2015-16 legislative report cards sprawled across a table to show how Congressional officials voted on topics relevant to the NAACP such as assistance to Flint, Michigan, sanctuary cities and paid sick leave.
In Maryland, Rep. Andy Harris received the only failing grade among all eight representatives and the two in the Senate.
Action alerts also got distributed for people to pressure Congressional officials to retain the Affordable Care Act and the Federal Election Assistance Commission, which helps oversee election processes in state and local races and also provides implementation of technology.
The Rev. William Barber, former president of the NAACP’s North Carolina state conference, gave fiery remarks on how it took the group six years to fight the state against voter suppression.
“Some told us not to fight. Many black people told us you can’t win, but we knew the constitution,” he said. “When you fight, you have to make a way. I would rather fight and lose, than not fight at all.”
Barber’s remarks came at a luncheon that featured former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Holder presented his speech a bit more reserved, but the few hundred people still listened at the luncheon named after Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., a chief lobbyist for the organization who died in 1984.
Holder touched on a variety of topics, but mainly focused on the Trump administration’s plan to eliminate voter fraud that will decrease representation from minorities and young adults.
“Some Republicans have decided that if you can’t beat them, change the rules,” he said. “History will be harsh on these efforts. Too many actions are shameful…and un-American.”
Holder, who worked under former President Barack Obama, suggested states open more polling sites and not just have primary and general elections held only on a Tuesday. That way, he said, more people are giving the chance to vote.
“Only, we the people, can bring about meaningful change. So, speak up. Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Don’t worry about being the subject of a tweet.”
Peggy Holmes, a member of the NAACP’s branch in Akron, Ohio, said Holder’s remarks emphasize the necessity for her chapter to hold voter registration drives and other community events.
“We’re trying to get our people aware on the local level…to benefit our black community,” Holmes, 78, said. “With Trump in office, people better pay attention.”
The convention also had a schedule for high school and college students that included its 39th annual Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics, or ACT-SO, program to participate in projects focused on science, business, humanities and performing and visual arts.
Tavian Moore, 17, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, noticed certain job opportunities aren’t provided for blacks similar to when they sought equal work more than 50 years ago.
“A lot of people look back at the 60s and 70s as the catalyst of the civil rights movement. I’ve come to the conclusion we are still fighting battles our grandparents fought,” said Moore, who plans to attend community college in the fall and then transfer to Michigan State University. “My hope is we don’t relapse and fall back into that cycle…That’s why I’m here to make sure it doesn’t happen.”

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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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