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Sheila J.
Democrat TX 18

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  • Honoring the Naacp

    by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

    Posted on 2015-02-12

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    JACKSON LEE. Congressman, thank you so very much. And, again, my greatest appreciation for your annual tribute to the NAACP. We are reminded of its great history. You are the carrier of this dream and this celebration. We are appreciative that you have come to this Congress and done many things, but you brought us to a moment every year to be able to honor this storied organization 106 years old. So let me thank my good friend Congressman Green, my next-door neighbor in Houston, and a friend of many of the same friends.

    We know the work of the NAACP local chapter in Houston, Texas. Now, the leading President is, as I call him, Dean James Douglas. Many presidents before, of course, have ably served our local chapter, but we come today to acknowledge the grandness of the NAACP. And as my colleague, Congressman Rangel, just mentioned, it is an organization that is everywhere in all ways.

    It is well to note that many of the successes that we have had in freedom, justice, and liberty have come about through the NAACP. President Truman was the first President in 1948 to speak to the NAACP. But it was not just an oration, if you will. The NAACP seeks to work, collaborate, and get things done. It was that close relationship with President Truman that generated a commission that in the late 1940s, after World War II, where soldiers came home to a second-class citizenship.

    Soldiers who left the hills and valleys of America, the farms, and the urban centers of America, African Americans, colored boys, who went into World War II came out as a second-class citizen. You will hear stories of soldiers coming back home being forced off trains or in the back of the train or the back of the bus, not being offered food at a train station, even with the uniform on.

    So heroes that had fought in the war and managed to survive and come home still came to a segregated America. It was in that backdrop that President Truman spoke to the NAACP, and they called for a commission to address the question of civil rights in America. Out of that came the--because it was in the realm of World War II, out of that came an important announcement that really, I think, was the predecessor to desegregating America. That, of course, was the executive order that desegregated the United States military. That is the clout of the NAACP.

    Through the years--through the years--the NAACP certainly has a long history, starting in its early birth. But I want to carry it forward into the 1950s and into the utilization of Thurgood Marshall. Now it is called the NAACP Legal Defense Fund that separated it out, but it was these lawyers of the NAACP that rose to defend those in the civil rights movement who were the foot soldiers and the actors of the civil rights movement, meaning acting on the issue, the activists. And they had the cerebral opportunity, if you will, the cerebral leaders, the lawyers, that came together to provide them the legal armor that they needed. Certainly we know that Thurgood Marshall had a very fond expression and appreciation for the NAACP.

    So we come through these years in the 1950s and the 1960s. And the kind of continued support that the NAACP provided in lasting and embracing--lasting and embracing--so it embraced the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which I had the privilege of working for. It embraced various other organizations. It embraced the various faiths in our community, and it embraced any organization that was moving toward justice, as Dr. King said, bending that arc toward justice. The NAACP was there with its many chapters, and it was there with providing the education of so many of these individuals that were, in fact, I call them, foot soldiers in every hamlet of America.

    Now we come, if I may cite him, in the civil rights movement, again joining with those marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, being a mighty vehicle, if I might, a lobbyist. I understand Congressman Clarence Mitchell was called the 101st Senator. He was a lobbyist for the NAACP. He was on the cutting edge of every single civil rights legislation for a period of, I believe, 40 years. I may be exaggerating the timeframe, but he was there for the '64 Civil Rights Act, there for the '65 Voting Rights Act. Clarence Mitchell of the NAACP was an advocate, not a lobbyist, on behalf of the NAACP, and met and stood, if you will, to debate not on the floor of the Senate with the Strom Thurmonds and others who had a different opinion about desegregation of this country.

    Let me take note of the fact that today I had the privilege of seeing an unveiling of a stamp in honor of Robert Robinson Taylor, the great- grandfather of Valerie Jarrett. And what I would say is that even his success in the backdrop of being the first graduate of MIT, African American graduate, you can be assured that the NAACP was moving along to add to the civil rights aspect of the great outstanding success and leadership that this gentleman, Mr. Taylor, has shown.

    So the NAACP has been there to make a pathway. The NAACP has been there to embrace. The NAACP has been there to collaborate. The NAACP has been there to stand with you when you need them to stand with you.

    I close by indicating that we have had a challenging year of addressing issues of criminal justice reform, and I am very grateful that the NAACP has also taken up this issue and will be a [[Page H1025]] partner on this issue of criminal justice reform, working with many of us as we commit to America--not just African Americans--that we will answer the question dealing with justice, equality, and liberty.

    I pay tribute, finally, Mr. Green, to the leader of ACT-SO, who lost her life, in the local chapter of the NAACP. I want to honor her and thank her for the years that I knew her and her service to young people in the ACT-SO program in Houston, Texas. To her family, I want to thank her so much for the work that she did and the lives that she touched.

    That is the NAACP. Tonight, I say, ``I am the NAACP.'' Congratulations for 106 years.

    Thank you, Mr. Green, for yielding.

    Mr. AL GREEN of Texas. Thank you very much. I applaud you for your very kind words about the NAACP, and I also compliment you for giving us additional examples of the NAACP being on the right side of right-- the right side of right.

    With the history that it has for being on the right side of right, one can imagine 100 years from now, when someone looks through the vista of time back upon this time, when the NAACP is the champion right now for voting rights, who will be on the right side of right when we look back? I think that is important for us to consider because we never want to be on the wrong side of history, but we are in a situation right now where it will take some courage for some people to be on the right side of right as we tackle this question of voting rights, voting rights that have been diminished by the evisceration of section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which emasculated section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which means that there is no coverage. We have to now find a way to reinstate section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.

    Who will be on the right side of right? Who will be with the NAACP? When we look back 100 years from now and we examine these circumstances and we understand that it was not easy to be on the right side of right, who will be there so that we can accomplish, again, what the NAACP has fought for for many decades in this country? I thank you, again, Madam Speaker. I thank the leadership for this opportunity. Our time has expired, but our energies are still with us, and we will continue to be a part of this great august organization known as the NAACP, as it continues to be on the right side of right.

    I yield back the balance of my time.


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