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Today is the first day of our next 100 years

DERRICK JOHNSON and LEON W. RUSSELL | 5/29/2017, 9:21 a.m.
When the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded in 1909, there were a number of undeniably ...
Leon W. Russell is the Chairman of the NAACP board of directors, and Derrick Johnson is the vice chairman. NAACP

NAACP

When the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded in 1909, there were a number of undeniably stark realities facing Black Americans that the creation of the NAACP sought to overcome.

We worked to create a future in which a Black American could walk down a street without the fear of being lynched.

We wanted Black Americans to be able to exercise their right to vote efficiently and effectively, without being beaten, jailed or persecuted for doing so.

We dreamt of a world in which Black children would be able to receive the same education as their White peers, one that would permit their parents the opportunity to fulfill the great American Dream of leaving the next generation better off than they.

After more than 100 years of pushing against the same challenges, what do we do now?

In 2017, a Black American still cannot walk down a street, drive a car, play on the playground or enter their own home at night without the fear of being shot, beaten or harassed by their neighbors or their very own police – the individuals ironically pledged to protect him.

Gerrymandering and other voter suppression tactics like ID laws have made it increasingly difficult and in some cases impossible for Black Americans and other communities of color to participate in our nation’s democratic elections. Many are so dissuaded by the expectation that their vote may not count – or will count against them and the safety of their community – often elect not to vote at all.

Almost two decades into the turn of the century, and yet millions of Black children are still taught in segregated and underserved schools – and not just in the South. It is New York City that is home to the most segregated school district in the United States. And at the same time, the gap between the college graduation rates for White students and Black students is only increasing, putting that American Dream ever farther out of reach.

And though the people did choose a Black American to occupy the Oval Office, following his historic presidency, America elected a president who unapologetically sows division, appeals to right-wing extremists and threatens to fundamentally change the direction of our nation – for the worse.

For many, this moment – the realization of how little has still changed amid such progress – is demoralizing. While our history will mark this moment as one of incredible public engagement, with individuals of all genders and ages taking to the streets and to town halls, it is also a moment of despair and fear.

When the parents of Black children like 15-year-old Jordan Edwards – who became the 105th victim of police violence this year – must kiss them goodbye in the morning with the fear that they will not come home safe that evening, what hope is there?

At the NAACP, we know that question all too well – and we have faced it all too often over our century plus. We too stand at a crossroads. After more than 100 years of pushing against the same challenges, what do we do now?