BY: Ben Wrobel
The national NAACP visited Destin, Florida over Memorial Day Weekend to discuss the most pressing issues facing communities of color today at the eighth annual Leadership 500 Summit. This year’s summit brought together professionals of color for a chance to network and engage with the 102-year-old civil rights organization.
The centerpiece of the weekend was Saturday’s Town Hall titled “Protecting Our BMW’s: Black Men Walking”. The panel discussion, moderated by Michael Eric Dyson, discussed the challenges facing young men of color, ranging from racial profiling and police misconduct to hip-hop music and the importance of fatherhood.
The panelists included actor Marlon Wayans; filmmaker and activist Cle “Bone” Sloan; NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Assistant Counsel Vincent Southerland; Connecticut NAACP State Conference President Scot X. Esdaile; and Bishop James W. Dixion II.
“If we’re talking about the criminal justice system, you’re never going to get justice from that system. It is far too corrupt, far too biased, and far too many problems with it,” said Southerland.
NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock explained that the theme for this year’s summit was “Generations of Power”.
“We can never win the battle for justice, equality, and freedom if we insist on working alone,” stated Brock. “We will only achieve our dream if we form partnerships between civil rights, human rights, and faith organizations, and bring together activists of all ages. The Leadership 500 Summit is about developing tomorrow’s civil and human rights leaders, today. We need to pass the baton of leadership and bridge generations of power.”
Some of the hot topics under discussion this year were voting rights and racial profiling. The NAACP has condemned the coordinated attack on voting rights in states across the country, including voter identification laws, ex-felon disenfranchisement bills, limits to early voting and other measures that would have a disproportionate impact on low-income communities, communities of color and other groups.
The strategy sessions at Leadership 500 largely revolved around the five “game changer” initiatives that the NAACP has developed to help guide us in the next century of advocacy. These areas are Economic Sustainability, Education, Health, Public Safety and Criminal Justice, and Voting Rights and Political Participation.
Leadership 500 was founded for the purpose of developing leaders through direct engagement, seminars and networking events designed to inspire, educate and motivate the next generation of leaders. Since its inception in 2005, Leadership 500 has served as a training ground for more than 3,500 mid-level professionals.
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