These names are a list of who’s who in the civil rights movement of the United States of America: Julian Bond, Myrlie Evers, Roslyn Brock, Benjamin Todd Jealous, Leon Russell, and Adora Obi Nweze. This list of national and State of Florida leaders played strategic roles in facilitating the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to set the stage for Orlando, Florida. This event began as ground zero of the civil rights movement during its 104th Annual Convention July 13th – July 17th, 2013 by meeting just minutes from George Zimmerman’s Trial in Sanford, Florida for his murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012. The not-guilty verdict reached on Saturday, July 13th, sent earthquake-like tremors around the Orlando hotels, resorts, neighborhoods, our nation, and the world.
George Zimmerman’s not-guilty verdict impacted the speeches at the Sunday July 14th opening public mass meeting of the convention. It was the impact of the strengthened and passionate speeches by Ft. Pierce born NAACP Board Chair Roslyn Brock, Clearwater resident and Vice Chair Leon Russell, and the Florida State Conference President Adora Obi Nweze of Miami-Dade County that brought tears to the eyes of many of the NAACP delegates.
Florida’s political and business leadership was also showcased by Orlando’s Mayor Buddy Dyer, and hotel businessman Harris Rosen, who provided great hospitality as the owner of the host hotel and housed hundreds of delegates and additional delegates at several major hotels on the city’s International Drive.
Additionally, the international leadership of the Haitian President Michel Martelly was given a major spot on Sunday’s program as he appealed for investment, tourists, and social program assistance to assist his country’s recovery from the devastating earthquake that rocked his nation a few years ago.
It was the eloquent humility of the powerful Harris Rosen, as he spoke of his relationship with the Haitian President Michel Martelly, which amazed many of those in attendance that evening. He described their relationship as one of mutual respect and admiration. Rosen presented his work in Haiti as a commitment to building affordable homes, agricultural businesses, a school system, and scholarships for students to attend college. This lifetime NAACP member is duplicating the education initiative in Orlando’s Tangelo Park neighborhood.
However, it was the NAACP’s own Chairman of the National Board of Directors, Ms. Rosyln Brock, who delivered the knock-out punch presentation, articulating the strategic role of the civil rights organization in the past, present and future. She spoke of the rich legacy of liberation and progress she inherited from Julian Bond, the past board chair. Her speech focused on Florida’s role as a leader in the civil rights movement with a history lesson on the assassination by the suspected Ku Klux Klan of civil rights activists, Harry and Harriette Moore on Christmas Day 1951, when a bomb exploded beneath their home. Federal investigators suspected the Klan, but to this day no one has been charged. Then she stated, “So we’re here – standing at the crossroads of freedom and equality – at the 104th Annual Convention of the NAACP proclaiming that when it comes to the cause of justice, we shall not be moved!”
She continued with a strong voice, “Tonight we stand in solidarity with the Martin family because we have been here before. 58 years ago, a child in Mississippi went to the store to buy some candy and that trip led to his murder. 57 years later, a child in Florida went to the store to buy some candy and that trip led to his murder; two innocent black boys buying candy. How many times must young black men in this country have to walk through a community under the threat of suspicion?” Ms Brock spoke of how the youth leadership at the convention had to be consoled on the night of Zimmerman’s verdict being announced.” Her voice then rang out, “Things do not just happen. We make them happen. In the words of Fredrick Douglas “Power concedes nothing without demand.”
As the news of protests spreading around the country reached the convention, the delegates anticipated presentations by the NAACP CEO, Ben Todd Jealous, several members of congress, the secretaries of HUD, HHS, and the Honorable Eric Holder, Jr., the Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice. Many said they expected that Holder would be the icing on the cake of a tremendously successful convention.
They would not be disappointed. With momentum already built by a national petition for one million signatures requesting the Justice Department to charge Zimmerman with the violation of Trayvon Martin’s civil rights the convention would receive their answer from the U. S. Attorney General himself. Then with roaring thunder and rain in the background, Eric Holder stepped to the podium with the convention delegates singing the African American spiritual, “I shall not be moved!”
Holder confirmed that the Justice Department has an ongoing investigation into the Trayvon Martin case, while he called for a national dialogue to give both sides of interest to better understand each other. However, in a strong deliberate tone he stated, “We must stand our ground and not be afraid to ensure that justice prevail for all!” Holder went on to cover the challenges to the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court last month and said that it was a deeply flawed decision and is a serious setback for voters’ rights. He then stated, that he was announcing at this convention, that he has ordered the Civil Rights Division to redirect all necessary resources for the prosecution of any jurisdiction that thinks they will take advantage of the flawed decision of striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Holder said in a very deliberate voice that the Justice Department will not wait for Congress to enforce or enact a new law for the Voters Rights Act and that the department will take action against any jurisdiction that tries to keep citizens from voting.
The Pensacola Branch of the NAACP sent it’s delegation to the national convention led by President Dr. John Veasley, First Vice President Eladies Sampson, Secretary Dr. Joyce Hopson; Assistant Secretary Christal Montgomery, and Economic Development Chairman Tony McCray, Jr.
The Pensacola delegates share very strong relationships with Ft. Pierce born NAACP Board Chair Roslyn Brock, Clearwater resident Vice Chair Leon Russell, and the Florida State Conference President Adora Obi Nweze of Miami-Dade County.