From gay rights to keeping young black men out of jail to plans for a new Selma march, delegates to the NAACP convention had a lot to talk about Monday.
They also had a lot to listen to – including an address from U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey who spoke about the need for African-Americans to join in the LGBT fight for equality.
“To me, as an African-American knowing that my rights were fought for, and I stand on the shoulders of giants. And I know that some of those giants were straight, some of them were gay,” said Booker.
“And if we are going to be strong as a movement, we need make sure when we talk about civil rights, it’s in an inclusive way,” he said. “My hope is that we can correct this persistent injustice in our nation.”
Other members of Congress threaded through the standing-room-only crowd on the third day of the conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas urged delegates to help young African-Americans leaving prison succeed and avoid landing back behind bars.
“When you go back to your district, make an appointment [with the U.S. attorney], take 20 people and talk about a system that is rehabilitative and not punitive and not humiliating,” she said. “That is what is happening in the criminal justice system — they want to punish, they want to humiliate you. And that does not get anyone on the straight and narrow path.”
The civil rights organization is planning a march from Selma, Alabama, to Washington, D.C., beginning Aug. 1. Marchers will do what they need to do to be heard, said NAACP President Cornell Brooks.
“As we march through five states, organized around the country, under the banner ‘Our lives, our votes, our jobs and our schools matter,’ there may be a moment where gangster behavior is called for … nonviolently,” he said.
President Barack Obama will deliver an address Tuesday.
Several delegates said Monday they’re hoping to send a strong message from the Philadelphia that there must be a change in how minorities are treated.
The Rev. Chip Taylor of Louisiana said the president needs to say change has to start with voting rights.
“There are no major elections or minor elections,” he said. “When you have your local elections, you elect your mayors. The mayors are the ones who select the police chiefs, and you notice the problems we have been having with police comes from that level.”
Marie Davis of California said she is hoping for a sea change from the president, one that would include supporting reparations for slavery.