By all accounts, the 106th NAACP national convention was a rousing success. The conference made news July 11, on day one, by lifting a decades-old boycott of South Carolina after that state took down the Confederate battle flag from its Statehouse grounds.
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, the Baltimore prosecutor who made news after recent riots there by indicting six police officer for the death of Freddie Gray while he was in police custody, was a keynote speaker on Sunday.
Other guests during the week included President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and current U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
The nation’s oldest civil rights group issued statements that were relevant and on point, echoing the president’s call for criminal sentencing reform, addressing economic inequity and promoting opportunity.
But there is still work to be done.
One of the challenges facing the NAACP may likely to be if it will lead or follow movements that sprung up this year, the year of Black Lives Matter. That movement rose out of the shock and rage of serial police-involved deaths around the nation in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, North Charleston, Baltimore and even Philadelphia.
The movement stirred the White House to appoint a commission to investigate 21st Century policing, and appointed Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey to lead it. The NAACP has weighed in on underlying issues surrounding the rage, but the movement appears to have a life of its own.
Still, the preeminent American civil rights group can focus light on matters of importance for Black people, but it’s not hard to wonder if the days of Brown v. Board of Education — the 1954 landmark case that led to national desegregation of schools — was a high-water mark seldom approached in an era where movements take a life of their own and leaders rarely sustain themselves.
And then there are issues closer to home.
The local (Philadelphia) NAACP appears to be headed back into stability under the leadership of new president, Minister Rodney Muhammad. But national leaders still remained silent on the bitter dispute that ousted longtime local president Jerry Mondesire last year after former colleagues filed a civil suit alleging he misappropriated NAACP donations. Even at a news conference this week, national leaders refused to discuss the subject.
There’s an old saying that all politics is local. If in fact it’s true, maybe the route back to leadership of social movements nationally for the NAACP will take a local path.