On Wednesday night the NAACP hosted a “National Call to Action” in preparation for the highly anticipated midterm elections.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson noted on the call that Black voter turnout traditionally drops off during midterm elections. For this reason, the organization is launching the Power of 5 campaign, which asks each person to register five people to vote and then get those five people to go with you to the polls. Just volunteering five minutes, five hours or five days on the “get out of the vote” efforts can make all the difference in voter turnout.
“There is too much at stake with these midterm elections,” Johnson said on the call. “Who will control redistricting— critical boundaries which determines who gets elected. Also what’s at stake is what happens with Congress.”
Also joining the call was Chikesia Clemons, the young woman who was arrested at a Waffle House, inspiring national protests over her treatment by police, and Tiffany D. Loftin, the Director of the NAACP’s Youth & College Division.
“We celebrate the opportunity of more young people getting involved. Social justice is not a competition, it’s an opportunity to make Democracy work,” Johnson said.
The organization is asking supporters across the country to text N-A-A-C-P to 40649, to join the Power of 5 campaign.
“This is not about one election,” Johnson said. “This is about building power for the African-American community.”
TheGrio also spoke to Johnson directly to find out what’s at stake for Black voters in the midterms and how the evolution of the NAACP as it galvanizes millennial input to guarantee their longevity into the future.
On the NAAACPs role in ensuring the Black community understands the significance of the Supreme Court pick:
“Our goal as the NAACP is to be a membership-based organization to ensure that our members and the African American community at-large are tuned in and educated as relates to key milestones such as the nomination of an individual to serve on the United States Supreme Court.
The confirmation of this nominee could impact the outcome of decisions for the next 30 years. Brett Kavanaugh is an individual who the NAACP opposed 12 years ago when he was nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court because of his record and his views concerning major civil rights issues such as voting rights, housing policy, education were concerning then. And they’re even more concerned now, considering the potential magnitude of the future of the Supreme Court and as it relates to civil rights issues.”
On the NAACP’s plan to increase voter engagement before the midterms:
“As we consider the current political climate, African-Americans are extremely concerned with the outcome of these elections and the tone that they are setting in terms of the political discourse. There has been a culture of intolerance and racial hatred set by the President germinating directly out of the White House since the 2016 election. And, as a result, we are finding African-Americans across the country responding accordingly.
Midterm elections are often the low watermark in terms of voter participation across all communities. It is our goal to keep voters engaged and informed so that we see this upcoming election in November the same way we would see a presidential election. Elections have consequences, and the consequence of the 2016 presidential elections created a negative tone for this country. We want to reverse that tone by turning out in November to ensure there are more checks and balance in the formation of public policy and that we can attend to a political climate.”
On the NAACP’s plan to stay relevant with millennial voters:
“We recognize the value and the importance of intergenerational organizing and work…these successful heroes in our history to advance civil rights as a result of a generation of energy.
For the last five years, we see portraits of more young people being engaged actively and adding their voice to the political landscape; that’s a valuable opportunity for them to make history as a whole. We have brought in a young millennial who’s a part of the activist community, Tiffany Loftin, to work around her counterparts and support her counterparts so that we maintain a fertile and vibrant millennial voice Also, our plan is to continue to build the young people who are coming behind the millennials and are now in high school, entering college, and in college.”
On what the NAACP has learned from younger activist organizations like Black Lives Matter:
“The power of social media has been tremendous. Beginning with the Trayvon Martin protest, young activists like Phil Agnew and the Dream Defenders all the way to Ferguson have reminded us how communication has been democratized. It is no longer controlled by a corporate spew, but it is controlled now by every individual with a smartphone. That is a lesson for all of us to learn specifically those of us in the civil rights community.
How we communicate, the timeliness of that communication and the control of that communication is a magnificent tool that the NAACP and all of the civil right communities are learning from. That’s why intergenerational models are important because with that type of creativity and energy of young souls…when you overlay that with the infrastructure of NAACP with 2200 units across the country and 47 of the 50 states, that is a powerful opportunity for us to advance the causes of social justice to ways in which no other organization in history has been able to do so in real time.”
On the death of 26-year old St. Lucian native, Botham Jean in Dallas Texas:
“We see the incident in Dallas as we see all of the many incidents related to aggressive policing and the taking of African- American lives. It is a clarion call for us to zero in on how to hold police officers accountable when they commit bad acts.
As it relates to the family, we’re [having] ongoing conversations with them. We have provided support to make sure they’re able to pay final respects properly. We’ve connected them to the attorney representing the family and we are monitoring the investigations to ensure that this case is thoroughly investigated.
We don’t control the investigation, however we are monitoring to the see the outcome of the investigation as we are all in ongoing communication with the attorneys representing the family.”
On why it is important for the NAACP to speak up about DACA:
“We have members who are impacted by DACA, which is not just a Latino issue. It also impacts passages from the Diaspora. Whether you’re from Haiti, Dominican Republic, or from the continent of Africa you are impacted by DACA, and that includes our membership base.
This is no different to say that immigrants, particularly immigrants of color, have no rights. That is a direct attack on Democracy and as the NAACP, it is incumbent upon us to raise a voice to the issue. If we don’t stand up and fight now against this issue when we are under attack who will stand up and fight for us? If you think about the target population these are individuals who are not citizens they are vulnerable therefore they have no voice. NAACP’s job is to advocate and speak for those who can speak for themselves.”