Charge to the 103rd Annual Convention of the NAACP
By Rev. Dr. William Barber, II
The following is an excerpt of the Reverend’s speech.
In the testimony circle of my faith tradition the saints often declare, “If we ever needed the Lord, we sure do need him now.” I want to, in the tradition of the hip hop tradition, sample from that faith tradition and say, if we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now.
For us the right to vote is not just a constitutional matter, but a right borne out of struggle, out of sacrifice and a gift from the God of justice.
Think for a moment where we are in the time in which we are in and you will understand why if we never ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now. Here we are today:
- 393 years since the first ship landed in Virginia to bring (enslaved Africans)
- 242 years ago, Crispus Attucks was the first (Black man) to die fighting for this country
- 163 years since Harriet Tubman escaped slavery
- 160 years since Frederick Douglass … delivered in his … 4th of July speech that America’s July 4th celebrations were fraud bombast hypocrisy, until America did right by the sons and daughters of slaves
- 149 years since the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation
- 147 years since the end of the Civil war
- 142 years since the ratification of the 15th Amendment
- 68 years since Smith v. Allwright opened up primaries for Black people
- 68 years since Primus King was denied the right to vote in Georgia in a primary
- 58 years since Brown v. Board of Education
- 57 since the brutal murder of Emmett Till
- 52 since the sit-ins in Greensboro organized by A&T and Bennett students
- 51 years since Dr. King said to the AFL-CIO that the only voting bloc that could transform America would be for Blacks and labor and poor whites and Latinos to learn how to work together
- 49 years since the March on Washington and the bombing of four girls in a Birmingham church
- 48 years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act
- 47 years since the Voting Rights act
- 47 years since Malcolm X was killed
- 44 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- 3 years since Barack, whose name means “Praise the Lord,” was sworn in to be president of these United States
- 4 months and 11 days since the shooting of Trayvon Martin
We have been through too much and seen too much and fought for too much. … Not only have we been through too much, there’s still too much to fight for.
Politicians can say “elect me and I’ll take your healthcare;” “elect me and I’ll take your voting rights;” “elect me and I’ll take your social security;” “elect me and I’ll re-segregate your public schools;” “elect me and I’ll ignore your poverty” — and still get votes! Here we are 22 million African Americans eligible to vote and yet 8 million didn’t vote. One percent of the population controls 42 percent of the wealth. Ten percent of the population controls 93 percent of the wealth.
I don’t know if Republicans are going to show up. I don’t know if Democrats are going to show up. But the sons and daughters of slaves, we better the hell show up.