This week the 110th NAACP Convention is in Detroit and I have to tell you – our historic organizations and institutions are more important than ever. I think just 10 years ago some people were wondering if we’d still need an organization like the NAACP, if we’d still need HBCUs, but nobody is saying that any more. They are all as important as they’ve ever been.
I had a chance yesterday to speak to the Youth and College Division of the NAACP and they were absolutely amazing. Nearly 1,000 young Black leaders from all over the country gathered together there – led by their brilliant Youth Director, my friend Tiffany Loftin, and I just want you to understand that these kids were as smart, and as organized, and determined to make this country a better, safer, more equitable place – as any kids I’ve ever met.
We all have a tendency to romanticize the kids from our generation, but these were brilliant, and made me feel good about our future.
I think I probably took a few hundred selfies yesterday, but what I wanted to share with you is a lesson I learned from all of those conversations.
Young people expressed to me at least 5 fears and concerns that I wanna share with our audience this morning. Some of them I think are particularly unique to this generation – and my hope is that we can all agree that we need to be fighting for what young people care about the most.
- Yesterday, over and over again, young people asked me if I thought Donald Trump was going to win again in 2020. They were nervous. And it was clear to me that even the kids and young adults on the front lines just don’t have the confidence that we’re all moving in the right direction to defeat Trump. And that’s not a good thing at all. And then I realized – that so many of these young people I met yesterday, particularly the ones going to HBCU’s, live in states that are dominated by Republicans from top to bottom – I’m thinking of Florida, Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and more.
And they all experienced the disappointments there not just in 2016, but in 2018, and it just made me leave feeling like we aren’t doing enough in the Deep South to prepare to defeat Trump. I could say so much more, but let me share a few more of their concerns.
- Young people talked to me about immigration. And I had the thought, that in all of my years of leadership, in all of my years working with young people, I don’t think I had ever seen a young Black audience care more about the horrors of our immigration system than this group yesterday. They get it. It’s our problem too – it’s not just somebody else’s problem – it’s happening on our watch – and it needs our attention.
- So many young people yesterday spoke to me about the environment, and the Green New Deal, and global warming – and I have to admit – that when I was a college student at Morehouse – we hardly mentioned the environment, but these young people again understand that an issue does not have to be directly about race or about violence – for it to be a huge deal to our people. And I need us all to catch up with them – because every single report shows that every issue of the environment is going to impact our communities first – and worse – and that goes from floods, to environmental racism to things like we’ve seen here in New York the past 72 hours where it was so hot that the power company started cutting the power off to entire communities to save the power for other communities. Whose power do you think they cut off? They cut off power to Black and brown communities, to over 40,000 people – to save the power from having to be cut off elsewhere – that’s a problem.
I’ve gotta run – but yesterday I heard from young people about at least two more issues that made me so proud.
- I heard from so many young people specifically on issues about equality for women – equal pay, equal access to jobs and resources, equal protection under the law – and we have to understand this – this year – for the first known time in modern American history – the United States was listed as one of the 10 most dangerous countries in the world for women. We’re talking about a planet with over 200 countries and the United States cracked the Top 10 for most dangerous for women. And it’s not just Trump – he doesn’t help – but it’s all over.
- Then lastly, young people spoke to me about gun violence – and last year was the deadliest year for gun violence in this country since 1989. And they are frustrated that the problem is only getting worse – with politicians doing little to nothing about it.
I’ve gotta run, but I left Detroit last night wondering how we could make all of the problems they care about our top priorities – of course they also spoke to me about mass incarceration and police brutality, but those other issues were big. Let’s find ways to support them and fight for their futures moving forward.