Don't forget the mission: NAACP worries Romney & Biden duel will overshadowvoting rights crusade
With the addition of Mitt Romney and Joe Biden to its official speaker lineup, the 2012 NAACP convention — which starts Saturday at the George R. Brown — is making national headlines as news outlets gear up to analyze two major election year speeches.
At a Friday afternoon press conference at the Hilton–Americas, U.S. representatives Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green joined lead officials from the renowned civil rights organization to expand the dialogue beyond the presidential election to focus on the broader theme of voting rights.
"This is a critical time," reverend Reginald Lillie, president of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Houston, told a crowd of roughly 50 reporters and photographers. "There's so much going on in our city and state regarding issues of voter suppression. But the NAACP will continue to be the vanguard of the franchise, the protector of the vote."
"There's so much going on in our city and state regarding issues of voter suppression. But the NAACP will continue to be the vanguard of the franchise."
"We have the obligation to sound the alarm and work towards absolute franchise for every American," organization chairperson Leon Russell said, noting that 34 states have attempted to enact "egregious" restrictions on voting, whether through redistricting or strict identification policies.
"The NAACP was founded 103 years ago as a response to the horrific practice of lynching and the 1908 race riot in Springfield [Illinois]," Jackson Lee said during a brief speech. "Many attempt to run away from that history.
"Many attempt to be part of the high tech, Twittering, email crowd and ask why the NAACP is relevant. All I have to do is show you a map."
The congresswoman held up a U.S. map highlighting in red the many states that have introduced legislation "that will oppress and suppress the voting rights of all Americans." From a distance, it was mostly red.
Lee stressed that, through the years, the NAACP has become an organization dedicated to the civil rights not only of African Americans, but of the full scope of U.S. citizens — a notion Russell also promoted at the end of the press conference by discussing the NAACP's efforts to reach out to the LGBT community.
"If you're a tea party member, the NAACP is fighting for your right to vote," he said. "If you're a conservative right-wing voter, the NAACP is fighting for your right to vote. If you're a Latino voter in the North, South, East or West, the NAACP is fighting for your right to vote.
"If you're a voter of any different background, the NAACP is fighting for your right to vote."
The 103rd annual NAACP convention runs Saturday through Thursday at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Mitt Romney will speak at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, while Joe Biden takes to the podium at the same time on Thursday. Also in attendance will be U.S. attorney general Eric Holder, actress Viola Davis and gospel star Yolanda Adams. Click here for more details.