On February 12 the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization celebrated its centennial as the United States is still buzzing from the inauguration of Barack Obama, its first Black president.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People-NAACP has been the inspiration and moral compass of racial advances in this country throughout its 100 year's existence. As the nation's oldest, largest and widely recognized civil rights organization it seemed fitting that on this occasion the celebration would take place in Los Angeles at its national televised 40th Image Awards program.
Last Thursday, at a reception hosted by, Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles, honored guests from the greater Los Angeles area celebrated the anniversary over an outdoor breakfast at his Getty House residence. The morning was chilly but the atmosphere was festive."This celebration needs to become a symbol of the years of struggle from slavery to hope," says renowned civil rights crusader, James Lawson, Jr. "This 100th year must become not only a thanksgiving for the NAACP, not only for its tenacity in the midst of its darkest moments but being the guardian against injustice it met and found. It must remind us the struggle has not ended but only just begun."Pasadena's NAACP branch will celebrate its 90th anniversary this year. According to Joe Brown, branch president, it too has a rich and proud heritage and the oldest non religious organization in the city.
"We owe a great gratitude to those men and women of the NAACP who braved the most inhumane treatment to further the cause of freedom and racial equality," says Brown.
His 8 years of service pales in comparison to some of trail blazers of the Pasadena branch including Ruby McKnight Williams, it longest serving president; Charles Johnson, an original Pullman Porter and economic planner; Francis Dryer, branch secretary and member for more than 50 years; Maurice Morse, educator and one of this area's strongest advocates for school desegregation; and Attorney Walter Shatford, whose legal and fundraising expertise kept the organization afloat during its most turbulent period.
Tumultuous protest of the Nash Department Store, the integration of Pasadena Unified School District and the city's pools are vestiges that challenged the resolve of the Pasadena NAACP.
"We are not a radical group," says Brown. "We stress education but encourage activism."
As the population shifts and becomes more diverse Brown and the NAACP believe a new strategic plan is needed to attract more young people and facilitate a more viable organization both locally and nationally.