Newswire : NAACP set to change tax status to engage politically

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

Derrick Johnson
 Derrick Johnson, NAACP President

After being eclipsed in recent years by Color of Change, Black Lives Matter and other younger, more tech savvy and politically-pointed groups, the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization will change its tax status.
The group’s leaders said that the new tax status would allow them to be more aggressive politically. During a call with reporters, NAACP officials announced that the civil rights group will transition from a 501(c)(3) to 501(c)(4) designation. The change will allow the organization to be more partisan and politically focused. However, the tax designation does not allow political work to be the “primary activity” of the organization.
Even though the NAACP is 108 years old, the organization is struggling to modernize and stay relevant in a rapidly-evolving, social media-driven landscape that requires speed and strategic communications skill. In October, the NAACP named Derrick Johnson as its president; Johnson was elected by the NAACP’s board to serve for three years.
In a statement announcing Johnson as the new president, Leon Russell, the board chairman of the NAACP said, “As both a longtime member of the NAACP, and a veteran activist in his own right—having worked on the ground to advocate for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, along with championing countless other issues—Derrick also intimately understands the strengths of the Association, our challenges and the many obstacles facing Black Americans of all generations, today. I look forward to continuing to work with him in this new role.”
Russell continued: “In his time serving as our interim president and CEO, Derrick has proven himself as the strong, decisive leader we need to guide us through both our internal transition, as well as a crucial moment in our nation’s history. With new threats to communities of color emerging daily and attacks on our democracy, the NAACP must be more steadfast than ever before.”
New NAACP President Derrick Johnson is a native of Detroit, Michigan who lives in Jackson, Mississippi. He is a long-time member of the NAACP, who was elected Vice Chair earlier this year and served as the interim president after Cornell Brooks was forced out. Johnson attended Tougaloo College before earning a juris doctor degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston.

Newswire : Nine Civil Rights organizations led by Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law file Amicus Brief In SCOTUS case regarding discrimination In public accommodations

logo for Lawyers Committee.png

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A broad coalition of civil rights organizations led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed an amicus curiae or “friend of the court” brief Monday for the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which the justices will decide whether discrimination by businesses is lawful in our country.
The Masterpiece case is part of a trend involving businesses denying goods and services to same-sex couples, and the consequences could include the nullification of civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in public accommodations. The brief was filed in the wake of the Justice Department’s unusual move of filing a brief in the case, in which the Department argued that such discrimination is protected speech under the First Amendment.
“Throughout this country’s history, public accommodation laws have played a vital role in ensuring that all businesses are open to everyone on a nondiscriminatory basis and that individuals from marginalized communities are not treated like second-class citizens,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly and emphatically rejected challenges to public accommodation laws similar to the challenges brought in the Masterpiece case, and we expect them to do so once again.”
In their brief filed Monday, nine civil rights organizations underscore the importance of public accommodations laws that protect racial, ethnic and religious minorities from discrimination. These organizations express concern that the Masterpiece case could pave the way for businesses to lawfully discriminate against racial and other minorities pursuant to a free speech exemption.
In addition to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the brief was joined by: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Color of Change, the National Action Network, the NAACP, the National Urban League, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. In their brief, the organizations state:
“Despite the advances our country has made in eradicating segregation and other forms of invidious discrimination, African Americans, including LGBT African Americans who experience discrimination at the intersection of race and sexual orientation, continue to suffer from structural and pervasive discrimination, as evidenced by the recent increase in hate crimes across the country. Discrimination infects the marketplace as well, where minority consumers continue to receive worse treatment and experience disparate access to goods and services as a result of business owners’ biased attitudes. Today, public accommodation laws remain vital by providing relief when consumers of color experience discrimination.”
“We are proud to stand on the right side of history and join this friend of the court brief. It is beyond shameful that the Justice Department that fought against DOMA and supported marriage equality is now advocating for a constitutional right to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Their position runs counter to constitutional principles and recent Supreme Court precedent. This case is not about the cake. It is about dignity, fairness, and equality.” Vanita Gupta, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
“The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund believes that this case presents a direct assault on the civil rights laws, both state and federal, that protect everyone from discrimination. It is imperative that the Supreme Court rejects this effort to undermine the enforcement of those protections central to American society.” Kenneth Kimerling, Legal Director, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
“We’re standing with the LGBTQI community for equality. A ruling permitting discrimination in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission would in effect legalize discrimination against LGBTQI people, women, minority faiths, and people of color. If the Supreme Court allows for a broad exemption in non-discrimination laws for so-called ‘creative’ enterprises, this would open the floodgates for discrimination by other business owners. No one is above the law, and it is our duty to rebuff attempts to legalize discrimination.” Vincent Warren, Executive Director, Center for Constitutional Rights
“Black people continue to face blatant profiling and racial discrimination in public accommodations. We will not stay quiet as businesses seek to roll back critical civil rights laws that we have fought so hard for and that protect our right to participate in the economy free of discrimination.” Rashad Robinson, Executive Director, Color of Change
“Today, we stand united against prejudice and discrimination in any form. Inclusion and equality are what make America great. Public accommodation laws serve a vital role in securing equality for all.” National Action Network’s Washington Bureau
“The NAACP has long advocated for equality in public accommodations, as these laws ensure that businesses treat customers equally. It is against this backdrop that businesses like Masterpiece Cakeshop seek to upend laws that protect some of our most vulnerable communities.” Derrick Johnson, President & CEO, NAACP
“Public accommodation laws protect consumers’ rights to shop wherever they please, no matter their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sex, or sexual orientation. It is unacceptable to suggest that the biased attitudes of business owners deserve more protection than the rights of consumers.” Marc Morial, CEO, National Urban League.

Newswire : 60th anniversary of the “Little Rock Nine”

Photos of Little Rock Nine
Little Rock Nine
As the world watched, nine African American students were escorted into the formerly all-white Little Rock Central High School by members of the 101st Airborne on September 25, 1957, and remained in the school. This was the culmination of not only three weeks of tumult in Little Rock, but of several years of legal battles.
In reality, the Little Rock Nine (Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas, and Carlotta Walls) were the fulfillment of efforts for equal rights which dated back for decades and centuries.
Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called out the National Guard to keep the Little Rock Nine out of the school, though he claimed it was to maintain peace. Eventually, President Dwight Eisenhower had to federalize the National Guard and removed them. He replaced them with the 101st Airborne who escorted the students in.
The story did not end on September 25. The Little Rock Nine endured much hostility during the 1957-1958 school year. Even after that school year was over, the drama continued as the high schools were closed during 1958-1959 in an effort to keep them segregated. Once the schools reopened, there were still efforts to delay the full integration of Little Rock schools.
Likewise, there was an immense amount of effort leading up to the Little Rock Nine entering into the school. Work by the NAACP both nationally and within Arkansas laid the groundwork for that day.
During September 2017, there will be a series of events that will look back at the events of September 1957. They will also examine the work that led up to the integration of Little Rock Central High. In addition, the programs will look at the impact of the 1957-1958 school year over the past six decades.

NAACP president Brooks, 10 more activists, arrested again in sit-in outside Sessions’ office in Mobile

By: Melanie Eversley, USA Today

Cornell Brooks and Jeff Sessions

 

NAACP president and CEO Cornell Williams Brooks and 10 other activists spent about three hours in jail Monday after staging a repeat sit-in outside of the Mobile, Ala., office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Republican who is President Trump’s pick for attorney general.

The group, charged with criminal trespass, is due back in court in Mobile on March 6, Brooks told USA TODAY. Monday’s protest came about four weeks after Brooks and other NAACP officials staged a similar sit-in at Sessions’ office in an attempt to compel the senator to remove himself from the attorney general nomination process. The civil rights organization opposes the conservative Republican for his opposition to the Voting Rights Act and for other stances that the NAACP believes work against its human rights mission.

“I think it’s clear that this administration is picking a fight with the American citizenry and the citizenry is making it clear that we’re not backing down; we’re not relenting,” Brooks said.

Brooks and five other NAACP officials were to appear in court in Mobile on misdemeanor criminal trespass charges for the Jan. 3 sit-in outside of Sessions’ office. But upon learning that the prosecutor did not want to proceed, they went back to Sessions’ office to protest again. Staffers closed the office before they arrived, Brooks said..

The group wanted to head back to Sessions’ office as a matter of taking responsibility for their actions, the NAACP president said. “In the same way that the Senate has a responsibility (to carry out the confirmation process) … we have a responsibility to make our voices heard through civil disobedience,” he said. “We’ve already made phone calls; we’re writing letters. That which is left to us is breaking the law and going to jail.”

Sessions spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores acknowledged that the charges were dropped on Sunday. The building manager attempted to block the group on Monday from entering but they were able to enter the building anyway, sitting down in front of the entrance to Sessions’ office.

About one hour into the sit-in , Mobile police arrested Brooks and 10 others, packed the NAACP officials and local protesters into a police van and took them to the police station for booking, said Quincy Bates, an NAACP spokesman.

Sessions’ Mobile office was closed Monday, Isgur Flores said. At about 4:30 p.m. ET, the group had just been booked and was being taken to the Mobile city jail, police department spokeswoman Charlette Solis said. They were released about three hours later, Brooks said.

Isgur Flores responded via e-mail, saying, “We look forward to Senator Sessions nomination being voted out of committee tomorrow and receiving bipartisan support on the floor later this week.” In the past, Isgur Flores has pointed out that Sessions has endorsements and support from black state officials in Alabama.

Sessions has made statements that hint he might rollback advances the Obama administration has made against alleged police misconduct, that he believes the Ku Klux Klan is “OK,” and that he supports broad immigration reform, according to civil rights advocates.

 

John Gore, lawyer who defended racial gerrymandering picked to head DOJ Civil Rights Division

 

By: Lee Fang, The Intercept

John Gore who has worked to defend laws that critics say are designed to weaken the voting rights of African-Americans and other minorities, was selected by President Donald Trump to serve as a senior civil rights official at the Department of Justice.

Gore’s new role as Trump’s choice for deputy assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is notable because he will lead the division that oversees civil rights laws, including voter suppression issues. Trump and his nominee to lead the Justice Department, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, are strong supporters of voting restrictions such as voter identification.

The appointment of Gore represents a dramatic break from the the civil rights legacy of the outgoing Obama Justice Department, which has filed suits against voter restrictions in Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina, and other states. Under Obama, the civil rights division was restructured to take on more cases, with former Attorney General Eric Holder describing the team as the agency’s “crown jewel.”

In stark contrast, Gore has worked to defend Republican redistricting laws in Virginia, South Carolina, New York, and Florida — including maps that opponents say were drawn to maximize Republican seats in Congress and frequently employed a strategy of packing African-American voters into a single district to dilute their voting power in neighboring districts.

In Florida and Virginia, Gore also intervened on behalf of Republicans to defend new voter ID laws, rules civil rights group have assailed for reducing participation rates among African-Americans.

In Virginia, for example, Gore was one of the main attorneys working to defend a 2011 Republican map that moved black voters from four different districts into Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, a majority African-American district held by a Democrat that encompasses the areas around Richmond, Hampton Roads, and Newport News. The strategy appeared designed to weaken Democratic chances in the four neighboring districts, all held by Republicans, by lowering the number of African-Americans, who tend to vote for Democratic candidates.

A brief filed by the local NAACP argued that the map’s “high concentration of African-American voters” represented a “racial gerrymander” that violated voters’ due process rights. The GOP legislature argued that politics, not race, was the motivating factor in drawing the boundaries.

Federal courts overturned the GOP map, creating new borders that added African-American voters to the 4th Congressional district, which was previously represented by a white Republican. In 2016 the district for the first time elected an African-American Democrat.

In 2015, a resident of Virginia challenged the state’s newly passed law requiring a photo identification to vote, arguing that because minority groups were less likely to have a photo ID, the law “disproportionately suppresses the vote of African-Americans and Latinos in Virginia.”

A legal team from the law firm Jones Day, including Gore, filed an amicus brief in support of the voter ID law. The brief claimed that although the voter ID law might lead to a “relative shortfall in minority participation,” the true difference was attributable to “different levels of electoral interest or underlying socio-economic disparities,” and therefore the state’s actions were legal.

In December 2016, a federal appeals court upheld the photo ID law, ruling that “there was no evidence to suggest racially discriminatory intent in the law’s enactment.”

As Buzzfeed reported, just hours after Jones Day announced that Gore would be leaving for the administration position, the Justice Department moved to delay a hearing sought by the Obama administration to challenge the Texas voter ID law, one of the strictest in the country. The Justice Department noted that it sought a delay “because of the federal government’s change in administration, which took place on January 20, 2017.”

On Monday, during his evening meeting with congressional leaders, President Trump reiterated the false claim that millions of undocumented people voted in the last election, costing him the popular vote.

 

ANSC and SOS protest nomination of Jeff Sessions to be U. S. Attorney General

protestersA group of thirty representatives of the Alabama New South Coalition (ANSC) and the Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) Direct Action Committee protested the nomination, by President-elect Trump, of Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to become U. S. Attorney General. The protest was held for the past two Tuesdays, in front of the Federal Courthouse Building in Montgomery, where Sessions has his Alabama office.

The ANSC and SOS have issued a detailed statement opposing Session’s nomination. The statement says:
“We are compelled to issue this statement, because as citizens and residents of Alabama, we are intimately knowlegable and keenly aware of the harm that Senator Sessions has brought to our people and our state. We are issuing this statement as a warning to people in other states of the United States that Jeff Sessions is singularly unfit, manifestly unqualified and totally insensitive to serve as the chief law enforcement agent for our great nation.
“We are especially concerned that as Attorney General, he will be charged with enforcing civil rights, voting rights, and human rights laws, as well as being the primary caretaker of our criminal justice system. A criminal justice system and the policing mechanisms that support it are in urgent need of reform. By education, temperament and actions over the past 40 years, Jeff Sessions has shown himself to be unfit, unqualified and insensitive to serve in this critical position.”
The ANSC, SOS and other groups will continue to protest Session’s nomination. On Friday, December 16, 2016, at 11:00 AM the NAACP, the Alabama Moral Movement, ANSC, SOS and other organizations will protest at the Vance Federal Office Building in Birmingham, where Sessions has another of his state offices

Hillary Clinton goes on attack against Donald Trump in NAACP speech

BY LISA L. COLANGELO
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Hillary Clinton addresses NAACP

Hillary Clinton
addresses NAACP

Hillary Clinton made it clear Monday she isn’t about to let the GOP cast Donald Trump in a softer light at the Republican National Convention.

During an emotional speech before the NAACP’s national conference in Ohio, Clinton painted her likely Republican opponent as a President Obama-hating, white supremacist sympathizer who was once investigated for refusing to rent apartments to African-Americans.
“He might say otherwise if he were here, but of course he declined your invitation,” Clinton told members of the historic civil rights group. “So all we can go on is what he has said and done in the past.”
Her comments come as Republicans are expected to launch a wave of attacks against her as part of the first day of the convention’s theme: “Keep America Safe Again.”
Clinton, who is poised to receive the Democratic nomination for President next week, kicked off an aggressive campaign to register 3 million new voters in the coming weeks.
“This man is the nominee of the party of Lincoln and we are watching it become the party of Trump,” she said to cheers. “That is not just a huge loss to our democracy, it is a threat to our democracy. … Donald Trump cannot become President of the United States.”
Her voter registration campaign will include 500 events at diverse locations including minor league baseball games, college campuses and hair salons.
“Your votes count more than ever,” Clinton told the crowd.
Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP New York State Conference, tried to head off GOP criticism by lauding Clinton’s service as Secretary of State.
“She strengthened national security, championed human rights and opportunities for women and girls across the world,” Dukes said. “She was instrumental in restoring American standing in the world.”