Are These Organizations of Color Still Relevant?

Over the past several weeks the NAACP has held its 102nd convention in Los Angeles, the National Bar Association (Black attorneys) held its 86th conference in Baltimore and NABJ (National Association of Black Journalists) held its 36th convention in Philadelphia. It is during this season through cautiously polite dialogue that someone will undoubtedly pose the question of the relevance of these organizations in today’s world.

Current Census estimates people of color comprise a third of the U.S. population and at this rate, that number will be half the population in 2050. If people of color are becoming nearly half the population, it is no surprise that the issues of human rights and diversity are prominent at these conventions.
These organizations were born out of the belief that advocacy fostered action, that collective will could create change and that progress might be slow but it was imminent. During their early years, the organizations waged battles against laws, old boy clubs and the right to fair compensation and opportunity. While some of those battles have been won, today the focus stretches to human rights issues that impact the broader community. The attention today is on immigration, gay and lesbian rights, the growing poor and diminishing middle class and the power of diversity in the workplace.

Among the NAACP’s program highlights are initiatives that improve educational opportunity for Black youth and continuing their historic fight against voter identification laws. The National Bar Association featured a town hall meeting on foreclosure and the mortgage crisis in communities of color. The Black journalists hosted Arianna Huffington who answered questions from United States Attorney General Eric Holder about diversity and the lack there of in newsrooms across the country.
According to the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), minorities in newspaper newsrooms slipped for the third straight year, to 12.79 percent. But what is more striking is that 441 newspapers reported zero minorities on their full-time staffs. NABJ immediate past president Kathy Times said, “It’s heartbreaking to think that 1/3 of the black journalists in newsrooms in 2001 are not there anymore,” Times said.
Are these organizations still necessary? With more than 100 years, 80 plus years and even 36 years, in organizing annually these organizations continue to advocate and agitate on behalf of human and civil rights issues. Have these organizations goals and objectives changed to meet the evolving needs of their memberships? I think there is no doubt that they have. The more relevant question seems to be, not if these organizations are necessary but rather why they are still necessary?


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