By Natasha Ferguson –
In commemoration of the NAACP’s 100 year anniversary, and in recognition of a decade of the Census, the NAACP Riverside Branch recently hosted a 2010 Census Dinner at John W. North High School. The guest speaker was Professor of History and Education at UCR, Dr. V.P. Franklin. Co-sponsoring organizations included the U.S. Census; the John North Black Student Union and Multi- Cultural Club; and NAACP San Bernardino Branch. These along with a multi-ethnic audience of students, friends, NAACP members, educators and area leaders filled the campus lecture hall.
Special guests included President of Moreno Valley School Board; representatives from Riverside Unified School District; and Margaret Fortune, Trustee for the California State University Board and former Senior Advisor to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who is currently head of Fortune Schools and developing the Hardy Brown College Prep Charter School in San Bernardino.
The program opened with a welcome from NAACP Riverside President Woodie Rucker-Hughes followed by invocation by Minister Stancil Turner. The master of ceremonies was NAACP Riverside VP, Mannesseh Nweigwe Jr. A representative from the Census Bureau spoke on the importance of the Census; and NAACP San Bernardino President Cheryl Brown introduced her special guest Ms. Fortune and briefly detailed the new Hardy Brown College Prep Charter School.
Professor Franklin has published over 50 scholarly articles on African American history and education, is editor of the Journal of African American History and has also authored many books.
He is currently working on a study of transnational educational programs from the United States to Africa in the twentieth century.
Keynote speaker Dr. Franklin’s topic was, ‘Documenting the NAACP’S First Century: From Combating Racial Injustices to Challenging Racial Inequities.’
While much of the focus of attention was on what is popularly known as the “Civil Rights Revolution” in bringing about ‘change in America’ — ending segregation in America’s south — Dr. Franklin’s speech shed some light on the impact of the work by individuals, churches and communities in reducing segregation in America’s north.
Dr. Franklin described how Reverend Leon Sullivan, in the late 1950s and early 1960s working with other local ministers of Philadelphia’s Black churches organized an economic boycott which targeted the major area employer, who, like all major employers in Philadelphia and elsewhere across the north refused to hire Black workers.
Rev. Sullivan and protest leaders determined that their best strategy was for church members, their families and friends to stop spending their money on any product from or at a particular business until that business agreed to open employment to, and hire, Black workers.
When the boycott proved to be a success and employment barriers began to fall, Rev Sullivan’s Philadelphia plan developed a program for training Blacks and other discriminated-against workers for newly-available jobs and developing job opportunities (mid and late 1960s to late 1970s). This led to the launch of the Opportunities Industrialization Centers (OIC) training programs, which spread out from Philadelphia to urban communities across America and attracted the attention of then President Lyndon Johnson, who supported the concept and model within Community Action Programs in the “War on Poverty”.
Dr. Franklin spoke of the extension of Rev. Sullivan’s Philadelphia Plan (economic boycott: ‘Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work’; job development and training: OIC) across the U.S., into Europe and Africa, which contributed to the end of “Apartheid” in South Africa.
Elements of Rev. Sullivan’s Community action, employment and training, and economic justice concepts clearly are visible in plans and program proposals of the President Obama’s Administration.
Dr. Franklin’s discussion was very enlightening and both Brown and Rucker-Hughes expressed pleasure in the turnout and overall success of the program.
“Our event was an awesome experience to interact with a jewel of a scholar and teacher, Dr. VP Franklin,” said Rucker- Hughes. “I am certain that everyone who attended walked away much richer in knowledge and thought because of this experience. We will continue to provide opportunities such as this in the future.”
Attendees enjoyed a delicious soul food dinner catered by “Yo Momma Soul Food Catering.”
NAACP will be hosting its 60th Annual Freedom Fund Dinner on May 6th of this year and Dr. Franklin will be one of many special invited guests. For more information about the organization, news and upcoming events visit www.naacp-riverside.org.
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