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NAACP’s ‘The People’s Inauguration’ Rally Ignites Call To Action

By Rebecca Johnson, Contributing Writer
Posted 10:13 PM EST, Sun., Jan. 29, 2017

The People’s Inauguration Rally was the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) kickoff for their “Stay Woke and Fight” initiative.  The rally was held Saturday, Jan. 21 at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.   

The rally included a panel on where people, specifically young people, fit in the movement. The panel consisted of Grammy nominated recording artist Jidenna, CNN political commentator Symone Saunders, and the National Director of the NAACP Youth and College Division Stephen Green. Other participants of the program were Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP and Dr. Jamal Bryant, activist and pastor of Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, Maryland.

The program started off with a prayer from Howard alumnus Rev. Kevin Peterman. The crowd was then asked to stand for “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” sang by the Howard Gospel Choir.  Following, remarks were given by Jacqueline Grant, president of the Howard University chapter of the NAACP.  

“I was having a conversation with one of my fellow council members the other day about how to maximize our 15 minutes since we got arrested for protesting senator Jeff Sessions, and I said ‘I’m not sure exactly how we do that,’” said Grant.  “Even when the 15 minutes end, in the 16th minute, we’ll still be working.”  

Following Grant, DeJoiry McKenzie-Simmons, Howard University Senate Vice Chairman and Chairman of the NAACP National Youth Work Committee, gave his remarks.

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“We can bend, we can be tested, but we must not lose hope in working together,” McKenzie-Simmons said.  “For I charge you all today to stay woke and fight.”  

Jacari Harris, Bethune-Cookman University’s student government president, was recognized and came forward to say that he and the other students were looking forward to working with the NAACP.

The Howard Gospel choir sang another two selections, and then the panel began. The panel started with discussion on revolution versus evolution, what the revolution looks like and how to effectively organize and come together to achieve a common goal.

“How do we come to understand that Stephen’s role is different than Jidenna’s role, and is different than my role,” said Saunders.  Speaking on an artist’s role in the movement, Jidenna said, “reflect an honest perception of self and perception of society.”  Stephen Green added, “the movement umbrella is large, it’s a big tent, so we need folks to be writing, we need folks to be blogging, to be doing art.”     

Other topics that were discussed were how to make issues more of a global issue than a local issue and if contemporary movements such as, as Black Lives Matter needs a figure head. This led to the discussion of intersectionality, the effectiveness of leadership, and the need for Black people across the diaspora to connect.

“Start thinking of ourselves in a much wider context. We are not alone when we talk about police brutality and criminal justice.  It is not just us here,” said Jidenna.

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To reinforce this point, Saunders and Green used the example of how HBCU students were able to end Apartheid under a Republican administration.  

After the panel, Brooks addressed the crowd and emphasized how important it is for young people to take leadership within the movement.

“The moment is too crucial to have a generationally segmented movement and segregated movement,” said Brooks. “We can’t have the Motown generation over here and millennials over here.”

The Howard Gospel Choir sang another selection and then Bryant gave remarks and a closing prayer.  During his remarks, he told the crowd how important critical thinking is in the resistance.   

“Just the fact that you use your mind, you are a threat to the status quo,” said Bryant.

Attendees of the event left feeling empowered and enlightened, which was the rally’s purpose.

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“I feel empowered, I feel strengthened, and most of all I feel hopeful,” said Durmerrick Ross, freshman political science major from Fort Worth, Texas.  

“We [Metropolitan AME] have a rich history of social justice and community engagement, so it is very empowering and enriching to see generations of all spans come together and support a great cause,” said Imani Stutely, a member of Metropolitan AME.

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