NAACP looks back at 100 years in Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Greater Grand Rapids NAACP is marking 100 years of fighting racism and discrimination.

The chapter was chartered by the national NAACP in February 1919.

“It was really what I consider northern Jim Crowism that was really happening in the north,” local NAACP President Cle Jackson explained to News 8 Wednesday. “And so for the brazen and the bold group of freedom fighters, to pull together a group of folks to say we’re going to start a local branch here was absolutely amazing. It took grit. It took courage.”

He said that grit and courage has stayed with the chapter since its inception.

“It’s 2019, it was 1919 back then, but many of the issues that we are facing today and dealing with and fighting against still exist. it just looks a little different,” Jackson said. “Housing. There’s a housing crisis. There was back then. Education, education equity, making sure a high-quality free public education was accessible to everyone. We’re still in that fight.”

While challenges remain, the chapter has accomplished real change, from mobilizing the vote to holding law enforcement accountable.

“One of the points that was passed was to have all, I think it was, 300 (Grand Rapids) officers at the time outfitted in bodycams,” Jackson said.

That was only a few years ago.

The chapter is looking at its 100th year as a moment for momentum.

“We’re excited because it’s the 100th year and we plan to be here for a hundred more years and to keep this organization alive, relevant and moving forward,” Jackson said.

The chapter is hosting a Freedom Fund Conference this week to celebrate its anniversary. There will be events hosted by activist Korey Wise, one of the Central Park Five, who were wrongfully convicted of assault in New York City and spent years in prison before being exonerated. Events begin Thursday. Information on tickets can be found online.

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