MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — A popular Memorial Day parade faced backlash after the Greater Muskegon Memorial Day committee voted to ban political figures, candidates, parties and action groups from participating this year and, as a result, will not allow the local chapter of the NAACP to take part.
Parade Chair Steve Allen said the parade had trouble with candidates, politicians and political groups in years past. The committee felt the politics were drawing attention away from honoring the men and women who have served the country.
“They sometimes forget what it is. We are here to honor veterans. That’s our goal. Nothing else,” he said. “And sometimes, I’m not saying all groups, but some political groups make it more like a carnival event. And we found it unacceptable. We drew a line in the sand, my committee did, and we said … no more politics. No more political groups, no more politicians and no more representatives or political action groups.”
The NAACP Muskegon County Branch and the Democratic Black Caucus, which had participated previously, were told they no longer could due to the policy change.
“Obviously, the Democratic Black Caucus is political. That’s a given,” Allen said. “The NAACP, I did my due diligence when I received it, because I didn’t know what the NAACP was all about… I called up their mission statement and the first line said ‘political.’”
The NAACP’s mission statement states, “Our mission is to achieve equity, political rights, and social inclusion by advancing policies and practices that expand human and civil rights, eliminate discrimination, and accelerate the well-being, education, and economic security of Black people and all persons of color.”
NAACP Muskegon County Branch President Eric Hood told News 8 that the NAACP is not a political group.
“I think that’s (the committee’s) interpretation of what (they) may have read,” Hood said. “We are a civil rights organization. We are not a political organization.”
Hood said he was surprised the chapter’s invite for this year’s event was rescinded.
“I’m just going to read from our vision statement: ‘We envision an inclusive community rooted in liberation where all persons can exercise their civil and human rights without discrimination.’ That’s what we do. We’re not a political organization. We’re nonpartisan,” Hood said.
Allen said he offered Hood a chance to come before the committee to present his case. Hood did not confirm if he received such an invite.
“I got multiple calls from the mayor,” Allen said. “I also talked to Eric Hood, who is the president of the NAACP. I invited him to come to the meeting, if they’d like. They were welcome to come and discuss that. We had a meeting last Monday. The mayor called prior to the meeting, asking us to reconsider them. I put that on speakerphone so my entire committee could hear that. The NAACP did not show up to explain the political process. So the committee said it is what it is.”
“I respect the Greater Muskegon Memorial Day volunteer committee’s desire to depoliticize their parade, but I differ with their decision to exclude the local chapter of the NAACP, a national civil rights organization,” Muskegon Mayor Ken Johnson said in a statement. “I hope the committee will have a change of heart in its decision and instead welcome the NAACP chapter’s parade participation.”
Groups that are participating in the year’s parade include the VFW 446 Honor Guard, Muskegon County Public Health, Muskegon Maritime Academy, Operation Black Sheep and the American Red Cross. The parade starts at 9 a.m. Monday, May 29.