Thursday, April 15, 2010


BALTIMORE, MD – The NAACP family is deeply saddened by the passing of Executive Director and CEO Emeritus Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks. Dr. Benjamin Hooks served as Executive Director and CEO of the NAACP from 1977-1992.

“Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks was among the greatest Americans of the 20th Century. He was a giant of hope and humanity who, as Executive Director and CEO of the NAACP, expanded the circle of opportunity in our nation for millions by greatly accelerating the desegregation of our largest corporations. He was a crusading lawyer—the first Black judge in Tennessee since Reconstruction— who confronted Southern Justice on behalf of the down trodden and oppressed. He was a courageous and committed preacher of the Word who, as chairman of the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights, insisted that our nation acknowledge and respect the dignity of all Americans regardless of race and ethnicity, as well as gender and sexual orientation. He was a great organizer, communicator, and mentor to legions of young leaders who continue to define our nation today. He was simply the greatest living person to have served as Executive Director and CEO of the NAACP. We will miss him dearly” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.

“The NAACP is deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks. Dr. Hooks led this organization to new heights, and we will continue to honor his legacy by fighting on, in his words with truth, justice and righteousness on our side,” stated NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock. “Not only was Dr. Hooks the NAACP Executive Director and CEO Emeritus but he was a civil rights icon and my mentor and personal friend. He taught me to stand up for what I believe in; even in the face of adversity, and that the struggle for civil and human rights for all Americans never ends. Dr. Hooks was a giant in the civil rights movement, in the NAACP and in my life, it is in his memory and the memory of all the other civil rights soldiers who have passed that I will lead the NAACP into the second century,” concluded Brock.

“Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks was a dynamic NAACP CEO who lifted the organization and by force of personality gave it a heightened presence on the national scene. He performed my wedding ceremony to my wife Pam and was a stalwart advisor during my tenure as Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors. Dr. Hooks will be much missed,” stated Chairman Emeritus Julian Bond.

NAACP Chairman Emeritus Myrlie Evers-Williams added: “I am deeply saddened by the loss of my personal friend and one of America’s most outstanding civil rights leaders Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks. Dr. Hooks was one of the strongest supporters of my husband Medgar Evers, and a strong supporter of mine during my three years as Chairman of the Board. He was a trusted advisor and never ceased to share his wisdom on pressing issues of the day. He welcomed the involvement of all people in the NAACP and the civil rights movement. I know that his spirit will remain with us as we move forward in the struggle for justice and equality.”

“The NAACP and the Civil Rights movement lost a giant today. Dr. Hooks was a man who broke down racial barriers throughout his entire life, and dedicated his personal and professional life to the struggle for all people of color. I had the pleasure of serving as National President of the NAACP while Dr. Hooks was Executive Director and CEO. He worked tirelessly to ensure that all Americans were treated equally and righteously, he inspired everyone he spoke to and dealt with. Without a leader like Dr. Hooks we would not have the generation of leaders we have today, Chairman Roslyn Brock and President and CEO Jealous. Dr. Hooks will be missed terribly,” stated NAACP New York State Conference President Hazel N. Dukes.

Hooks was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1925. He graduated from Howard University in 1944 and then joined the army shortly thereafter where he earned the rank of staff sergeant. After completing his army duty, Dr. Hooks enrolled in DePaul University College of Law after no Tennessee law school would admit him. Upon receiving his law degree, Hooks returned to Memphis to practice law and he joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1965 he became Tennessee’s first black criminal court judge and in 1972 Richard Nixon appointed him to be one of the five commissioners of the FCC. On November 6, 1976, the NAACP Board of Directors elected Hooks as Executive Director where he served until 1992.

Dr. Hooks spoke at the NAACP’s Centennial Convention in New York last July and left the NAACP with words to live by: “Let’s fight on until justice runs down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream. Let’s fight on until there is no down-sizing, until there is no glass ceiling. Let’s fight on until God shall gather the four winds of heaven; until the angel shall plant one foot on the sea and the other on dry land and declare that the time that has been will be no more. Fight on, until the lion shall lie down with the lamb. Fight on, until justice, righteousness, hopes equality and opportunity is the birthright of all Americans.”

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Wanna Send Your 4th Grader to Prison? Its easy, don’t vote today and let someone else think for you.

So is little Johnny going to leave the playground for the prison yard? It is a serious question. Growing bodies of research indicate that we can use demographic information to determine who will be going to prison and in some cases the graveyard.

It is scary to consider the lost potential held inside prison walls, and what about the money it takes to keep a person in prison verses the cost and long term benefit of a quality education? It ought to be a crime to recognize when you have a set of circumstances that encourages poverty, prison and death and still do nothing to stop it. Make a difference by improving education in Jefferson City. Vote today in the school board election and for the other ballot issues. Get information on voting here.

What can we do?

There is a one hit fix – care. That’s advice to all of us – care.

For example, look at the fight going on in Kansas City over their school board. Some may say that Kansas City and St. Louis are worlds away, but our issues and problems are the same in two regards: 1) there are low performing schools in both districts that according to the research will send our kids to prison, the graveyard and other potentially as detrimental circumstances that we as the citizenry can stop; and 2) we need leaders here like those across the country, who have heard the call for improvement in our schools and are willing to lead that challenge.

As an example, Airick Leonard West has single handedly (as a leader responding to his constituent's concerns) pushed Kansas City School Board to make changes not only in the way they manage resources and people, but also in the way school children are taught. Longer school days packed with hard core information as opposed to PE all day, closing schools that are not working financially and updating the traditional thought about what kids who suffer from a failing system need to survive. His work shows that he cares about more than being on the school board, he wants sustained improvement and has committed himself to one term to get it done.

Of course leadership in these trying times demands courage and intellect. Jefferson City needs the willingness to discuss intelligent ideas backed by research. Jefferson City deserves an informed and caring school board. We can have that through the engagement of parents and concerned community members.

The issues are in plain sight.

Current data available at DESE suggests that Jefferson City needs to take a hard look at how it is doing the business of education. The state's data suggests that schools working with parents can serve our kids by preparing them for the challenges that are coming tomorrow. We can see those challenges today and have an obligation to improve the system. Some of the problems are being fleshed out by the school district even now - improving school buildings, implementing efficiency measures, asking more from students, and increasing expectations inside and out of the classroom. The first step is easy - vote today. Then either join the PTA, the NAACP, or on your own, get involved in schools in your area as a concerned partner, parent and taxpayer.

We can do better.

Want an example of the impact research can have on a discussion? Children are ready to learn and best able to do so before they have traditionally been included in the school setting - before age 5. Early childhood education is the best idea we have had in jefferson City in years. Where has it been? I don't know, but it is based on research as deep as the Missouri river that says "teach em young" and they do better. It will have long ranging implications for the development of the community we live in and the productivity of workers in Mid-Missouri. Caring and smart administrators and teachers are attempting to offer our children better opportunities. These efforts have a better chance of diminishing the prison population than the 'hard on crime' platitudes have had. Those efforts ought to be applauded and we can do that with our vote today.

We the NAACP are here and prepared to have that conversation after today's election. Will you join us in that conversation?

Wondering who to vote for?

In case you missed it, the Jefferson City NAACP in conjunction with Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., held a Community Wide School Board Forum last month. Members of the community asked the questions that day. Please watch the forum - it ought to be on the website anytime now - or email and the file can be sent to you at no charge. You can also visit the websites of the candidates for more information.

Join in the effort to make the schools and thereby the community a better place – join the NAACP; vote; and make a difference.

Vote for your choice of candidate and make the commitment to look seriously at the issues we have in Jefferson City even after the election. CARE enough to save a child from prison or worse.