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  • Writer's pictureVânia Penha-Lopes


In the early 20th century, more precisely on February 12, 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was born with the goal of combating the legal racial discrimination in vogue in the U.S. at the time, which not only obstructed the entry of Blacks on the job market, but also encouraged lynchings and the destruction of entire Black neighborhoods in an attempt to curtail a better quality of life for that population. The date was chosen in order to coincide with the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth (1809-1865), the president who had proclaimed Emancipation. Among its nine founders were illustrious figures such as W. E. B. Du Bois, the first person of African descent to get a Ph.D. in sociology at Harvard University; Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the journalist who risked her own life in order to document the frequent lynching of men, women, and children in the south; Archibald Grimke, who had overcome an enslaved past to become one of the first Black persons to graduate from Harvard University’s Law School, an orator, a diplomat, and a suffragist; Henry Moskowitz, a civil rights activist, whose involvement marked a historical collaboration between Blacks and Jews in the U.S.; journalists such as Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villard, and Charles Edward Russell; and William English Walling and Florence Kelley, both political reformists.

On July 17, 2022, the NAACP met for the 113th time, in Atlantic City, on the Jersey shore. The focus of the Convention was the need to build wealth among African Americans, whose ancestors toiled away at the fields, the mines, the railroads—in the building of the country—without getting nothing or very little for it, thus creating a deep economic gap that is felt to this day.

Steven Rodas, a reporter from // Star Ledger, interviewed me about the hurdles that Blacks face in their quest to acquire wealth. I mentioned “White flight” as one of those hurdles: “Research shows that whenever whites leave a neighborhood, or their proportion becomes very small, services go away... “There’s such a thing as ‘spatial discrimination’—businesses look at predominantly non-White neighborhoods, unless it’s Asian Americans, and think, ‘We’re not going to get return from them. So, let’s not invest.’” I added that “…talent needs to be recognized and nurtured. So, society ends up losing a lot because in these lower-income communities and discriminated racial ethnic groups, there are plenty of talented children who are never recognized. They never get the chance to develop their talent into something that will help all of us.”

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