Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog
The Year In Review—
It’s that time of year again. As we prepare to begin 2011, many of us take a moment to pause and reflect on the year that was. We assess the victories, setbacks and all that transpired in between. We here at National Action Network couldn’t be more proud of our accomplishments; not for the sheer purpose of boasting, but because we were successfully able to effect change and continue the advancement of social justice. Here’s a brief look back at our 2010.
Early in the year, on a blistery afternoon, I had the unique opportunity of sitting down with President Obama as he welcomed myself, Marc Morial of the National Urban League and Benjamin Jealous of the NAACP for a rare and crucial meeting on the catastrophic unemployment numbers among Blacks and Latinos. During the springtime, we built on this commitment for uplifting others as we conducted our annual NAN conference and held a forum titled ‘Measuring the Movement: Black Leadership’s 12-month Action Plan’. A nationally coordinated effort designed to strategically tackle challenges impacting communities of color, this unprecedented program held everyone accountable to take real action towards improving conditions on the ground in cities and towns across this nation.
2010 unequivocally presented us with a host of grave challenges. In addition to ongoing wars and a consistently declining economy, we witnessed the regressive and adverse behavior of certain elected officials who attempted to set us all decades back. In the state of Arizona, an immigration bill that amounted to racial profiling against Latinos and others nearly became law. Almost as quickly as the rhetoric of hatred began spewing from Arizona and its governor, we organized a massive rally, bused countless freedom walkers to the region and were prepared to go to jail in order to protest this anti-American legislation. And thankfully, we were successful. The bill has been unable to come to fruition and the Federal government has since intervened to investigate its legality.
Throughout 2010, NAN remained committed to our ongoing pledge of pushing for policy and social change. Supporting and campaigning for the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, we stood alongside our President as he faced intense opposition from both sides of the aisle. And most recently, when Obama again came under the toughest criticism from Republicans, Democrats and Independents on the issue of a tax bill, we candidly supported him on an extension of unemployment benefits and tax cuts for the middleclass from day one – and we never hindered from that position no matter what the political climate.
This year, NAN continued to work with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in the ‘Race to the Top’ program that aimed to help our neglected and struggling schools. In an effort to keep citizens involved in the political process, we conducted targeted non-partisan voter registration and turnout drives in conjunction with labor unions in five states. And maintaining our dedication to combat police brutality, we fought cases nationwide from Indiana to Atlanta. Included in our battle for justice, we persisted in the fight to stop the execution of Troy Davis – on death row for allegedly shooting a police officer, despite witnesses now recanting their testimony.
For those seeking progress, 2010 was a somewhat disturbing, yet pivotal year as self-anointed conservative leaders attempted to hijack the dream of our greatest civil rights champion, Martin Luther King Jr. On the 47th anniversary of MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream Speech’ NAN conducted a successful ‘Reclaim the Dream’ rally that showcased the proper legacy and message of this selfless American hero. Not only did we prove Glenn Beck to be a self-aggrandizing individual with no respect for tradition and history, but more importantly, we maintained the focus on Aug. 28th towards MLK and his message of increasing government involvement in order to end the strains of institutional racism.
This year, NAN also kicked off a Madison Ave. initiative that finally forced corporations to begin advertising with those whose buying power has been largely undervalued and ignored thus far, and we established a historic gun buyback program at our headquarters in NY. And most recently, we (along with the NAACP & the National Urban League) signed a groundbreaking agreement with Comcast and NBC Universal to expand current diversity initiatives in the areas of programming, employment, investment and more.
Last month we held our 1st annual Triumph Awards honoring those in arts, entertainment, politics and media who remain dedicated to improving and uplifting their communities. As folks like John Legend, Phylicia Rashad, Cathie Hughes, Governor Paterson and others accepted their respective awards, the focus was on our collective success through the years and on a commitment to continue pushing forward. The Triumph Awards best encapsulates NAN’s year in 2010: we have accomplished much, but much work remains. If this year is any indication of things to come however, those who stand in the way of progress should be very afraid – for we’re just getting started.