12 Jul 2012
- Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom
By Benjamin Todd Jealous
On July 4th, 1889, my great-great grandfather Burl Todd, who was born a slave, held his son Jerome Todd Sr. for the first time.
And just last week, I had the same incredible experience, cradling my newborn son Jackson, born on the 4th of July just like his ancestor before him.
I never met Jerome Todd Sr., but as I held Jackson I recalled a conversation with my grandfather, Jerome's son. He said his experiences as a black man in America had resigned him to the belief that our country would never love him as much as he loved it, no matter his dedication to America.
My heart ached for him, and swelled at the notion that my son could eventually feel the same way. For my grandfather, for Jackson, and for all our children we must work to ensure this does not happen.
I spoke at the 103rd NAACP Convention, days after the birth of my son, about the battles we have won and those we are currently fighting. Watch the speech at (http://action.naacp.org/Watch-my-Convention-speech); then help us win the fight for civil rights:
"Will the America Jackson grows up in allow him to realize his dreams?" That's the question I keep asking myself.
We are closer to an affirmative answer to that question than ever before. We've knocked down the death penalty in Connecticut, ended voter suppression in Michigan, and called for more money for higher education in Virginia. My grandfather would be proud of the America we are building for our next generation.
But he would also say it can't end here. We must win intense struggles for voting rights in South Carolina and Florida, continue to fight to close prisons in Virginia and Texas, and end the discriminatory "stop and frisk" practices that we marched silently against in New York City.
You and I will be paramount to success in the ongoing struggle for civil rights. What we do today, tomorrow, next month, and next year will determine how we speak to our grandchildren about growing up in America.
(Benjamin Todd Jealous is president and CEO of the NAACP.)