“Power, Justice, Freedom, VOTE!” are the themes resonating through Cincinnati this week as over 9000 participants converge on this southern Ohio city for the NAACP annual conference. The civil rights organization will celebrate its 100th birthday later this year.

Local NAACP leader Christopher Smitherman in greeting the delegates on Sunday spoke of continuing police violence against local residents and the use of tasers. The Cincinnati Inquirer reported he said he chapter is ‘incredibly concerned about the frequency of Tasing of our young men and women here.’ Cincinnati was the cite of rebellions of Black youth against police violence in the recent past. The local NAACP chapter has doubled its membership according to the address given by Julian Bond.

Bond, the veteran activist and NAACP chairman, while pointing to the success of the Obama campaign, scoffed at the idea of a post-racial America. “We know that Obama’s electoral success — even if he should win the ultimate prize — won’t signal an end to racial discrimination, but it does mark the high point of an interracial movement that dates back to the Underground Railroad,’ Bond said according to an AP story.

Bond pointed to the sharp positive and negatives racial contrasts of the campaign: “The country seems proud, and rightly so, that a candidate campaigning in cities where he could not have stayed in a hotel 40 years ago has won his party’s nomination for the nation’s highest office. But on the heels of Barack Obama’s clinching the nomination came the crude dissing of Michelle Obama as his “baby momma” and the suggestion by Ralph Nader that Obama “wants to talk white.” “Such is the complex rhythm of our nation’s racial dance.” he added.

The NAACP chairman’s militant address took sharp issue with the Bush administration, a critique which earned the NAACP an IRS investigation threatening its tax-exempt status: “In 2004, the Internal Revenue Service threatened to revoke the NAACP’s tax exempt status because I dared to criticize President Bush. During the civil rights movement, we sang songs to bolster our resolve. One of them said, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.” Well, we ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around, including the IRS, and the NAACP will continue to speak truth to power until this administration leaves town.”

‘President Bush said he wanted to be a uniter,’ Bond continued. ‘It took him seven years, but boy has he succeeded. He has united Americans around a desire to change.”

The NAACP elder statesmen also took pains to single out continuing economic and social disparities: “Today we live in a nation where the top one percent has more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. And where black families’ median net worth is only 14.6 percent of white families’.” he argued. “The fragility of middle class life for black Americans is illustrated by their downward mobility. Nearly half of blacks born into the middle class 40 years ago have descended into poverty or near poverty as adults compared to only 16 percent of whites. “

The five-day long conference, began with workshops on Black women’s health and will have sessions on a variety of subjects ranging from Darfur, integrating returning veterans, the future of the Supreme Court and challenging voter identification laws among others. Attendees will also hear from presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. The Democrat will speak Monday night.

Sunday’s plenary also heard an important address from a New York Deputy mayor, speaking on behalf of Mayor Bloomberg calling for a change in federal poverty guidelines. “The current measure,”writes Keith B Richburg of the Washington Post, “in use since 1969, is based primarily on how much of an individual or household’s pretax income is spent on food.” The new proposal based on a 1995 recommendation of the National Academy of Sciences, includes rent, health costs, transportation and other necessary costs.” “The current federal measures show New York City with a poverty rate of 18.9 percent. But the new measure shows that the rate is 23 percent,” said Richburg.

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