The NAACP’s national president is slated to give the keynote speech at a special luncheon this month, local NAACP leaders said Monday while highlighting the group’s advocacy for criminal justice reforms and greater police accountability measures.
Cornell William Brooks, president and chief executive of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation’s oldest civil rights group, is to appear at the 11th Long Island Region of NAACP Branches’ luncheon on Feb. 27 at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
William King Moss III, president of the Islip Town NAACP branch and spokesman for the event, said in an interview that it will be Brooks’ first time attending the regional group’s luncheon, and will mark only the second time an NAACP national president has appeared. Benjamin Jealous attended in 2012, officials said.
Brooks, 55, described on the NAACP’s web page as an attorney, activist, pastor and a former congressional candidate, became NAACP chief executive in 2014. Prior to that appointment, he was president and chief executive of the Newark-based New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
The luncheon is expected to attract 700 members and guests, said Douglas Mayers, one of two co-chairs of the Long Island Regional NAACP and president of the Freeport-Roosevelt NAACP branch.
Mayers and other local NAACP leaders, flanked by two dozen members from some of the Island’s nine NAACP branches, outlined the group’s concerns at a news conference at the Huntington Opportunity Resource Center in Huntington Station.
Dolores “Dee” Thompson, co-chair of the Long Island Regional branch and president emeritus of the Huntington branch, said the NAACP advocates “banning the box,” a reference to job or other applications that require people to say whether they have ever been convicted of a crime. That, said Thompson, “labels people as lifetime criminals” and does not take into account that “people can and do change.”
Thompson added, “We stand for raising the age of criminality so that no one’s child is charged as an adult.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has proposed changing the age at which someone can face criminal charges as an adult from 16 to 18.
Mayers called for formation of a civilian complaint review board in Nassau and Suffolk counties to assess controversial police interactions with the public, citing several instances nationwide in which police have killed unarmed black men and teenagers.
Mayers also pointed to the arrest of former Suffolk Police Chief of Department James Burke as a local case that he said is of concern, though it did not involve a black victim. Burke was arrested in December on federal charges that he masterminded a cover-up after beating a handcuffed prisoner who had stolen a duffel bag from Burke’s department SUV. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.
“People think the NAACP is only for black folks,” Mayers said. “That’s the furthest thing from the truth. If anyone’s liberty is impeded on, all people’s liberties are impeded on.”