Civil rights advocates from Long Island branches of the NAACP on Monday called for a renewed commitment to diversity, and criticized a divisive national political climate they said affects efforts toward inclusion and equal rights in the region.
Nearly 20 officers and members of branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People came together on Presidents Day in Huntington Station to say the fight for justice remains an urgent matter, and announced the organization’s Long Island Regional Awards Luncheon scheduled for Saturday in Woodbury.
Some advocates were critical of President Donald Trump’s leadership, his statements on issues affecting minority communities and his restrictive immigration policies.
“Not only should Congress denounce the president’s statements, they should continue to support our history of inclusion and pass the Dream Act” that would grant legal status to young immigrants brought here as children, said William King Moss III, president of the Islip Town Branch of the NAACP.
Moss said his branch has reported 15 incidents of bias allegations to the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission in the past two months, which he said is a new phenomenon as more people are feeling discriminated against at a time of divisive political rhetoric and policies that do not prioritize diversity.
“This political environment has only increased our fight against injustices,” said the Rev. Larry Jennings, president of the NAACP’s Huntington Branch, particularly to counter those who feel “that they now have a free pass to be openly oppressive” against people of color.
Saturday’s luncheon to discuss those issues in the larger context of the national struggle for continued civil rights will start at noon at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, with about hundreds of people expected to attend, NAACP officials said.
The keynote speaker will be Rashad Robinson, a Long Island native who started his advocacy as a high school student in Riverhead and is now executive director of the Color of Change, a national organization advocating for racial justice.
Other members cited lack of representation in local government as a significant concern, referencing the recent appointments of 11 white men to town positions in Huntington and problems with access to other influential posts for African-Americans and other minority groups.
“We’d like to meet with those elected officials both here in Nassau and Suffolk to discuss these issues,” said Douglas Mayers, president of the Freeport-Roosevelt Branch of the NAACP. “You all see around the county executives nobody looking like us, but if we don’t vote they can’t win.”