NAACP leader challenges state members, residents during talk about attack on voters’ rights
BY JAMES HARPER
“Somebody ought to say something” was repeated over and over again by the Rev. Nelson B. Rivers during a public meeting on Sept. 20 during the state convention of the Florida NAACP.
Rivers was the main speaker at the opening night session for the Florida State Conference of the NAACP held at Allen Chapel AME Church in Daytona Beach.
Rivers, pastor of Charity Missionary Baptist Church, in North Charleston, S.C., also serves on the NAACP’s national board as the vice president of Stakeholder Relations.
He was introduced by Leon Russell, vice chair of the national NAACP’s board of directors.
“My task is to introduce my friend. He found the Lord and the NAACP. I don’t know which came first. If you are in the NAACP, you will find the Lord,” Russell said to laughter.
“We are not going to let anyone turn us around,” Russell added.
Russell was referring to elected officials who have passed laws in their states the NAACP believes are aimed at suppressing the Black vote in the upcoming general election.
Nelson picked right up where Russell left off.
“This is not about voter fraud. They don’t want folks who voted the last time (for President Barack Obama) to vote this time. I’m not going to let you lie about it and say it was fraud,” Rivers said, directing his comments to anyone listening whom he thought was working to suppress votes.
Rivers said God put someone who “looks like me’’ in the most powerful job in the world.
“I get mad for him. The angrier I get, the cooler he gets,” Rivers said, adding that he met has met the president on several occasions and that his daughter is currently working for him at the White House.
“I heard him (Obama) pray. He does know something. He has a relationship with somebody,” he continued.
Rivers said he really gets agitated when he hears Republicans talking about taking their country back.
“Take back the country from whom. How do you take something back you stole,” Rivers inquired, saying Europeans took the land from Native Americans.
‘Been there. Done this’
Rivers argued that Republicans are now trying to take something from Blacks and Hispanics.
“Stealing the right to vote in broad daylight and bragging while you did it. Somebody ought to say something,” declared Rivers.
“We knew it (struggle) would never be easy. Did not know we would have to dig the same well, fighting for voting rights,” he said.
“Everytime we have been on the verge of great change, somebody’s always trying to push us back.
Been there, done this. Justice will prevail. We are going to vote like nobody’s business. Can’t stop the Lord’s work no matter how hard you try,” Rivers implored.
Stern words for clergy
Rivers had his strongest comments for his fellow clergy and members of their churches.
“There is need for all people to come together. This is such a time.
Can talk and walk in faith. (There are) those who lead, stand in the pulpit and say not a mumbling word,” he said.
“Our job is to speak. If they don’t hear our voice, whose voice will they hear?” Rivers asked.
Rivers said the elite and powerful are taking advantage and making fun of the poor.
“Injustice must be dealt with and addressed by the church,” he said.
Rivers said now is the time for Blacks to make a difference.
He reminded those in attendance that it was 49 years ago this month, Sunday, Sept. 15, 1963 at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Ala., that four little girls were killed because of a bomb at a Black church.
“Killed them to stop people from voting. Register to vote. If the church is afraid, our community is in trouble,” Rivers remarked.
State NAACP praised
Rivers praised the Florida NAACP for the work it has done speaking up and continuing to register people to vote in spite of new laws that are making it more difficult to do so.
“God bless … the Florida NAACP. The NAACP kept registering while others quit,” he noted.
Daytona Beach NAACP President Cynthia Slater said it was an honor to serve as host branch.
“We are working to equip our delegates to fight back against attacks on voters’ rights,” said Slater.
“Delegates will leave energized and ready to work and increase minority voters,” she concluded.
Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida NAACP, said she likes coming to Daytona Beach for the state convention because of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, the founder of Bethune-Cookman University, and the opportunity to hear the B-CU Concert Chorale.
“Mary McLeod Bethune belongs to Daytona Beach, the world and NAACP. She was vice president of our board. She left a legacy for us to follow,” said Nweze.
Nweze said one of the main purposes of the convention this year was the election in November.
“We got to take another step – getting ready for that last step here in Daytona Beach,” she said.
“We’re going to insure justice is carried out on Nov. 6. Don’t worry about what pundits say. Worry about what we do,” concluded Nweze.
The remaining activities, workshops, panel discussions took place at the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort, culminating with a Freedom Fund Banquet and awards program Saturday night.