Each year the NAACP Westside Branch acknowledges the community, partners and members for their services. This year’s event was held Sept. 30 at the Bethel New Life banquet hall (1140 N. Lamon Ave.).

The committee members who organized this year’s event were Carolyn Hankins-Page, Loretta Kern, Joann Kern, Debra Kern, Joyce Hardaway, Thomarus Jackson, Carol Dorsey, Constance Jackson and Donovan Taylor.

Keynote speaker Rev. Greg Livingston’s focused on the “Journey Towards Empowerment,” telling the audience about some of his many travels in the past months and most recently going to New York City to attend President Clinton’s Global Initiative.*

“The Global Initiative was absolutely unbelievable. We made Bill Clinton possible. He said the “Little Rock Nine” and the NAACP moved him as a youngster in Arkansas. We made him possible. Last year, Ted Turner gave him a billion dollars; this year, the wealthy contributed large amounts. The richest man is no longer Bill Gates but the brother from Mexico-all of this is happening. We made all this possible-all of these incredible people who have achieved so much, Tony Blair and all these people who are espousing how we can change the world and what we have to do. Global warming and all these kinds of subjects.

“We leave there and go to Washington, D.C. for the Congressional Black Caucus meeting with our brothers and sisters, 43 in Congress, that’s the Senate and House of Representatives-435 altogether. But we have 43. When the NAACP started, how many did we have in Congress? I’m talking about after Reconstruction. If you don’t understand what you are involved in, where your roots are, you will end up on the bottom instead of standing on your foundation.”

Rev. Livingston said his group, which included Julian Bond, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Nelson Rivers, Dennis Hayes, and Marc Morial, ended up at the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, along with lawyers for the Jena 6. The issue before the department, he said, is ‘whether or not nooses are symbols of hate.’ The agency said nooses, swastikas and burning crosses are deplorable but they are not hate crimes.

“Here’s the thing,” Livingston told the audience. “It’s one thing to write the law; it’s another thing to enforce the law. With those who are in power, they may say, ‘I’m going to enforce the law,’ but then it becomes a question of when. I asked the acting head of the Civil Rights Division, ‘If nooses and swastikas and burning crosses are not symbols of hate, then what are the new symbols of hate?’

“Somewhere along the line I fell asleep; I missed out when nooses became “fun,” when swastikas and burning crosses were forms of entertainment. When did they lose their bitterness? When did they lose their vial and vitriolic substance? When did this happen? She just sat there and couldn’t say a word.”

Livingston also talked about how important it is that black folks stop fighting black folks, stop putting each other down. “In order to overcome evil,” he said, “you must have structure. Organizations like NAACP have infra-structure, organizations like the Urban League have infra-structure-now don’t get mad and angry because you feel like ‘they’ are not doing enough. We always ask people, who is ‘they?’ Who is ‘them?’ We are they, we are them. You want new leaders? Become a leader.

Livingston concluded by saying, “The journey to empowerment, ladies and gentlemen-what we are dealing with here when you have the acting chief of the Civil Rights Division saying nooses, swastikas and burning crosses are deplorable but not a hate crime, you have a structure in place that says this is how it is going to be.” Once we understand our structure and each person uses his/her own abilities, he urged, the journey to empowerment can be achieved.

The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), founded by former president Bill Clinton in 2005, is a non-partisan catalyst for action. It brings together a community of dedicated citizens to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.