The second 100 years

The Baltimore Sun

A century's worth of struggle, action and reward should be acknowledged and praised. The NAACP's centennial is a reason to celebrate the past and to lay the groundwork for the next phase of America's oldest civil rights organization. The inequities that led to the group's founding have been resolved through legal challenges and the hard work of its members. But not all is equal in today's America. A lack of opportunity persists for many African-Americans, and the disparities prevalent in America's public schools attest to the need for a vibrant and vital NAACP.

The organization, with its deep roots in Baltimore, has a young president at its helm who honors the legacy of those who came before him and recognizes the challenges ahead. Benjamin Jealous represents a new generation of African-American leaders who, with the guidance of the group's most ardent supporters, have the potential to retool the organization for the 21st century. It may require a new recruitment strategy and the technology to advance it. But there's a renewed spirit of activism and service in the country today, spurred in part by the election of President Barack Obama, and it's that energy that the NAACP should harness to revitalize its mission.

In a new report, Mr. Jealous proposes a legislative goal to outlaw predatory lending because of the impact the housing and foreclosure crisis has had on African-Americans. He also takes aim at racial profiling, employment discrimination and the preponderance of blacks imprisoned today.

But NAACP officials also should seek out partnerships with Rock the Vote and other grass-roots movements. They should join forces in pursuit of a new project around education funding and workforce development, a campaign that would generate fresh interest in the civil rights group.

The NAACP's history is impressive, and so must be its future.

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