Press Statement — ‘The Dean’ Congressman John Conyers Jr.

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Statement by Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, President, Detroit Branch NAACP

DETROIT (October 27, 2019) – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Today, we have lost a giant who helped to bend the inevitable arc towards justice for all.  Congressman John Conyers Jr., who will always be known as ‘The Dean’ has gone on to glory.  He has served 27 terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  One of the original founders of the Congressional Black Caucus, he will be laid to rest.  For many it is the passing of an illustrious and defining political era.  The nation has just celebrated the life of Congressman Elijah Cummings.  We must now turn another page reflecting upon the life of an icon who stood in the gap for freedom and justice.

John Conyers was more than just a Congressman.  He was the ‘Go to Guy.’  He served as the first African American Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.  Anyone who wanted to move issues dealing with labor, human rights, South African Apartheid, civil rights, women’s rights – even before the Me Too movement, federal judges on the bench or presidents in a pinch would see John Conyers.  He was the only politician ever to be endorsed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  He stood in the middle of the street calling for calm during Detroit’s most devastating rebellion in 1967.  He stood in the gap against President Richard Nixon, even making his famous enemies list.  He was not afraid of the Strom Thurmonds and the Jesse Helms.  He made us all proud as he stood with Dr. King in bringing forth the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  John Conyers never lost his commitment to justice and equality.  After the assassination of Dr. King in 1968, four days later he introduced the Martin L. King National Holiday Bill.  For 15 years he labored in the political vineyard to cultivate America’s first national holiday to honor an African American.  Many said it could not and would not be done.  John Conyers did it.  He stood in triumph and victory for this nation.  President Ronald Reagan not known for his kinship to civil rights, signed it into law in 1983. 

Whether it was fighting for Haitian refugees, fair housing, reform in our criminal justice system or national healthcare, John Conyers was always out front.  He had a tirelessness that often put younger and yet to be seasoned politicians to shame.  He was not afraid to stand alone in defense or in advocacy of policy and programs that uplifted the lives of people.  His office in Washington was a repository for assemblies of common people, strategy sessions for political allies, a comfort zone for those needing to refuel their political tanks and a rhythmic getaway for those jazz connoisseurs who just wanted to chill. 

He loved his family and wanted the best for each one of his children.  Perhaps in reviewing his life, from Northwestern High School to the halls of Congress, it lies rooted in the background of his own family.  His father, John Conyers Sr., was a labor leader.  Conyers said, “I was drawn to the struggle because my dad was a labor organizer for the UAW.”  His father was an organizer when it was illegal to be in the unions.  This obviously inspired Conyers to stand up and fight for the rights of others.  It is easy to see how the mother of the civil rights movement, Rosa Parks, found a home in his Detroit office.  John Conyers did not leave here trying to make a difference.  In 1989 he introduced “The Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act.”  This was only a bill to study, not to implement.  Conyers said in 2017, “Slavery is a blemish on this nation’s history and until it is formally addressed, our country’s story will remain marked by this blight.”  The words of former President Lyndon B. Johnson are worth remembering, “Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.”  John Conyers worked every day to make it a fact.

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Press Statement – In Memory of Congressman Elijah E. Cummings

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Statement by Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, President, Detroit Branch NAACP

DETROIT (October 18, 2019) – From the words of Congressman Elijah Cummings “From my own life experience, I can attest that we have come a long way toward universal justice in this country, but we are not there yet.” The nation has lost one of its foremost stalwarts for freedom and justice. For over fifty years, Cummings has been a voice for those often overlooked and most assuredly underrepresented.

The son of sharecroppers, he went on to Howard University and then to the University of Maryland School of Law. His passion for civil and human rights was fueled with intensity by a mother who witnessed blacks being denied the right to vote. At age 92, while on her death bed, she told him, “Don’t you dare let them take our votes away from us.” Congressman Cummings has been a voice and a fierce advocate to make certain that our votes would not be taken away. He served in the city of Baltimore as the first African American Speaker Pro-Tempore in the Maryland House of Delegates. He fought for the poor and championed the need for affordable health insurance and pharmaceutical drugs. This speaks to the very character of this gentle but forceful orator for justice. He called for justice in the death of Freddie Gray. He stood up for those in Flint, Michigan, where the water system had been poisoned due to the obvious failure and mismanagement in our own state government. Elijah Cummings even called for the resignation of former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in a public hearing that he chaired on Capitol Hill. As Chairman of the House Oversight Committee he challenged those in the Trump Administration to be held accountable for their policies on immigration, foreign affairs and election interference. He stood in the gap to guarantee checks and balances on elected officials at the highest levels of our national government. He indeed was one who battled for the very soul of our democracy.

As Pastor of Fellowship Chapel in Detroit, it was our pleasure in 2016 to have this civil rights icon to serve as the keynote speaker to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our church at its golden anniversary banquet. He spoke powerfully about the least of these and the promise of a nation to respect all of its people. All of his accolades reflect a great statesman and political leader. Yet the most memorable reflection of Cummings to many was his humility and kindness. This he extended to all people regardless of station or vocation. He was the same from the streets to the suites. He played no favorites, but he loved everyone with favor. Perhaps it lies in the words from his father who said, “The true test of a man is not what he does for himself but what he does to help others.” Certainly, if anyone is now ‘dancing with the angels’, as he said of those who stand up for democracy and freedom, it surely must be Elijah E. Cummings. Let us hope and pray that the angels can keep in step with such a noble master of the dance.

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Click here, Press Statement — In Memory of Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, to download the full statement.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters to Receive James Weldon Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award at 62nd Annual Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner

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Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA, 43rd District) will receive the Detroit Branch NAACP’s James Weldon Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award at the 62nd Annual Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner.  The Dinner will take place on Sunday, April 23, 2017 at 5 pm at Cobo Conference and Convention Center in Detroit.  In addition to honoring Congresswoman Waters, Jane C. Garcia, Board Chair, Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development (LASED) will receive the Ida B. Wells Freedom and Justice Award.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) will serve as this year’s Keynote speaker.  Additional honorees include Sally Yates, former U.S. Attorney General, who will receive the Mary Church Terrell Freedom and Justice Award; and Great Expectations Awardees — Angelique Peterson-Mayberry, Vice President, Detroit Public Schools Community District School Board and the Eastern Michigan University Black Student Union and NAACP Chapter.

There will also be a special tribute to women performed by the Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner Youth Entertainment Corp.  All women attendees to the 62nd Annual Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner are encouraged to wear white.

“We are excited to honor Congresswoman Waters with the James Weldon Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award,” says Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, President, Detroit Branch NAACP.  “Her career of public service has been dedicated to speaking truth to power and we applaud her for not backing down and continuing to be a much needed voice and advocate for all.  We are also please to uplift LASED Board Chair Jane Garcia.  She remains steadfast and vigilant in working for justice for our Latino brothers and sisters.  The place to be on Sunday April 23 is the 62nd Annual Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner to hear from this powerful line up speakers and awardees committed to freedom and justice.”

To purchase tickets, tables and sponsorships please call 313-871-2087 or click this link to download ticket forms — 62nd Annual Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner.