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 — Governor William G. Milliken, A Gentle But Strong Political Leader

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

DETROIT (October 21, 2019) – “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” Ecclesiastes 3:1. No, I am not necessarily trying to go biblical, but I am trying to recall a more harmonious time of the political. Former Governor William Milliken served our state and the nation in a season that possessed not just the harsh and cold indifference of winter, where hearts and minds were frozen. He also served as a bit of sunshine. He had the ability to warm the heart and to cause a spring like birth of a different political discourse. He brought new life into an old game. As a teenager, when Governor Milliken took office, I didn’t always understand the nature of the political games. Yet, as an activist student I understood who was for our community and who was against it. Governor Milliken always impressed me as someone who was for the people and the city of Detroit.

It is indeed worth noting that two political giants have passed within one week of the other. Congressman Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore and Governor William Milliken of Michigan. One was a Democrat and the other was a Republican. One was the son of South Carolina sharecroppers (Cummings) whose parents were poor and according to him “not well educated but yet still brilliant.” The other was the son of northern Michiganders (Milliken) whose parents were wealthy. His father was a mayor and state senator from Traverse City. His mother was a member of the school board. She was the first elected woman to serve public office there. Both Milliken and Cummings reached beyond themselves to work with and to deliver for all of the people. It was not just about party. It was really about principle.

Click here — Press Statement — Governor William G. Milliken, A Gentle But Strong Political Leader — to read the statement in its entirety.

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.

Press Statement — The Laborers Are Worthy of Their Hire

The following press statement was issued by Detroit Branch NAACP President Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony.

DETROIT – On June 1, 2009, President Barack Obama said, “I also recognize the importance of a viable auto industry to the well being of families and communities across our industrial Midwest and across the United States. In the midst of a deep recession and financial crisis the collapse of these companies would have been devastating for countless Americans and done enormous damage to our economy beyond the auto industry. It was also clear that if GM and Chrysler remade and retooled themselves for the 21st century, it would be good for American workers, good for American manufacturing, and good for America’s economy.”

In short, the president indicated, “Our goal is to get GM back on its feet, take a hands-off approach and get out quickly.” As a result, this commitment, following an initial investment of $15 billion dollars and an additional investment of $30 billion dollars in General Motors, an investment that entitled American taxpayers to the ownership of 60% of the new GM. This was done because of the tremendous sacrifices made by American workers and their families across this nation. Well, General Motors today is back on its feet as of August 1, 2019. CNBC indicates the company reported revenues of $36.1 billion. Shares of GM rose more than 7% over that last 12 months and are up more than 21% since the beginning of the year. The original estimation of revenues was $35.98 billion vs. an achieved $36.1 billion. This is an indication of a company that is doing well and is in a position to  support, encourage and invest in the workers who have enabled it to achieve these goals.

Click here, The Laborers Are Worthy of Their Hire, to read the press statement in its entirety.

Back to School Stay In School

New Date, New Time and New Location!

Official Press Statement — What Do Blacks Want… I Mean Really?!

DETROIT (July 30, 2019) – A reporter asked me the other day in preparing for the Democratic Candidates Forum, what do black people want? It is not the first time I’ve been asked such a transparent question. Black and brown people are Americans, even though many don’t want to recognize that fact. We didn’t fall out of the sky like manna from heaven. Black folks, originally brought here on slave ships, have fought for and earned every right and privilege America has to offer. We are not some American aberration, nor are we a figment of American imagination. Quite frankly, we want the same damn thing that every other American wants.

Please click here to read the statement in its entirety — Official Press Statement — What Do Black Want … I Mean Really?!

Get On The Bus With Us!


The Detroit Branch NAACP will have a bus headed to Lansing for the Michigan State Conference NAACP and Michigan Legislative Black Caucus Statewide Legislative Summit.  

The bus will depart the Detroit Branch NAACP office at 7 a.m. on Tuesday June 11 and return at 6 p.m. If you would like to ride the bus please email your contact information to info@detroitnaacp.org.  

Just $10 secures your seat on the bus.  Please click here to reserve your seat today.