Kweisi Mfume, born Frizzel Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, represented that city in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1986 to 1996 and rose to become Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. On February 15, 1996, he stepped down to become President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Mfume gave his first major address in that position on July 13, 1997 at the organization’s eighty-eighth convention which took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That address appears below.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
I know its been a long morning. But some of the nights that we suffer through are longer than this. I pray today that those of you who are here who are white will understand the indignity that some of us feel as a result of racism, discrimination and preconceived stereotypes. And we pray that you will be just as indignant. I pray that those of you who are here today, no matter how small your number, who are Hispanic or Latino, Native American or Asian, that you will further understand as we do the need to embrace the concept of coalition even when some in your number and some in our number choose to go their separate ways. And I pray that those of you who are here who are of African ancestry understand as we must the real need to get beyond blame, to get beyond excuse and to once again start doing for ourselves.
Twenty-nine years ago, after two weeks of rioting and civil unrest, the Kerner Commission, appointed by Lyndon Baines Johnson, warned in its report that our nation was moving towards two societies-one black, one white, separate and unequal. How cynical can one be? America has always been two societies. The master-slave ontology and the doctrine of white supremacy which pre-existed before the republic was founded have made and kept this nation of two societies. That was not where we were headed; that was regrettably where we were then, and in many respects, where we are now.
This nation did not become hypocritical on the matter of race beginning with I997, for to speak