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Because the nation continues to cope with the aftermath of the racially charged demonstration and violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Va., two weeks in the past, leaders from the nationwide and state NAACP stated it’s necessary to concentrate on each coverage and symbolism.

Talking Thursday in the course of the first cease of the NAACP’s listening tour in Detroit, the Rev. Wendell Anthony, the president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, stated, “We’ve to watch out that we not permit symbolism to override substance. Proper now, we’re targeted on bringing the statues down. Let’s be very clear, the Confederacy fought towards the rights of black people to be free. That’s who they have been.

“But when we take down statues however depart up the insurance policies, we nonetheless haven’t carried out our job,” he added.

Extra: NAACP releases report on charter schools, cites Detroit and Michigan

The organization, dedicated to equal rights for all and the elimination of race-based discrimination, decided to embark on a listening tour of major cities around the nation in the wake of a political divide that’s widened in the last year.

The Rev. Kenneth Flowers, pastor of the Greater New Mt. Moriah Baptist Church where the listening tour was held, said Detroit was an appropriate place for the tour to begin.

“Fifty years ago, there was an unrest in this city. It was not a riot. The black folks stood up because they were tired of being mistreated,” he said. “Now 50 years later, we kick off this tour because there is someone at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., who makes it morally right for us to keep on standing because he wants to turn back the hands of time.” 

More: Elizabeth Warren to NAACP: We will not just persist, we’ll overcome

Beginning in Detroit, the NAACP wants to develop its strategy to continue fighting income inequality, police brutality and efforts to suppress the vote.

The latest racially charged demonstrations in Charlottesville, in which a white supremacists rally erupted into violence resulting in the death of three people and injuries to 19 more who were protesting the rally, only highlighted the need for a coordinated response from the NAACP, said Leon Russell, chairman of the board.

President Donald Trump’s response to the events in Charlottesville came in for pointed criticism from the NAACP leaders.

“We have to work to defeat racism in this country. We’ve got to work on people’s hearts,” Russell said. “The new administration (in Washington) lifted the carpet and gave permission for folks to express themselves. Well, that now gives us permission to push that back down.”

Members of the audience — about 75 in Detroit and more watching on Facebook — wondered what the best way would be to push back against the more visible racism across the country.

Derrick Johnson, interim president of the NAACP, said it’s time to organize for the 2018 election cycle.

“You want to stop Trump, get control of Congress. Get control of the Senate,” he said. “Next year’s election will determine if we’re forced into a constitutional convention where they can redefine the very document that governs us.”

And Anthony said, it’s time for people to actually vote.

“There are states right now that are introducing bills to eliminate people from the voting rolls who haven’t voted in the last three election cycles,” he said. “That’s a methodology to suppress the vote, and we can’t allow that to occur.”

The listening tour will go to other cities with the next stop in San Antonio, Texas, in September.

Contact Kathleen Gray: 313-223-4430 or kgray99@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @michpoligal.

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