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  • 7 Jul 2020 12:27 PM | Communications Committee (Administrator)

    Contact the Educational Equity Committee at education@duluthnaacp.orgThe Duluth NAACP supports youth in our community who advocate on issues relevant to them. Recently, a group of young people in Duluth created and circulated a petition calling for the removal of School Resource Officers (SROs) from their schools and demanding that “Duluth Public Schools (DPS) cut all ties with the Duluth Police Department (DPD) and other punitive law enforcement bodies.” At the time this statement was written, the petition maintained over 1000 signatures, with over half from current and former students, current and former school district staff, and parents and caregivers. The Duluth NAACP supports this petition and is dedicated to working toward alternative solutions to support students in the schools without the use of law enforcement personnel.

    Additionally, the Duluth NAACP finds it troubling that amidst a time of great social unrest surrounding policing and racial justice, the ISD709 Board is considering the renewal of its contract with DPD without proactively gathering input from all community stakeholders, or even honoring requests by community stakeholders to formally present their perspectives to the Board. Thus, the Duluth NAACP requests that discussion regarding the renewal of the ISD709 contract with DPD be tabled until the Board has developed a process to gather sufficient input from community stakeholders, and particularly students and families of color who are most negatively impacted by police and law enforcement in the schools. The district’s Tool for Equity Accountability seems relevant to this discussion.

    Whereas, the Duluth NAACP recognizes that some Duluth SROs can work effectively in schools; and yet, placing officers in schools contributes to structural inequalities that create potential and actual negative impacts for students; and

    Whereas, policing and police in the schools echoes a long history of targeted and inequitable treatment of communities of color; and

    Whereas, the Duluth NAACP has historically taken a stand opposing SROs in schools, and supports alternative support and accountability measures for students and staff; and

    Whereas, fully examining what students are asking for in their petition regarding SROs in ISD709 supports the Minnesota Commitments to Equity pledged by ISD709, particularly #9: Improve Conditions for learning and #10: Give Students Options; and

    Whereas, tabling the renewal of the ISD709 contract with DPD until sufficient input has been gathered from community stakeholders honors the ISD709 commitment to education equity;

    Therefore, be it resolved: The Duluth NAACP hereby calls on ISD709 to assess the impacted communities' experience of, and perspective on the SRO program and seriously consider structural changes -including elimination of the program, in order to better serve students with culturally responsive, trauma-informed support personnel.

  • 25 Jun 2020 2:58 PM | Communications Committee (Administrator)

    Juneteenth this year overlapped with the youth-led Northern March for George Floyd & Peaceful Protest. We saw that as a community we need to find a balance with supporting the work of our young leaders and acknowledging this human crisis of racism is retraumatizing for many. We realize these protests and events like Juneteenth are not one day a year things - but every day - for hundreds of years.

    We realized we need to honor not only the work and commitment to anti-racism initiatives but also the indomitable spirit, enduring cultural legacy, and deep-rooted strength that has uplifted us and given us the inner light we need to shed light on so much darkness.

    With that in mind we have created this slide show that Celebrates the spirit of our resiliency.

    Photos by Ivy Vainio and Kym Young
    Music and Voiceovers:
    "Lift Every Voice and Sing"
    An Excerpt of Malcolm X
    Maya Angelou
    Nina Simone - "Feeling Good"
    Martin Luther King, Jr - "I Have a Dream"

    Video created by Allsoum Inc

  • 4 Jun 2020 5:01 PM | Communications Committee (Administrator)

    Black lives matter.

    While these words weren’t used 100 years ago at the founding of the Duluth Branch of the NAACP, the meaning was there. The branch started in the wake of the deaths of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie. These young, unarmed, and innocent Black men were murdered by a mob of White people as Duluth police officers watched. So, addressing police brutality and complicity in the death of Black people has been part of the Duluth NAACP’s mission from its inception. Today, responding to George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer and the ensuing protests, the NAACP has perspectives that our communities need to hear.

    Honoring George Floyd requires dismantling systems of White supremacy. We are not speaking of the Ku Klux Klan here. Instead, it is about systems that center Whiteness and don’t openly confront anti-Blackness. It is about a police culture that allows an officer to kneel on the neck of an unarmed man while three other officers stand by and do not challenge his breaking police protocol. Our culture has historically and continuously devalues people of African heritage and teaches others to fear Blackness. Because of this, we cannot trust the institutions that are supposed to keep us safe. As individuals and an organization, we have worked with police chiefs and departments to make changes. Still, far too many people, particularly Black people, have the legitimate fear that any encounter with the police could go terribly wrong and their name might be added to far too long a list of those who have died at the hands of police.

    Addressing police brutality has been an issue at the heart of the NAACP’s mission. It is our duty to protest injustice. To be clear, the NAACP supports people in the protest of this injustice in ways that also strive to limit the transmission of COVID-19. While the NAACP advocates peaceful protest, we recognize that Black lives have more value than property that can be replaced. In addition, we need to challenge the simplistic narrative that people in Minneapolis are burning their own communities down. While it is hard to get confirmed information, there have been many reports of young white men dressed in all Black coming in to break windows and start fires. Much of the actual physical destruction of property might be instigated by White people who are not actually aligned with the protests for stopping police brutality. While we don’t know what their motives are, we do know that they are not listening to the leaders in the local communities who are asking to keep the focus on holding police accountable and transforming other oppressive systems. The Minneapolis NAACP created the Minnesota Freedom Riders program to provide rides for people to protests, help spread accurate information, and to protect Black cultural heritage sites.

    While led by people of African heritage, the NAACP values alliances and relationships. Our membership is diverse. For people of all backgrounds who want to lend their support, we welcome you. Also consider donating to the Minneapolis NAACP. They can use all possible support as they bring resources and support to the communities who have been most affected by events of the past week. For White people, we encourage you to join SURJ - a collection of White people who are learning and working to be allies with communities of color. This is a great space to come in and learn how to do this important, challenging, and rewarding work.

    In this time of turmoil, we need to turn our passion into action. The national NAACP is calling for a variety of actions including sweeping police reform and for the United Nations to classify the mistreatment of Black people in the U.S. by police as a human rights violation. The Minneapolis branch is calling for reforms with that city's policing, as well as how cases of police brutality are investigated. You can support their policy initiatives as well with emails and phone calls and their on-the ground support with money. (Check duluthnaacp.org/news for more details.)

    We know that this work requires a long-term investment. The Duluth Branch has been at it for a century. We ask you to stay committed to working for change in the weeks, and months, and years to come. It matters if people are paying attention when city councils consider new policies. It matters if people are paying attention when officers are charged and when the location of the trial is decided. A clear case of police brutality in Duluth resulted in a not guilty verdict after the trial was moved to Pine County. Our outrage now isn’t enough. We need to have the staying power to be in this struggle for the long-term to lead to real change - and not just let this be another cycle in which a Black person dies, the community protests, and things go back to the way they were.

    Black lives matter. We shouldn’t need to say this, but we still do. Please join us in the fight to transform our community and state so that the value of Black life is evident everywhere - making the phrase no longer necessary.

    The Executive Committee
    Duluth Branch of the NAACP

    Open a pdf of this statement

  • 27 May 2020 3:54 PM | Communications Committee (Administrator)

    “An event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak, and impossible to remain silent.”
    -Edmond Burke/Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial

    On May 25, George Floyd was murdered by members of the Minneapolis Police Department. In a video, Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s neck while he repeated “I can’t breathe!” until he lost consciousness. Community members can be heard pleading with the officers to check Mr. Floyd’s pulse, but Officer Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck and no other officers at the scene intervened.

    The terror of race-based violence and the refusal by police to protect Black people has deep roots in Minnesota. Nearly 100 years ago, Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie were unjustly lynched by a mob of white Duluthians. These men were accused of raping a white woman (a physical examination by a doctor showed no signs of rape or assault) and were being held in the jail when a mob gathered outside. Police were ordered by the Commissioner of Public Safety not to use their weapons, so the mob easily broke in, held a mock trial, and dragged the men to the intersection of First St and Second Ave E, where they beat and lynched the three men.

    The officers at the site of George Floyd’s death have been fired. It is good that these officers’ actions have been condemned. But whether violent acts like these are condemned or condoned, as long as they continue, our community is not safe. Firing the officers will not bring back George Floyd. Denouncing racism will not reunite George Floyd, Philando Castile, Jamar Clark, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Stephon Clark, Terence Crutcher, Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, or Isaac McGhie with their loved ones. Justice is more than that: it requires that we create a world where all people can live knowing that their death won’t come prematurely because of the color of their skin. No arrest should end in death.

    To our neighbors of African-heritage:
    We love you. We see you. We are grateful for you for all the ways you contribute to our community. You are an asset to Duluth and an important part of the past, present, and future of our community. Take care and pay attention to what you need right now. Ask for help if you need it. We are here if you want to reach out.

    To our white neighbors:
    Watch the video of George Floyd’s death. It is hard to watch, but it is important for white people to understand the ugliness of racism, the reality of anti-Blackness, and the terror of white supremacy. As you watch, consider all the ways any one of the officers could have stepped in to stop what was happening. Notice how they didn’t. Ask yourself if there are meaningful ways you have stepped in to change our culture that allows this to happen. Notice if you haven’t. Challenge yourself to incorporate anti-racist action in your daily life. Educate yourself, and then educate your family and friends about the daily realities of racism in our community. Support organizations in the Twin Ports that are engaged in combating racial inequity by volunteering or making regular donations. Use your power or position to craft and champion anti-racist policies, even if it is hard-- especially if it is hard. Support your friends and neighbors of color in this time of grief.


    To take action:

    1. Join the NAACP. Many folks are asking what they can do and how they can help, start here. Support local organizers and activists with a membership. If you are already a member, give a donation to support our efforts. And please join a committee and share your time with us! 
    2. Attend protests if you feel safe to do so, being sure to wear face masks and stay physically distant from others. We understand folks have a wide range of emotions surrounding this issue and protests are a good way to connect with the community around an issue you care about.
    3. Light a candle at the time of George Floyd's death (9:25pm Central Time) on Friday, May 29th. Have a moment of silence, pray, or meditate for his family. Have conversations about the history of systemic racism in policing and anti-blackness within our country. This Racial Justice Research Document from Rachel Cargle is a great start. Please support her time and efforts with a donation if you are able.
    4. Send letters or call the Hennepin County Attorney's office, who can press charges on the officers involved in the killing. 
    5. Understand that Black people are traumatized and need your support. Try buying dinner or necessities for your African heritage friends and community organizers. Invest in Black owned businesses and organizations like DanSan Creatives, Blackbird Revolt, Families Rise Together, Family Freedom Center, Najen LLC, Pinnacle Pointe Studios, St Mark AME Church, Calvary Baptist Church, Health Alliances Matter Consulting, and others (send black-owned businesses in the Twin Ports to comm@duluthnaacp.org to have them added to this list).
    6. Donate to the family of George Floyd via their official GoFundMe.
  • 21 May 2020 8:13 AM | Communications Committee (Administrator)

    Duluth Branch NAACP is in full support of a City Ordinance being considered by the City Council to establish a Duluth African Heritage Commission. City Councilors Janet Kennedy, Gary Anderson and Renee Van Nett introduced the Ordinance at the May 11 City Council meeting with further review and voting to take place at the May 26th City Council meeting.

    The Purpose of Commission is to ensure that the views of the African Heritage community are incorporated in the decision making, future planning, and stewardship of the City of Duluth.

    • The commission will act as a guide in the development of public policy, planning and services so that the African Heritage community is adequately represented in these processes.
    • The commission will increase understanding and acceptance of the African Heritage community and culture and to increase African Heritage community involvement in all aspects of community affairs in Duluth.

    Seven members reflecting African Heritage diversity in the area would be included as members of the commission. Members would be appointed by the Mayor with approval of the City Council.

    Call to Action!

    Contact your City Councilor to support the Duluth African Heritage Commission Ordinance. The Commission will help create public policy that represents the African Heritage Community and increase understanding of the community.

    Add your voice of support by writing or calling the City Councilors and speak your support at the May 26th meeting.

    Visit the City of Duluth's City Council website to find information about how to call or write and how to speak at a Council meeting during this time of online meetings. Guidance about how to do show support can also be found on this document, put together by the NAACP Health and Environmental Equity Committee.

    A letter from the Duluth Branch NAACP and other partnering organizations to the City of Duluth and City Councilors in support of the ordinance:

    This moment of health crisis and shutdown reveals the glaring weaknesses and painful inequities in our systems. The collision of historical and structural racism with the current health and economic crisis shines a bright light on deep disparities in our community. Duluth’s communities of color are impacted disproportionately at this time. However, these communities are also tremendous sources of strength and advancement.

    We are discovering that when our most vulnerable and marginalized are at risk, we are all at risk. We are also discovering the need for voices of creativity, compassion, wisdom, innovation, and skills from all perspectives and members of our society. We can be overwhelmed by these inequities, or we can engage the teachings and opportunities presented to us. We can engage with the resilience and ideas of the whole community, particularly those most impacted. We invite you to envision the power and potential of healing from this disarray and creating something new.

    The time is right to establish an African Heritage Commission for the City of Duluth. This Commission will be a significant force for mending injury, as it brings to light and celebrates the gifts that strengthen our community. We believe that each individual has talent and can help our community thrive when we practice equity and inclusion. Therefore we encourage you to adopt the resolution to establish an African Heritage Commission which would allow our City to:

    • Create a stronger, more just community by tapping into the talents of diverse community members to generate new ideas and solutions that varied voices bring to the table.
    • Build community organizations that better serve the African Heritage Community, and develop mutually beneficial alliances to tackle problems common to the Duluth community as a whole.
    • Improve the physical and mental health of our community members by providing a safe, inclusive, and equitable society for all.
    • Alleviate unemployment and economic insufficiency created by discrimination in areas of employment, housing, health care, and education.
    • Create economic growth by incubating existing entrepreneurship within communities of color and attracting new businesses that serve them.
    • Retain college graduates and attract young professionals that would otherwise leave the Twin Ports for larger communities where diversity is the norm.
    • Tap into the diverse identities, skills and intergenerational networks within the African Heritage community which allow for so many larger efforts to take shape .
    • Promote networking, training, and leadership opportunities specific to the African Heritage community to further develop the immense pool of talent.

    Making more space in our Duluth-Superior community to lift up the vibrancy of the African Heritage community would bring dynamic energy to the cultural and educational life of the Twin Ports. An African Heritage Commission would provide a forum and a conduit for promoting the historical and ongoing contributions of Duluth’s African Heritage Community. Some of these include creating a cultural hub long envisioned by community leaders; representation in museums, tourism websites, and other marketing materials for the City; and especially an opportunity to support and showcase the work of the many skilled visual artists, musicians, dancers, poets, writers, and spiritual leaders of our community.

    An African Heritage Commission would also provide a network to synthesize and augment all of the academic resources our colleges and universities in the Twin Ports have to offer. African Heritage faculty, staff, and students at UMD, UWS, CSS, and LSC would be supported by this resource, generating a more expansive and invigorating climate for scholarship. These academic institutions could support more research on issues impacting African Heritage Communities, and provide more African and African American Studies offerings, which would in turn feed the broader community through internships in local businesses and organizations, and through mentorship of young people in the public schools.

    An increasingly vibrant economic community, cultural and educational life would fuel each other, creating greater durability, health and equity in every aspect of the Twin Ports’ life, and growing the strength of our beautiful City.

    We have received official backing and support from the following community organizations:

    Indigenous Commission
    Feminist Action Collective
    American Indian Community Housing Organization
    League of Women Voters Equity Committee
    St. Mark AME Church
    Family Freedom Center
    UUCD Board of Trustees
    Peace Church Dismantling Racism
    Trans Plus
    Men As Peacemakers
    Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)
    American Association of University Women (AAUW)
    Senate District7
    African American Men's Group
    Peace United Church of Christ
    League of Women Voters Duluth

  • 29 Apr 2020 10:58 AM | Communications Committee (Administrator)

    Image of panelists with names.Join the UMD NAACP and the Duluth NAACP Health and Environmental Equity Committee as we listen in LIVE to local BIPOC Health Professionals about COVID-19 facts. This event will be live streamed on our social media channels (@NAACPatUMD and shared to @DuluthNAACP) on Thursday, April 30, 630PM-8PM from a Zoom webinar and recorded for later showings on WDSE. Community members will have an opportunity (and are encouraged) to ask questions (in real time) via Facebook live feed.

    Speakers include Arne Vainio, MD, Dr. Glenn Simmons Jr., Charity Reynolds, MD, Nomcebo Nkosi MEd, LPC, Verna Thorton, MD and Mary Owen, MD. Special thanks to consultation from Pathologist Dr. Jeff Bailey. Topics of discussion include defining COVID-19, racism and health disparities, cultural practices in the pandemic, keeping our communities safe, mental wellness and coping, myths and misinformation, and how we move forward as a community.

    Facilitators include Azrin Awal, president of the UMD College Chapter of the NAACP and Janet Kennedy, Vice President and Health Committee Chair of the Duluth NAACP. Special thanks to the Northland Foundation for financial support of our Duluth Branch NAACP COVID-19 initiatives.

    When: Thursday, April 30, 2020 630-8PM via Zoom & Facebook Live Stream

    Media Contact: Azrin Awal at awalx002@d.umn.edu and Janet Kennedy at health@duluthnaacp.org or 218-341-6113. 

  • 16 Apr 2020 8:02 PM | Communications Committee (Administrator)

    April newsletter The Duluth Branch NAACP is happy to announce the release of its first monthly newsletter.

    Duluth NAACP April Newsletter (downloads the pdf)

  • 13 Apr 2020 12:23 PM | Communications Committee (Administrator)

    An important message from Duluth NAACP member and local physician Dr. Verna Thornton, MD about the importance of social distancing, wearing a mask in public, & info regarding CoVID-19 impact on BIPOC, those living in rural areas, & everyone! Take 2 minutes to watch. 

  • 12 Apr 2020 9:51 AM | Communications Committee (Administrator)

    Two humans wearing paper facemasks.Photo by Julian Wan on Unsplash

    Due to COVID-19 disproportionately affecting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) individuals, and income disparities preventing families from acquiring face masks, the Duluth NAACP will be prioritizing distributing free cloth face masks to members of BIPOC communities at the Central Hillside Community Center parking lot, Monday, April 13, 6:00PM-7:30PM, and at Memorial Park in West Duluth Thursday, April 16, 5:00PM-7:00PM.

    Please practice appropriate social distancing measures when picking up face masks. If community members would like to drop off cloth masks for this campaign, please do so at this time or donate to Twin Ports Mask Brigade.

    It is also important for the community at large to be aware of biases held toward BIPOC wearing masks, and to actively work to eliminate this biased thinking.

    For more information on how cloth face masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19, please visit the CDC website.

  • 6 Apr 2020 10:07 AM | Communications Committee (Administrator)

    Duluth Branch NAACP president Stephan Witherspoon asked local physician and branch member Arne Vainio, MD (Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe tribal member) to share about why sheltering in place matters during this COVID-19 pandemic. Take 3 minutes to listen. Please share. 


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