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Detroit NAACP celebrates 100 years, talks future of civil rights at annual dinner

The Detroit branch of the NAACP held its annual “Fight for Freedom fund” dinner last night.

There was celebration of the branch’s centennial anniversary this year. But there was also grave concern over continuing civil rights struggles.

The dinner is traditionally one of the Detroit NAACP’s largest—and most lucrative—events.

This year, it drew thousands of people, including much of Michigan’s political and business elite.

Many speakers focused on what they see as the “new” civil rights issues—like the “mass incarceration” of African Americans, and stricter voting laws that some say harken back to the Jim Crow era.

Detroit branch president Reverend Wendell Anthony says too many political leaders right now are “acting without conscience.”

“For those who sometimes forget, we do have a conscious-reminding document,” Anthony said. “It is called the constitution of the United States of America.”

US Attorney General Eric Holder was the dinner’s keynote speaker. He says his office will be aggressive about laws that cross the line into voter suppression.

“As long as I’m Attorney General of the United States, I will not stand for bogus challenges that have the effect of disenfranchising African Americans, Hispanic Americans, poor people, young people and our seniors!” Holder said.

But Holder didn’t talk about a law many other speakers see in just that light: Michigan’s emergency manager law. Critics say it strips voting rights from citizens in predominantly black communities.

Despite repeated requests from Detroit Congressmen and other officials,
Holder’s office has declined to review that law.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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