Among the highlights at the recent National Action Network (NAN) annual convention this year is the appearance of U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder, though he is but an opening act for President Obama’s presentation on Friday.
But Holder can hold his own when it comes to public speaking, and particularly when talking about the law and its deficiencies as it pertains to people of color. It was no surprise that racial profiling, voter suppression, and the legacy of Dr. King, were the centerpieces to his relatively short speech, but he really stirred the overflow crowd in the ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel in midtown Manhattan Wednesday morning when he cited the unprecedented attacks on Obama.
After noting the tremendous accomplishments of the Obama administration, despite the obstacles from his adversaries in Congress, Holder expressed his disgust at the way he was treated the previous day during an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee. That hearing, he said, “had nothing to do with me, what attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment? What president has ever had to deal with this kind of treatment?”
What could be read between the lines, without him saying it, was the issue of race and the fact both he and President Obama are the first African Americans in their positions.
There were a few more words about the committee appearance and the fact that he was held in contempt of Congress two years ago when he failed to deliver to the House Oversight Committee documents related to the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal. That he was held in contempt—the first time for a U.S. Attorney General—was part of the treatment he was talking about.
A key message from his speech was the responsibility of his office and he emphasized that, “Protecting public safety and protecting our civil rights are not mutually exclusive.” This and other ideals were made real for him by his father, and he said he had never forgotten many of the conservations they had while he was coming of age in America, and in the Bronx. His mention of Hunt’s Point where he was born was loudly cheered.
The ongoing vicious cycle of poverty and devastation, the stop and frisk that has been so rampant in New York City, which he saw as nothing more than an aspect of racial profiling, were passionately discussed and brought applause from the audience.
Justice was a word that was repeated again and again, and when he placed it in context of the legacy of Dr. King it had special resonance.
“We have a moral imperative to keep his [Dr. King] legacy alive,” Holder concluded.
During his introduction of Holder, Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of NAN, said he was “not a man for the season but for a reason.” And those reasons were clearly articulated.
(Photo: Chris Griffith)