She was introduced by Joe Madison of The Madison Show. It was Joe Madison, who with Dick Gregory, focused the nationís attention on the San Jose Mercury Monitor expose of the CIA-Iran Contra drugs for guns story. You remember; the story of our government assisting in the import of illegal drugs to California street gangs who then sold the drugs for guns, the Contras rebels of course were funded by the sale drugs. Joe Madison is on the National Board of the NAACP and as it turns out he was very instrumental in Myrlie Evers-Williams seeking the Chairmanship of the NAACP. As the Master of Ceremonies for our 64th Annual Freedom Fund Awards Banquet and the person honored to introduce Mrs. Evers-Williams, Joe gave us much insight into the makings of this great lady--we learned almost as much from his introduction as we did from her remarks: Mrs. Evers-Williams had moved to California after her husbandís assassination and received her BA in Sociology from Claremont College in 1968; wrote a book, FOR US THE LIVING, (1967, Doubleday and Company) ran for the 24th Congressional District of California in 1970, headed the Southern California Democratic Womenís Division, served as Vice President for Advertising and Publicity for Seligman and Latz, and National Director for Community Affairs for Atlanta Richfield Company.
She remarked about the struggle of our organization over the years and cautioned that although we are no longer in debt, there is still a need much internal work that must be done. She admonished those who are fast to criticize to also join the struggle so that they might work from within for improvement. She reminded that the " . . .NAACP has always been around for those who need it, for all people of color." And the playing field is still not level.
She confirmed Joe Madisonís earlier statement she had not sought to lead this organization, and it was only with Joe Madisonís prompting that she finally agreed to run for the chair. She won by a single vote. After winning she realized the enormous job ahead of her. But what motivated her most was that her late husband, Medgar Evers, had lived and died for the NAACP.
Together she and Medgar had opened and managed the first NAACP Mississippi state office. It was their work for the advancement of colored people, and the hatred and opposition to them and their work, that led to the assassination of Medgar Evers on June 12, 1963, before his three children and wife. The assassination was more egregious by the fact it was carried out by a Mississippi law enforcement officer: white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith was tried for the murder of Medgar Evers three times before finally being convicted in 1994. For thirty-one years Myrlie Evers-Williams pressed for justice, while Beckwith remained free, and even boasted at Ku Klux Klan rallies that he had killed Medgar Evers and gotten away with it.
And Mrs. Evers-Williams continued to serve . . . .
Myrlie Evers-Williams has been a member of the NAACP for most of her adult life. She was a member when we were colored, Negro, Black, African American. In her remarks she stated, "I donít know how long Iím going to live, so I donít know what else Iíll be. [called]" She continued with, "Whatever we are called, we must be the best we can be." This she has done. It would be easy to hate with such a history. But hate would have impeded her productivity. And Myrlie Evers-Williams has been very productive by any standard.
After being elected as Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1995 she realized the daunting task ahead of her in leading a once great organization out of poverty and back to strength. She had steeled herself with, "Medgar died for it. I promised him I would live for it." Perhaps she recognized she owed a debt to Medgar Evers. Perhaps she realized his cause was also hers, and should be our own.
At any rate this was the catching statement that stayed with me throughout the evening, and until now--- "Medgar died for it. I promised him I would live for it." It was as if to say, "I will continue for Medgarís sake." Medgar Everís death would be in vein if we failed to take advantage of what his struggle and the struggle of others had brought.
It is so akin to where we are now in our relationship to God. Jesus died that we might have a personal relationship with God. Our only role is live so that His death might not be in vein. That means taking full access of what has been paid for. Jesusí death would be for naught if we simply continued to live apart from God, afraid to approach Him for fear of being stricken because of sin. God must allow us to approach Him, for Jesusí sake; He must forgive us, for Jesusí sake; and having forgiven us, He must prosper, us for Jesusí sake. To do anything else would mean that His only begotten son would have died in vein. 1 John 2:12 reads, "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake." So that Jesus will not have died in vein, so that His death continues to have meaning, we must be forgiven, if we only ask.