NAACP urged to recapure its spiritual origins

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Lee Barnes
A longtime civil rights activist and minister said Sunday it’s time for the NAACP to get back to its church roots.
Bishop Joseph Johnson spoke at Soldiers Memorial AME Zion Church on the 30th anniversary of the NAACP’s Salisbury-Rowan branch. Johnson is a retired pastor of the church.
Speaking to a mostly over-50 audience on an unusually warm afternoon, Johnson said more people need to get involved in the organization.
“If you don’t do anything, then you’re a participant in your own inequality,” he said.
Leaning in toward the pulpit, Johnson repeatedly criticized the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush as being “successful attempts to turn back the clock” of social reform. And, he said, the Republican party is currently doing “everything it can” to undermine President Obama.
Most of his sermon ó and he emphasized that it was a sermon, not a speech ó focused on the need for the NAACP to partner with churches to “raise moral values” among black Americans.
He said that blacks must put more emphasis on education, adding that companies aren’t hiring people “who can dribble a basketball.”
In stressing family values, he said, “We must educate our young men to stop making babies they can’t support.”
Johnson led the congregation and community in the rechartering of the Salisbury-Rowan NAACP branch 30 years ago and was its first president.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from N.C. State University and Master of Divinity degree from Duke University School of Divinity, followed by a doctoral degree from Candler School of Theology at Emory University.
He served as pastor of four African Methodist Episcopal Zion churches before being elected the 85th bishop in the AME Zion Church in August 1992. He retired in 2004 after pastoring for 28 years and serving as bishop for 12 years.
Johnson has been a civil rights activist since the early 1960s. He has been a member of the NAACP for more than 44 years.
Avery Staley, special counsel to Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, spoke briefly during the Sunday service.
“It’s because of your blood, sweat and tears that I stand where I stand today,” he said. “Because of your work, I am a benefactor, President Obama is a benefactor, and my children will be benefactors.”