Old, new issues blend in NAACP’s second century

As the NAACP gathers in Kansas City for its national convention on Saturday, members will confront a to-do list that's depressingly familiar — and disturbingly new.

Longtime concerns such as legal reform, civil justice and access to quality education now jostle for attention with a health and childhood obesity crisis, soaring urban home foreclosures, even climate change and immigration reform.

The challenges of the 20th century, it seems, have collided with the problems of the 21st.

“In order to get our country back up to the top of the hill and re-establish our country as a beacon for … investment in people, we have to address each of those issues,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, the NAACP’s president.

The weeklong agenda for the group’s meeting reflects attention to that new phase, which coincides with the group’s second century in existence. First lady Michelle Obama will bring her childhood nutrition campaign to the convention on Monday, while sessions on charter schools, lending practices and even veterans’ concerns are planned.

But leaders inside and outside the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said they expect a primary focus on work and economic opportunity in the African-American community, which remains particularly battered by the recession.

“Jobs, jobs, jobs,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. “It’s general economic malaise, high joblessness in black communities, the downturn in manufacturing and construction and other high-paying jobs.”

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