NAACP speaker inspires continued battle on racism

Tuesday, July 10, 2007
The Rev. Myra Drummond-Lewis delivers a stirring oration to members of the Mar-Saline Branch of the NAACP Saturday, June 30, as the featured speaker at the organization's annual awards banquet. Lewis' speech ranged from advice based on organizational leadership research to an impassioned sermon calling on members of the organization to remember God's role in their quest for justice. (Eric Crump/Democrat-News)

When Clyde Williams introduced the Rev. Myra Drummond-Lewis as the keynote speaker at the Mar-Saline Branch of the NAACP's annual awards banquet Saturday, June 30, he predicted the audience's reaction would be, "Wow."

It was.

Lewis began her speech on a low key, offering observations and advice based on her studies of organizational leadership -- useful but academic in tone.

"People often try to relive moments rather than building on moments," she said. "But if you keep doing what you're doing you'll keep getting what you're getting."

She advised members to follow a number of leadership principles that are discussed in James Collins' book "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't."

-- Do what you're best at,

-- Define what you're passionate about,

-- Get the right people involved, and

-- Make good use of technology.

She offered as a metaphor the humble hedgehog, which she noted has a number of very effective methods of surviving the attacks of predators.

In her comparison, the hedgehog represented the NAACP and predators represent the racism the organization is devoted to battling.

The hedgehog, she said, has sharp quills that when it rolls into a ball protrude to dissuade predators from attacking.

But she noted another tactic the animal employs. When it encounters a substance that predators recoil from, it immerses itself in order to "wear" the repellant material.

And that was the transition Lewis used to begin a crescendo in her presentation, leading to a thundering call for members to move beyond business ethics and into Christian ethics as they move the organization forward.

She said the hedgehog's tactic of immersion is a kind of self-anointing in faith.

"Without faith at the helm and God at your side your goals will not come to fruition," she said. "When we anoint with faith we will operate in the power of God."

That power is required, she said, in order for blacks in America to stop being and behaving like victims and to start taking more initiative.

She praised the NAACP commitment to protecting voting rights and to promoting increased voting participation.

But she urged the organization and blacks in general to go further in pursuing economic opportunities, noting that she once was in a position to invite bids on a state contract for banking services and discovered to her dismay that there were no qualified black-owned banks in the state.

"I found that alarming," she said. "We need to become participants rather than victims in the state economy."

To do that, she urged blacks to think more entrepreneurially.

"We must begin to create jobs in our own economy," she said.

She said jobs that may seem menial can be developed into thriving companies, offering as examples a lawn mowing service that grows into a landscaping business.

After her speech Lewis was asked her opinion about a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that found against school desegregation plans.

"Diversity is our strength," she said.

She said the NAACP would not necessarily need to change methods in response to the decision but should strengthen its resolve to support diversity wherever it can.

Prior to Lewis' speech a number of local dignitaries made brief comments.

Marshall Mayor Connie Latimer noted that the NAACP is an organization founded out of necessity, but added that adversity is not inevitably bad.

"A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless we fail to make the turn," she said.

Editors note: Photos of NAACP award winners will appear in a future edition.

Contact Eric Crump at

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