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The Spingarn Medal.

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois. Carter G. Woodson. Mary McLeod Bethune. Paul Robeson. Thurgood Marshall. Rev. Martin Luther King Lena Horne. John H. Johnson. Jackie Robinson. Rev. Jesse Jackson. Barbara Jordan. Gen. Colin Powell. What do these people--from the worlds of education, science, politics, sports, business, the military, the church and the law--have in common? They are all among the 83 recipients of the NAACP's highest honor--the Spingarn Medal, an award instituted in 1914 by the late Joel Elias Spingarn, then chairman of the nation's most important civil rights organization. I am both greatly honored and infinitely humbled to have been chosen to receive the 84th Spigarn Medal this month.

The great thing about the Spingarn Medal is that it signifies so much more than recognition of the achievements of one individual. Indeed, past Spingarn awards serve as prominent markers of barriers confronted and overcome in our quest for a fully vested franchise in the American dream. For example, the career of 1944 recipient Dr. Charles Drew, who pioneered the preservation of blood plasma for life-saving transfusions, underscored the deadly consequences of "separate but equal" when applied to something as basic to the quality of life as healthcare. The high price of American apartheid became indelibly stamped on the national consciousness six years later when Drew, the victim of an auto accident, died after being taken to a segregated hospital that did not have the blood plasma that may have saved his life. Similarly, when NAACP Arkansas Chapter President Daisy Bates led a group of courageous black children in the battle to integrate Little Rock Central High School in 1957, facing down Governor Orval Faubus and the Arkansas National Guard, they became symbols of the resolve of all African Americans to gain the education we've always recognized as the key to our freedom. Bates and the students the world would come to know as the Little Rock Nine were awarded the Spingarn the following year.

As we cross the threshold of a new millennium, the quest for economic empowerment is at the top of our agenda. This is exemplified by the long-awaited new approaches of organizations dedicated to championing the causes of freedom and equality, including Rainbow/PUSH's Wall Street Project, the National Action Network's Madison Avenue Initiative and the NAACP's own Economic Reciprocity programs. It is also evidenced by a burgeoning awareness among all African Americans that our continued survival and progress will depend not on our well-established ability to generate wealth for others as employees and consumers, but our proficiency at accumulating and managing wealth for ourselves as investors and owners. I join past awardees in recognizing the Spingarn not as a reward for past achievement, but an article of faith in our ongoing mission at BLACK ENTERPRISE and a symbol of renewed commitment to a better future for all African Americans.
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Title Annotation:NAACP award
Author:Granes, Earl G.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jul 1, 1999
Next Article:Letters.

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