Rev. T. Anthony Spearman is the newly elected president of the North Carolina State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Staff writer Emma Boggess asked Spearman about his involvement with the N.C. NAACP and his goals for the coming years.
The Daily Tar Heel: How did you first get involved with the civil rights movement and the NAACP?
Rev. T. Anthony Spearman: I have to go back over 50 years to 1963 when my father purchased our first home. We were confronted with next-door neighbors who were a white Italian family, and on the other side of us was a Portuguese family. The Italian family was not pleased with the fact that we were living next door to them and raised quite a ruckus. It was at that time that my father took out memberships for me and my two sisters with the NAACP and told us that we would need to keep them up because, as he saw it, we would be fighting for justice for the rest of our lives. And so that was my first interaction with the NAACP.
DTH: So what made you decide to run for president of the NAACP in North Carolina?
TAS: Over the past 12 years I have been working very closely with (former N.C. NAACP President Rev. William Barber). The movement, as I saw it progressing, was something that I thought was very timely and needed to happen right now. When Dr. Barber decided that he had to go on to a higher calling to embrace the Poor People’s Campaign, as the third vice president I thought that in order to continue the spirit of the movement and carry forth some of his ideology and theology — I thought that I would like to go ahead and succeed him in order to continue this movement as it gained momentum.
DTH: What are your goals for the movement of the NAACP in the upcoming years?
TAS: My goal in the upcoming years is to ensure the diversity which has been present in the NAACP since the beginning, to continue to move in that vein — developing coalition partners, allies and putting forth the spirit that we have to work together. We have to move together because we’re all fighting the same adversarial forces. That’s one of the goals, to make sure that the diversity continues to grow. Secondly, because we have fought so hard and valiantly for our voting rights, I am embracing the protection and respect of our right to vote. Many have tried — and are still trying — to suppress our vote because they recognize that if we are successful in going to the ballot box and making inroads for minorities that their days are numbered. I believe that we have to continue to pound the pavement. Certainly we have to register more people to vote, but even more than that we have to get out there and help those who have become extremely complacent in believing their votes don’t matter.
DTH: What do the words 'Forward Together, Not One Step Back' mean to you personally?
TAS: To me, those words mean that the charge for us is to continue to press our way, as best we can, in a direction that is going to help us to gain ground, gain momentum. We must make sure that we continue to build upon the democracy we have come to know. There are attempts to dismantle democracy as we’ve come to know it. I think if we really look at it, fascism is on the way in. We have to make sure that our message to the oligarchy that seeks to keep us suppressed is that we are not going to take a step back — we’re going to do all that we can to move forward.
DTH: The Historic Thousands on Jones Street People's Assembly Coalition marches and Moral Monday demonstrations have become a large part of protest culture in North Carolina. Do you plan on continuing these demonstrations?
TAS: I think there will be a continued progression of the Moral Monday movement and the HKonJ. Many of the branches across the NAACP are rural branches that don’t have the capacity to come to Raleigh every time we beckon them. I think it behooves the state conference to make sure that we can get to the localities — it’s very important for us to take the movements to them. They oftentimes can’t come to Raleigh, but Raleigh can come to them. Dr. King also embraced this idea that politics are local — when we really tap into that, there will be more local movements going on, more Moral Mondays going on in individual cities simultaneously. That has more power than anything else.
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