NAACP president calls St. Paul churchgoers to action

Cornell Brooks
Cornell Brooks (Khymyle Mims/MSR News)

Churchgoers at Progressive Baptist Church in East St. Paul gave a thunderous response to NAACP President Cornell Brooks’ call to action Sunday evening.  Reverend Dr. Earl Miller shared his final Pastor Anniversary celebration with Brooks to address the recent police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the unrest and protests across the nation. Prior to speaking to the congregation, Brooks met with local leadership, including Gov. Dayton in a closed-door meeting at the church.

Brooks summoned for supporters “young and old” to stand together and be united. “We must stand together: the Urban League, the NAACP, Black Lives Matter. If you’re a Kappa, if you’re Alpha, if you’re Omega, or you’re a Sigma. No matter where you are, no matter where you come from, you’ve got to take a strong stance against police brutality,” he said.

Brooks called for support with the End Racial Profiling Act, introduced into Congress in April of 2015, to define, measure, and put an end to racial profiling by police. He also called for support of the Law Enforcement Trust Integrity Act, introduced to the House of Representatives in June of 2015 to address police accountability and trust issues within the communities they serve.

“We’ve got to turn our people [out] by the multitude and the millions, not only in the streets protesting, but at the polls voting in November,” implored Brooks.

“Make no mistake. The NAACP came into being in the last century to fight a form of racialized violence called lynching. We brought that to an end in the last century. Here we are in the 21st Century, we are yet saying to ourselves… we fought lynching ropes and white sheets in the last century. We can fight guns and badges, and blue uniforms and those who will lynch and dishonor their roles in this century. That we can do!”

Naacp president speaking on the recent events

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Brooks spoke to those in attendance just short of 10 minutes, and made mention of the tragic shooting of two toddlers in North Minneapolis during his speech. He wrapped up his time by reciting “Lift Every Voice and Sing” just after reminding everyone that we must rely on God for change.

Rev. Jerry McAfee, former Minneapolis NAACP president, was in attendance and echoed Brooks’ sentiments saying that people were relying on the wrong spirits, such as alcohol and other substances, but not God, for comfort in such troubling times.

McAfee went on to remind the church attendants that God has brought Black folks through a lot of hardships such as slavery and the fight for civil rights. “The same God that brought us out then, is the same God [that’ll bring us out today],” said McAfee. “He didn’t leave us.”

The time spent on the recent tragic events was brief but powerful, and seemed to bring a sense of reassurance upon the attendees, who went on to praise and a celebrate the ministry of Progressive’s Founding Pastor.

The MSR was able to catch up with attendee Shirley of St. Paul who said, “I didn’t even know [Cornell Brooks] was going to be here today, but I’m glad to see that we are getting back to our roots.” Other agreed, stating that the Civil Rights Movement was effective because the Black Church was its foundation. “I just think we need to go back to what works.”

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