Tessa Hill-Aston, President of the Baltimore City NAACP
“We thought [the Ravens were going to sign Kaepernick] because [Joe] Flacco was going to be out injured. I’m the largest branch in the state of Maryland, and we do attend a lot of the games. We have had a good relationship with the team. They have invited us to bring children to their training camp, so it’s been a good friendship. We are in favor of him being signed for a couple of reasons. No. 1, he’s an excellent quarterback. I think he would bring good playing skills to the team, and they could use that. And the other thing is, management and ownership in the NFL have to realize that team players have personal lives and personal thoughts. And I am proud that he would take a stance on an issue that affects African-American men. When I see any player or entertainer, when they come on talk shows, I love it when they take a minute to talk about something that affects the world and people. I admire that type of person.
“I wouldn’t have a clue who [Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti] spoke to [when he said he would reach out to fans and gauged their support of the team signing Kaepernick]. Baltimore City NAACP has over 2,500 members, and we just hosted the national convention here three weeks ago. We had over 8,000 people here from across the United States. Most people were talking about it, and they were talking in casual conversation about the Ravens and thought he should be signed.
“Things happen when you’re an advocate, and when you feel that you take a stance you do this regardless of what your job is. His job is to play football, but in his real life he was saying, I have feelings about what’s going on in Baltimore and in the whole United states as it plays out with police brutality, with African-American men being violated, and Latinos and people of color. I don’t think he should be penalized and lose his whole career at such a young age and so much potential. He should be allowed to be somewhere, and I would hope that it would be the Ravens.”
The Baltimore City Branch of the NAACP was founded April 4, 1912, by a group of influential community leaders. It holds the noteworthy distinction of being the second branch chartered in the United States. Among the founding members were Reverend Dr. Harvey Johnson, who was described as leading the branch’s establishment, and the Reverend Dr. Garnet Russell Waller, who served as the Branch’s first president. Other notable leaders instrumental in starting the Baltimore Branch of the NAACP included Mr. William Ashbie Hawkins, who served as legal counsel for the for the Branch, and Dr. Charles E. Watts, who served as the Branch’s treasurer for approximately 25 years. Under this dynamic leadership, the Branch had a tremendous impact in the community and experienced many significant successes.
By 1935, interest in the organization began to dwindle. As a result, it was determined that the ailing Branch needed to be revitalized. Dr. Carl Murphy, Ms. Lillie Carroll Jackson, Ms. Juanita Jackson Mitchell and Ms. Enolia McMillan successfully spearheaded this revitalization. They each played a significant role in changing the image of the organization and guiding the branch more effectively. Each demonstrated a tremendous amount of commitment, loyalty, and courage, which took the Branch to new heights of commitment and service.
Mrs. Lillie Carroll Jackson was one of the front-runners who not only dedicated her time as a volunteer, but she also served as president of the Baltimore Branch from 1935 until 1970. She was also the founder of the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP and other organized branches throughout the state.
Under Mrs. Jackson’s tenure, Baltimore City became the first southern city to comply with the Supreme Court decision over Brown vs. the Board of Education, when it desegregated its public school in 1954. Moreover, Baltimore City also desegregated the municipal swimming pools and several beaches, including Sandy Point State Park Beach and Fort Smallwood Municipal Beach.
The Freedom Fighting torch was later passed on to her daughter, Mrs. Juanita Jackson Mitchell. Mrs. Mitchell was the first black woman to practice law in the State of Maryland, and in 1935, she founded and organized the NAACP Youth Council at the Branch.
Mrs. McMillan served as President of the Baltimore Branch for twenty years and concurrently served as President of the NAACP National Headquarters for three years. Mrs. McMillan has implanted a landmark in history as a vigorous, hardworking civil rights activist who truly represented the civil and human rights for the constituents of Baltimore City.
Tessa Hill-Aston is the current president of the Baltimore City Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP’s principal objective is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority group citizens of United States and eliminate race prejudice. The NAACP seeks to remove all barriers of racial discrimination through the democratic processes.
For more than 25 years, Tessa has been a prominent voice for human rights in the area of social change, social justice and equality. Her ability to educate, congregate while bringing constituents’ issues to the forefront is part of her initiative to build a greater community and a greater Baltimore. While presiding over the Baltimore Branch of the NAACP, Tessa has been building and growing partnerships between local government, businesses, religious leaders and community leaders alike; combating the issues of social justice, change, and equality. Tessa has been working to strengthen partnerships with local groups to stand in solidarity and witness for positive change.
For more than two decades, Tessa has been abdicating for those who some times are not able to speak for themselves. Her ever present involvement and activism demonstrates her passion and commitment for building and inspiring men and women in the City of Baltimore; seeking to enhance the quality of life for all people. Her ability to bring together parties and resolve conflict – coupled with her continued diligence and dedication to simply help others – has led to outstanding leadership and success in a myriad of areas dealing with the restoration of relationships, equality and harmonious living.
The NAACP was founded on Febrary 12, 1909, and is the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization. Its more than half-million members and supporters throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, campaigning for equal opportunity and conducting voter mobilization. The Baltimore City Branch was established on April 4, 1912.
The civil rights that we enjoy today are much the same as the ones of times past, but it was a long evolutionary process that brings us to our current ideals and interpretations of our rights. The idea is the same around the world, but different interpretations and cultural beliefs have shaped the evolutionary process in different directions. In the United States people have fought wars and staged protests all in the name of civil rights and changing ideas.
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