REV. WENDELL ANTHONY, president of the Detroit Branch NAACP, the largest branch in the nation, speaks to the Michigan Chronicle at his Detroit office.— Andre Smith photo
As president of the Detroit Branch NAACP, Rev. Wendell Anthony has a long track record of fighting against injustices and systems that foster discriminatory practices designed to disempower and disenfranchise African-Americans in Detroit and beyond. Now in his 10th term as president, Anthony and the local branch of the NAACP, the nation’s largest, continue to stand at the vanguard of freedom, ready, willing and able to oppose all entities that threaten the rights of African-Americans.
While Anthony continues to lead epic fights on the battlefields of injustice, he and the Detroit Branch NAACP are vigorously battling to rebuff a law in Michigan that has allowed an emergency manager (EM) to assume full power in Detroit.
A new emergency manager law was pushed through by a Republican-controlled state legislature in 2012, after Michigan voters went to the polls to overwhelmingly voice their opposition to any such law. The hurried-through new law allowed Gov. Rick Snyder to appoint Kevyn Orr as Detroit’s EM. The appointment gave Orr complete control over the city’s executive and legislature branches of government.
The local NAACP, as well as a large contingent of other concerned community, religious and civil rights activists, believe such an appointment is illegal and unconstitutional.
“This emergency manager concept is more than a notion,” said Anthony, from his office. “What’s being done with this emergency manager takeover in Detroit is unfair, undemocratic and is a snatching away of our rights, and it’s not just a Detroit phenomenon, it’s a national strategy that I believe many in the Republican and conservative communities are utilizing to retain and recoup powers from communities of color. They are looking at the growing demographics of Black and Brown people in America and are doing everything they can to hold on to power.”
To add insult to injury, Anthony and other local civil rights and community groups have taken exception to Orr’s condescending words pertaining to Detroit, shortly after announcing that the city was filing for bankruptcy at his behest. Orr was quoted in a recent Wall Street Journal article as saying, “For a long time the city has been dumb, lazy, happy and rich.”
Orr also said, “If you had an eighth-grade education, you’ll get 30 years of a good job and a pension and great health care, but you don’t have to worry about what’s going to come…”
“Mr. Orr’s recent comments strike at the heart and soul of all Detroiters,” Anthony said. “His comments are ones that would be attributed to Rush Limbaugh, Shawn Hannity, George Will…even Clarence Thomas has not said that. Now, we (all Detroiters) have a window into the heart and soul of Kevyn Orr. The fact that he can say this to the Wall Street Journal, America’s premier bastion of conservative rhetoric, ideas, thinking and policies, is untenable.”
Many Detroiters who learned of Orr’s remarks, were reminded of negative comments made by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at a fundraiser on last year’s presidential campaign trail.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president (Obama) no matter what,” Romney said. “All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Anthony said that in addition to Orr, Gov. Snyder must also be held responsible for words, actions, and the disrespect for the people of Detroit.
“Orr is Gov. Rick Snyder’s man; he is his appointment,” Anthony said. “It’s really Rick Snyder who is running Detroit. Kevyn Orr is his operational man, but Gov. Snyder needs to check his operational man.”
Anthony believes an apology from Orr, or from Gov. Snyder, is not enough, even though the EM recently addressed the brewing issue with a local television reporter.
“He didn’t apologize; he tried to justify,” Anthony said. “Mr. Orr just needs to go. We believe that his credibility is gone. How can you manage and reconstruct Detroit when you don’t respect Detroit? How can you come into the community and say that you want to work with the community, as if you respect the people, when we have on record that you think we are ‘dumb, lazy, happy and rich’? The city of Detroit deserves much better than that because we are much better than that.”
The Detroit Branch NAACP has filed lawsuits in federal courts, citing that the EM’s presence in Detroit is illegal and unconstitutional, which is resulting in the disempowerment of the people in Detroit. Anthony, senior pastor at Fellowship Chapel, expects some preliminary rulings on the lawsuits later this month, and is hoping that a final ruling comes sometime in October.
While waiting for the court rulings, Anthony vows to continue to speak out to stop discrimination, prejudice, and injustices when African-Americans in Detroit and across the nation are impacted.
In addition to his leadership role with the Detroit Branch NAACP, Anthony is the founder of the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee, a grassroots activist organization that supports issues and candidates locally and nationally.
He is also chairman and founder of the Freedom Institute for Economic Social Justice and People Empowerment.