Riverhead grad speaks at Long Island NAACP luncheon

People from across Long Island gathered at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury Saturday afternoon to celebrate the successes of Long Island NAACP members and inspire people to keep fighting for justice for black people.

One of the most notable people at the event was its keynote speaker Rashad Robinson, a 1997 graduate of Riverhead High School and current executive director of Color of Change.

During his speech, Mr. Robinson spoke of the successes the organization has had, including Friday’s news that Chubb Insurance would no longer offer gun owner insurance coverage through the NRA. This type of coverage applies when gun incidents occur and provides gun owners who shoot in self-defense with payments to help them deal with the aftermath, including bail money and gun replacement costs.

Under Mr. Robinson’s leadership, Color of Change also helped elect six new district attorneys across the country, convinced companies such as PayPal and American Express to end their roles in fundraising for white nationalist groups and persuaded over 100 corporations to stop funding the American Legislative Exchange Council, which lobbied for numerous laws, including state laws that allow people to vote by showing a gun license as an ID, but not a student ID.

“We have to celebrate each of these moments,” he said. “And we have to build on the little victories while also shooting for the big ones.”

Mr. Robinson also spoke to the fact that while the struggle for justice today is similar to that of the past, some things need to be done differently in order to succeed and “end the injustices that hold us back.”

Rashad Robinson, left, with William King Moss, co-chairperson of Saturday’s NAACP luncheon at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. Credit: Nicole Smith

One of the important components, he said, is recognizing the difference between presence and power. For example, he said, presence is having Barack Obama as president or the influence and general interest that surrounds Beyoncé. Power, however, is having someone in a position that enables them to change rules and policies.

“If we’re not actually changing the rules, we’re continuing to deal with injustice after injustice after injustice and not dealing with the system that continues to perpetuate those injustices,” Mr. Robinson said, comparing it to a game of Whack-A-Mole.

He concluded his speech by urging people to keep fighting for justice, especially given the climate of Donald Trump’s presidency. He also urged people to not just post a status on Facebook and Twitter, but to also get out and do something, such as make calls to their elected officials and participate in rallies.

“When black people win, we win for everyone,” Mr. Robinson said. “When black people participate at high levels we continue to make this country better. We open up more opportunities for others. The history books over and over can tell the stories of how black liberation has opened up opportunities for immigrants, LGBT community, women and all others at the intersection.”

Before his address, Mr. Robinson said he was honored to be home and to be able to speak before the NAACP, an organization he has belonged to since he was a student at Riverhead.

Other speakers at the event included Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

During the luncheon, awards were given to numerous people who have had successes throughout the years, including Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon, who received the president’s award and the first-ever Long Island Regional Director’s Award.

“I’m just a little overwhelmed,” Mr. Toulon said. “And I feel that there’s more people who deserve this honor, but I’m very fortunate to be here and be recognized and I hope I can do a great job and service Suffolk County well.”

Photo caption: Rashad Robinson, a 1997 graduate of Riverhead High School, celebrated Long Island NAACP members at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury Saturday afternoon. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

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