Standing side by side in the Church Administration Building, the First Presidency and the leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced education and humanitarian initiatives on Monday, June 14.
The key initiatives are part of ongoing collaboration between the two organizations and the result of “many discussions and prayerful planning,” said President Russell M. Nelson at the news conference.
- Humanitarian efforts. The Church has pledged $2 million per year for the next three years “to encourage service and help to those in need” and promote self-reliance.
- Scholarships for Black students. Latter-day Saints have committed to fund a $1 million scholarship donation per year for three years, overseen by the United Negro College Fund.
- A fellowship to send up to 50 students to Ghana to learn about history. The Church will donate $250,000 to create the Amos C. Brown Student Fellowship to Ghana — allowing selected students from the United States an opportunity to learn more about their heritage.
The Church and the NAACP — an international Church and a national organization joined by their belief “in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man” and in Jesus Christ — are motivated to action, President Nelson said. “We call for greater civility and kindness. And we work together to bless the lives of God’s children.”
Church leaders have found common ground with the NAACP as the organizations have discussed challenges “that beset some of God’s children,” he said. “We have considered specific things we might do to alleviate problems and improve the future of some who are currently in distress. We know our limitations. The challenges are huge, and our capacities are limited. But together we want to make a difference, even though our efforts may seem relatively small.”
President Nelson was joined at the press conference by his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring; Elders Ronald A. Rasband and Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; and Elder Jack N. Gerard, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church Communications Department.
NAACP leaders in attendance included President Derrick Johnson; Wilbur Colom, special counsel; Eris Sims, chief of staff; Yumeka Rushing, chief strategy officer; and the Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown, senior pastor of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco and president of NAACP Branch in San Francisco.
In addition, UNCF representatives participated in the event, including President Michael L. Lomax; Maurice Jenkins, executive vice president and chief development officer; and Monica Sudduth, regional development director of San Francisco.
President Nelson expressed his thanks to NAACP and UNCF leaders for being a part of the shared vision.
The press conference was held the week of Juneteenth — the day celebrating emancipation in the United States. “On this week of Juneteenth — a time designated to remember the end of slavery in the United States — we are honored to join with our dear friends from the NAACP and the UNCF to announce these goals and our shared vision,” President Nelson said.
President Johnson said the NAACP embarked three years ago on a relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “understanding that we must be a friend before we need a friend.”
The two organizations are connected by the “Two Great Commandments” taught by the Savior in Matthew 22:35-39: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
When people can see the “Christ in one another” they can start from a place of being open and understanding, “a place to appreciate one’s uniqueness as their genius,” he said.
President Johnson, himself a graduate of a UNCF university, spoke of the strength of each initiative. “We are honored to continue this partnership with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints…,” he said. “We are the church, we are the NAACP, we are God’s people. This announcement today can allow us to stand proud together.”
President Lomax expressed gratitude to participate in the press conference on behalf of the United Negro College Fund.
He called the past 15 months particularly challenging. “It has been a time of fear, it has been a time of solitude and separation from the ones we love. And at times it has been a period of hopelessness. But because of the hard work of so many, we find ourselves in a new day, a new beginning, a new opportunity.”
He said the “bold and important initiatives” will do much to end “marginalization and separation.”
For 77 years the UNCF has supported first generation, low-income students as they realized their dream of a college education.
Now, in partnership with the NAACP and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “we will begin a new initiative that is a shared initiative to help young people who have not had the opportunity to get a great education to get the foundational skills required for a good career,” he said.
Praising President Nelson’s leadership, The Rev. Brown said the fund established in his name will change the lives of Black students learning their history.
“This very partnership of NAACP and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be the saving factor to redeem the soul of the United States of America, so that we shall indeed become one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. That is our goal. That is our purpose.”
The Church has an important history with the NAACP. In 2017, local Latter-day Saints helped refurbish the NAACP offices in Jackson, Mississippi. The next year, in May 2018, the First Presidency and NAACP leaders released a joint statement calling for greater civility and racial harmony. Two months later, the Church announced a historic collaboration between the two organizations and launched a self-reliance initiative. The NAACP and BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School have also worked together on joint projects.
President Nelson spoke at the 110th NAACP annual convention in July 2019. “Arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder, may we strive to lift our brothers and sisters everywhere, in every way we can,” he said.
And last year, in a joint op-ed column published by the online platform Medium, President Nelson and NAACP leaders called for racial reform, asking “people everywhere to join us in a journey of understanding and overcoming.”