By Monique Jones
The Birmingham Times
The Alabama chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on Monday encouraged citizens to not shop on Black Friday and expressed concerned about the selection of Sen. Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General.
The civil rights organization held a press conference in Kelly Ingram Park to talk about both matters.
“One, it’s to encourage people not to shop on Black Friday, to support and honor the families of those African-Americans who have been killed by police officers,” said Bernard Simelton, president of the Alabama NAACP. “The second [reason] is to let the media and the state know our position on President-elect [Donald] Trump’s selection of [Senator] Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the United States.”
There is concern that Sessions, of Alabama, if confirmed, could create an unsafe environment for the country’s marginalized communities, Simelton said.
“There’s a lot of things people need to know about his past,” said Simelton. “We want people to start thinking and contact their senators in particular and let them know that we are not happy with this selection because it’s only going to further decrease … civil rights for everyone.”
In a prepared statement, the Alabama NAACP said, “The selection of Senator Jeff Sessions for the position of U.S. Attorney General can be seen as an attempt to normalize racism, and hate in America. It is by all accounts a strategic move. …The selection of Jeff Sessions is a deliberate attempt to undo all of President Obama’s policies of inclusiveness and diversity.”
Simelton also addressed Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
Even though the Alabama NAACP is asking shoppers not to take part in Black Friday, they aren’t asking for a boycott of the entire shopping season, officials said. However, in order to raise awareness about local and national issues, Simelton said the potential economic impact of not shopping on that day would need to grow, he said.
“…If we can have a $5,000, $10,000 impact on a merchant, then next year, it may move up to more. We’re trying to take this one step at a time,” he said. “…We’re not trying to shut any merchant down, but we’re trying to bring to the attention of leaders that we’re sick and tired of people not listening to what we’re saying about the killing of young black [people].”
Simelton said, percentage wise, twice as many African-Americans have been killed as it relates to the population in the United Sates.
“The NAACP is deeply concerned by the number of African-Americans that have been killed by police officers throughout the years,” he said. “I must say that we are also concerned about black-on-black crime. But we are particularly concerned about…those who have sworn to serve and protect are killing African-Americans at an alarming rate.”
He encouraged shoppers to “stay at home and enjoy your families and think about those who don’t have their loved one with them because the police have killed them,” he said. “… Those individuals cannot be here with us and those families will have a tough time celebrating Thanksgiving this year.”
Black Friday has been used as a tool for activism in recent years. The group Blackout for Human Rights created #BlackoutBlackFriday to galvanize a national movement to withhold spending dollars from stores, citing the collective economic power of the African-American population. Nielsen reported in 2015 that black households with annual incomes of $75,000 or more were on the rise. The 2015 Multicultural Economy Report from the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business predicts that by 2020, the buying power of African-Americans will be $1.4 trillion.