For over 70 years, socially conscious individuals in Riverside, from all walks of life, from all parts of the political spectrum, of all races and religions, have done something wonderful. They have dared to speak out for that which is right and against that which is wrong. They've all believed that civil rights are for everyone, that democracy is for everyone, not just for some. They are unafraid to speak the truth. They've all been members of the NAACP. Won't you join us and resolve "to do something for freedom today." Together, we can make a difference in our community!
Mrs. Lucille Stratton-Taylor, daughter of the Founder of the Riverside Branch of the NAACP, said her daddy was a community activist with a beautiful bass-baritone voice. Whenever he was asked to sing for a white audience, he always ended the program with his favorite and signature Negro spiritual, "Go down Moses, 'way down in Egypt land'. Tell old Pharaoh, to let my people GO!
Perhaps as he sung its chorus, Mr. Omar Stratton, Riverside's NAACP founder and its first president, visualized a freedom he would seek through the NAACP, on behalf of all of the colored folks living in Riverside, California during the 1940's.
According to Mr. Stratton, Black people in Riverside did not feel a pressing need for any organization on its behalf. This was probably because Black people in Riverside 'enjoyed' the subtle practice of a type of benign neglect and De Facto segregation. They could boast of some advancements like home ownership, albeit, that most were confined to the eastside of town; semi-integrated schools, businesses, and professions.
These facts were significant especially since throughout America, Blacks were feeling the continued effects of Jim Crow and systemic racism, i.e. riots, lynchings, not being able to vote, as well as being subjected to discrimination in employment, the military and the proverbial 'separate but equal' reminders all around them.
For Riverside Blacks, a night in 1941 caused them to reconsider the need for such an organization as the NAACP on that night. During a softball game between colored and white soldiers, a near riot occurred. Tensions were high on both sides. As result of the fight, however, for the colored soldiers, and the Black communities of Riverside and San Bernardino encountered many white people who were quick to retaliate and to lay blame.
Alarmed, several members of the Black community began the organizing process to establish a Branch of the NAACP and on September 26, 1942, the National Office of the NAACP granted the group a Charter. Mr. Stratton stated that 'from that day on, we never had another uprising and although we sometimes would run into opposition, most of the authorities were gracious in granting our desires and our relations with the city and county were on a high level.
For 70 years the Riverside branch of the NAACP has continued its fight for equal opportunities in employment, housing, education and segregation. Additionally, for 35 years, the Riverside Branch operated an award winning Head start and childcare program on the eastside. Since the organizations existence, names associated with it and credited with keeping the ideals and tenets of NAACP prominent and viable have included (not in any order) the Strattons, Edwards, Beverlys, Pattersons, Allens, Boykins, Hopkins, Davis, Stricklands,Streeters, Jordans, Carters,Gordans,Stokes, McCoys,Williams, Ellisons, Carrs, Jonigans, Powells, Andersons, Bryants, Smiths, Jones, Ponders, Terells, Holts, Taylors, Bereals, Culpeppers, Nashs, Roberts, Calhouns, Stowes, Alves, Gibsons, Billues,Davidsons, Edmonds, Moss, Spears, Clemmons, Walls, Scotts, Armstrongs, Williamsons, Griers, Carolines, Gilpins, and Russells, all Community Drum Majors for truth and justice.