Grand Rapids NAACP president speaks on Black resilience


President Cle Jackson, who was invited to speak by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, is a native of Grand Rapids. (GVL Katherine Arnold)

Katherine Arnold, Staff Reporter

On Feb. 2, the Office of Multicultural Affairs hosted an event in the beginning of the line-up for Black History Month. The Resilience of Black Americans featured speaker Cle Jackson, President of the Greater Grand Rapids National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and a discussion about the racial divide in America, as well as the strategies we can utilize to create a more equal society.

The event also featured a discussion and Q&A, where attendees could ask Jackson about the NAACP and the topic at hand. What followed was an insightful and motivational conversation about policy, purpose and pursuing an equitable society through action.

“I stopped by here tonight to tell people that whatever you think you about Black people, delete those biases and prejudices, and start over,” Jackson said. “With building intentional, purpose-driven relationships with folk who may not look like you, live by you, or work with you. Because this is how we start to understand the work that it takes to build an equitable society.”

The racial divide in the United States has had a long history, one that has been highlighted by the Black Lives Matter protests of the past year. How can we think about resilience in the black and brown community?

For Jackson, resilience is survival, but does not create growth the same way as purpose. Purpose is the great changer; purpose in action, purpose in belief, purpose in equality. There can be no thriving from passivity.

“When can we (the Black community) stop being resilient?,” Jackson said. “No, we have to be purposeful to accomplish what we want to do. Let’s walk in purpose.”

A great number of questions were asked, from how to address police brutality and how the black community can live amongst those uncaring to their concerns, to what kind of aid the NAACP needs moving forward, and where the Grand Rapids chapter of the NAACP will be heading next. Jackson offered insight into how we can think about the world around us and what we can do directly to help, whether that be monetarily or by volunteering directly.

“It’s about being present and being fully engaged in this work,” Jackson said. “And that’s not only with one area, but every area from police brutality to health and environmental injustice.”

To learn more about the Greater Grand Rapids NAACP, you can visit, or explore the national website at