NAACP Celebrates the On-going Legacy of Congressman John Conyers, Jr.
WHEREAS, John Conyers, Jr. has served the people of the City of Detroit, the State of Michigan, and the Nation for over four decades in the House of Representatives, first elected in 1964 as the only candidate to ever receive the endorsement of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and is one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the longest-serving African-American in Congress; and
WHEREAS, since his election to Congress, John Conyers, Jr. has worked tirelessly in the public interest, striving to create jobs and economic opportunities, to be a peacemaker throughout the world, and to ensure equality and justice for all Americans but especially for communities of color and all those who have known the shackles of discrimination and oppression; and has been recognized for this work by the NAACP as its 92nd Spingarn Medalist; and
WHEREAS, for over 40 years, Congressman Conyers has consistently supported, if not led, the NAACP legislative agenda and has voted in support of the NAACP position every time he has been able to vote on the floor of the House of Representatives; and
WHEREAS, Congressman Conyers has continued the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement during his tenure in Congress; and beginning in 1968, introduced legislation to commemorate the life and work of Dr. King with a federal holiday until 1983 when the Martin Luther King Holiday was created; and from 1965 until 1988, Congressman Conyers employed Ms. Rosa Parks, whose defiant act of courage triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the catalysts for the Civil Rights Movement; and upon Ms. Parks passing on October 24, 2005, Congressman Conyers led the legislative effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to have her lie in honor in the Capitol rotunda; and
WHEREAS, since 1989, Congressman Conyers has introduced H.R. 40, the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, to provide a formal examination of one of our nation's greatest historical injustices, the institution of slavery, as well as its contemporary consequences; and
WHEREAS, John Conyers, Jr. is a lifelong friend of the union movement and the American worker; he helped pass the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act of 1978; he was a fierce opponent of attempts by the Reagan and Bush Administrations to roll back worker safety standards, eliminate overtime, and undermine workers' collective bargaining rights; and he continues to fight for equal pay for women and minorities, an increased minimum wage for all workers, and full employment for all Americans; and
WHEREAS, Congressman Conyers is a tireless advocate for health care reform, rooted in his belief that universal access to high-quality, affordable health care is both a fundamental right and a necessary condition for eliminating inequality; to which end he has sponsored H.R. 676, a bill to guarantee affordable single-payer health care for all Americans that serves as the standard for comprehensive, progressive health care; and
WHEREAS, in 1965, Congressman Conyers became the first African-American to serve on the House Committee on the Judiciary and later its first African-American Ranking Member and first African-American Chairman; and through his service on the Judiciary Committee, has introduced legislation aimed at ending racial profiling and police brutality, helping families save their homes from foreclosure, protecting Americans from violent hate crimes, and eliminating unfair sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine; he led the opposition to President Clinton's impeachment and engineered the defeat of extremist congressional attacks on federal affirmative action programs; and he helped enact historic legislation including the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007, the Second Chance Act of 2007, and the Pigford Claims Act of 2008 protecting Black farmers; and
WHEREAS, Congressman Conyers has championed the cause of strengthening and expanding voting rights throughout his tenure in Congress, beginning with the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its subsequent reauthorizations, the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (Motor Voter) and the 2002 Help America Vote Act; and conducted a comprehensive study of the voting irregularities in Ohio in the 2004 election, culminating in the report What Went Wrong in Ohio; and has worked to secure congressional representation for the more than half a million Americans who are disenfranchised residents of the District of Columbia; and has sponsored legislation to address the voter suppression and intimidation that continues to plague low-income and minority communities; and
WHEREAS, as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Conyers performed vigorous oversight over extremist Administrations which were fighting against civil rights and civil liberties, whose violations included acts such as the warrantless wiretapping of Americans, the improper firing of U.S. Attorneys and the politicization of the U.S. Department of Justice, and the manipulation of intelligence reports in making the case for war; and
WHEREAS, Congressman Conyers sponsored H. Con. Res. 57, which recognized Jazz as a uniquely American musical idiom and culture and valued expression of the African- American experience; and has a strong record of advocating for the rights of minority artists and performers, including leading the charge against record labels' ―work-for-hire‖ legislation and preserving artists' ownership of their work; championed the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act of 1995, the first law to give artists fair compensation for digital performances; and is the primary sponsor of H.R. 848, also known as the Civil Rights for Musicians Act of 2009, which would protect against the exploitation of musicians and ensure that they are fairly compensated for their performances over terrestrial radio while at the same time protecting the interests of small and minority-owned radio stations; and
WHEREAS, in recent months, Congressman Conyers has been the subject of unscrupulous and unfounded attacks on his commitment to the African-American community and his very character; and which attacks have ignored his lifelong and continuing fight for justice, equality and economic opportunity for minorities and for all Americans; and
WHEREAS, HR 848 ends a decade's old, outdated exemption from the copyright laws that allows radio stations to exploit African-Americans and other musicians by not paying them for their music when it airs on radio. Every modern country requires radio stations to compensate musicians, and copyright law requires that artist be compensated in every other circumstance-when their music is played on satellite radio, downloaded from iTunes or even played at a local bar. HR 848 is about ending exploitation of African- American musicians and paying them fair wage for their work; and
WHEREAS, HR 848 is a labor issue HR 848 is about paying artist for their work. A fair day's work deserves a fair day's pay; that's a plain and simple truth that is American as apple pie. And its principle inviolable to the labor movement; and
WHEREAS, HR 848 is a civil rights issue: Martin Luther King Jr. went to Memphis to ensure that sanitation workers got paid a fair wage. Compensating people fairly for their work is a basic civil right. We did not wage a civil rights movement to enable a few rich African-American millionaires to exploit and hoodwink African-American musicians; and
WHEREAS, HR 848 protects small black radio stations: for smaller radio stations- including over 90% black radio stations-royalty fees under the bill are limited to only $5,000 a year for the rights to play all music they want. That's the cost of a few radio ads for an entire year's rights; and
WHEREAS, HR 848 is life and death for many musicians: The Performance Civil Rights Act would ensure that fifty percent or more of all performance royalties go directly to the performers-not through the labels. This would be the first time in history that performers would be compensated when their songs are played on the radio. And if the performers still own the copyright, they get all the proceeds; and
WHEREAS, HR 848 is fair to big radio: HR 848 will barely cost big radio companies at all. It's the equivalent of five commercials a day. And small African-American radio stations are largely exempted from big payments to artists; and
WHEREAS, this income would be the only source of income for many older performers: they didn't write the songs-but they brought them to life. Without the performers, these songs would be nothing but words on a page. And for many of them radio performances are their only source of income.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP endorses and supports HR 848, the Performance Rights Act and calls on NAACP units and members throughout the country to contact their Representatives, Senators and the President of the U.S. to pass this measure into law, so America's performers can receive the respect they deserve.