The country may have its first black president, but it still has a long way to go to advance the rights of African-Americans, according to Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP's New York chapter.
"We’ve made some strides, but we are not near where we want to be in America," the 79-year-old civil-rights advocate said. She is set to appear as the keynote speaker at New York University's Wednesday night opening ceremony for the college's Black History Month celebration, “Black Mosaic: Framing the Pieces of Our Heritage.”
"Whether you’re black, white, Jewish or Muslim, all people are important and have something to contribute," she said, adding her speech would touch upon "the mosaic of the city and the nation, giving some background history of civil rights and other movements our people have participated in."
Dukes said she plans to focus part of her speech on the future of education in advancing the diversity of society, adding that she hopes some day every student in America will learn about the history of all cultures — and not just during February, which is Black History Month.
Dukes, who leads the New York chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said she wants to see a mandatory national curriculum that would highlight and give credit to all the ethnic, cultural and racial groups that make America the melting pot it is.
That education would encourage respect, Duke explained, and "tear down the arrogance and ignorance" among people who act out of hate "because they don’t understand."
A veteran of civil-rights activism, Dukes marched through Selma and Montgomery, Ala., and Jackson, Miss., with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
She continues to be active in the movement today, championing the rights of African-Americans and other minority groups.