Rev. Melvin Wade.
When the NAACP comes to Los Angeles next month, the Rev. Dr. Melvin Wade will be at the forefront of the executive contingent, ensuring that the 102nd Annual Convention is a success. The conference, set for July 23 to July 28, will bring thousands to the city to establish policies and action programs to guide the organization during the coming year.
Dr. Wade, the pastor of Mount Moriah Baptist Church, will be active throughout the event, participating in business sessions as well chairing the ‘Gospel Extravaganza’ on July 27. His extensive involvement is no surprise considering his lifelong association with the historic group.
“I started working with NAACP as a child when I was in Omaha, Nebraska, and when I was in high school, I served as the local president of the youth division,” said Wade, who credits his father, Rev. Dr. J.C. Wade, Sr., with exposing him to the civil rights movement in the 1950s.
The relevance and influence of the NAACP continues to be important to him, especially in light of the pressing issues facing African Americans in current times. Health care, education and the family are at the top of Wade’s list and he plans to take part in workshops on those topics during the convention.
“My concern is for the spiritual well-being of people and from there, the social well-being, and the home. I am hoping there will be a real resurgence of the black father in the home. We have too many boys being raised by women. There is a difference. We have the love of the mother and the discipline that comes from the father.
“In the movie, ‘The Lion King,’ when the son got in trouble, the father didn’t send the wife, he went himself and gave his life for his son. We’ve got to get that point in Black families,” he said.
“Also, I am hoping there will be some real emphasis on education because this education system is messed up. The money that was supposed to be collected from the lottery, we haven’t seen that yet. I look forward to the day when we’ll pay teachers more than we pay athletes.
Affordable health care is another problem that needs to be addressed, said Wade, who flatly stated, “If you don’t die, you’re going to get old and you will need Medicare and health care period. Many of our people, especially those retired, are in trouble. They don’t have a lot of money to afford medicine and doctor bills are out of the box.”
Recalling his bone marrow transplant a few years ago, he noted that the medicine cost $4,000 per bottle. “If I didn’t have the health insurance my church provided, I would have been in real trouble. We have to stand and do something about health care charges.”
His commitment to improving life for African Americans was inspired from witnessing his father’s activities with civil rights icons such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. The leaders, who were also acquainted through the National Baptist Convention of America, often met in Dr. J.C. Wade’s home to plan strategies to fight discrimination.
“The reason we lived in Omaha is that my father didn’t want his children reared in the south. He was a leader in the movement and because of that, I knew many of the leaders personally, including Dr. King. I had a chance to meet and speak with him and Dr. Shuttlesworth because they were at our home,” said Wade.
Wade’s activism is also connected to racist incidents he experienced as a young adult. Coming home from one of the many conventions his family attended, they had an accident in one of the small cities.
“The man we had the accident with never addressed us ‘Mr.’ He said to the officer, ‘These boys ran into me.’ My godfather, who was 60 years old, was with us and this man called us ‘boys.’
When we got to the courthouse and went to use the restroom, the doors were labeled, ‘Colored’ and ‘White.’
“We continued on our way to Memphis and stopped at a Gulf gas station. The owner came out and told us to keep going. I know firsthand what it’s like to face discrimination,” he said.
Wade acknowledged that such blatant episodes are foreign to most of today’s youth that may underscore the decreasing NAACP membership among young adults. “A lot of young people of this generation cannot see that there is a covert conspiracy for the destruction of a community. The thing about is when you explain it, it’s like you’re not talking to them. Many of them don’t even have a clue.
“I was at a meeting, not long ago, where there were 500 youth, who took off from school for Martin Luther King Day, but they won’t support the NAACP or anything that has to do with civil rights. Because they have never experienced segregation and discrimination, they don’t know what it’s like,” he said.
Yet, this fact doesn’t weaken his resolve to aid African Americans as well as challenge young people to obtain an education. “Go to school because this is a credentialed world we live in today,” said Wade. He returned to college at the age of 60 to obtain his master’s and doctorate of ministry degrees.
Faith, dedication and ministry are common traits in Wade’s family. The past president of the 300,000-member National Missionary Baptist Convention, Wade has 24 relatives in the ministry.
“My cousin is the pastor of Jerusalem Baptist Church in Los Angeles, plus I have a cousin who pastors in Corona and my brother-in-law pastors in Riverside,” he said. In addition, several cousins are pastors in the Omaha area.