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Dozens gathered Friday for a labor luncheon during the statewide NAACP conference held in Clarksville. William "Bill" Lucy, member of the national NAACP board who's fought all his life for labor rights was the keynote speaker. 

CLARKSVILLE — The second day of the annual Indiana NAACP conference in Clarksville brought with it an inspiration to attendees to work together to help create change toward a more united country.

William "Bill" Lucy, member of the NAACP National Board of Directors, who's worked his life to fight for labor rights, gave the keynote address at the labor luncheon Friday, part of the three-day state conference held at the Radisson Louisville North in Clarksville.

"I have spent 66 of my 86 years representing the interests of working people, and I take that role seriously," he said. "I want to share with all of us the conditions under which we are struggling to try and build a country everyone can share in."

Lucy, who is also an executive council member of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations and recipient of the Nelson Mandela Award, asked the audience to break things down to two kinds of people — the powerful and the powerless.

"The powerful have things done for them and the powerless have things done to them," he said. "And the role of the NAACP is to try and create a sharing relationship between those who live in this society who are simply trying to survive."

He urged the audience members to stop "buying into" games the rich and wealthy play to keep their place at the top — by keeping others divided.

"The rich and wealthy I think are very clever, because they keep us fighting with each other over irrelevant stuff," he said, adding that it's been a strategy for oppression used "simply by telling some of us that we could be better off if the other person is worse off. That's a strange philosophy if you buy into it."

He also urged residents to use their voting power to help work toward equality.

"There's a process to deal with [issues that affect us] and that's our right to vote," he said. "There's a lot of work to be done...I truly believe if we don't come together as a nation, we're destined for difficult times."

Antia Fields, president of the Jeffersonville/Clark County chapter of the NAACP, which is hosting this weekend's events, said she felt Lucy's speech was an inspirational one she hoped the audience could take something away from.

"I thought Mr. Lucy was outstanding," Fields said. "To me, he's the dean of labor and industry and he's also a fabulous mentor to any business. He's just truly an outstanding person and we were so greatly honored to have his presence today."

Another of the several dozen audience members was Indiana Sen. Eddie Melton, who recently announced his bid as a Democratic candidate for the Indiana gubernatorial primary in 2020. Melton has said he wants to focus on equality and commit to investing in Hoosiers through education and higher wages.

"From the portions that I heard, I think he's hitting on some key issues that really resonate with folks that feel like government is not paying attention to them," Melton said. "And if we don't have leadership that's going to address these issues its going to get worse."

Aprile Rickert is the crime and courts reporter at the News and Tribune. Contact her via email at aprile.rickert@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-206-2115. Follow her on Twitter: @Aperoll27.

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