“They don’t represent me” is what most African-Americans say about the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Not only do most blacks retreat from the organization’s name, too many are repulsed by what it stands for and who runs it.
As part of an effort to rearrange the organization “to better resist President Trump’s agenda” the board of the NAACP dismissed president and CEO, Cornell William Brooks. But the majority of blacks couldn’t tell you who the NAACP fired and know little of the organization’s “staff retooling,” despite it being America’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized grass-roots-based civil rights organization.
Generations of blacks know the NAACP as a tour de force for rights. The NAACP was formed partly in response to the continuing practice of lynching and the 1908 race riot. Appalled at the violence committed against blacks, a group of white liberals called a meeting to discuss racial justice. Some 60 people, among them seven African-Americans (including W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell), joined the call. Nowadays, the NAACP is headquartered in Baltimore, with regional offices in New York, Michigan, Georgia, Texas, Colorado and California. Each regional office coordinates conferences for the region. In the U.S., the NAACP is administered by a 64-member board, led by a chairperson. The board elects the president and chief executive officer.
Though few blacks knew of him, Brooks was the 18th president and CEO of the NAACP. He is a civil rights attorney, social justice advocate, fourth-generation ordained minister and “a coalition builder” who sought a “multiracial, multiethnic and multigenerational society,” millions of members strong. After Brooks’ contract expires, Leon W. Russell and Derrick Johnson, the chairman and vice chairman of the board, respectively, will operate the organization.
The group, however, has been eclipsed in many ways by the more youthful Black Lives Matter movement and is embarking on a listening tour to get ideas about how it can remain relevant.
The Garveyites among us say, “every black should be a paid-up NAACP member.” To be relevant to the country’s 13 million blacks today, the NAACP will have to articulate their perspective and point of view. Instead of being subscribing members, contemporary blacks recoil from the name the group still uses: the once-common term colored people, referring to people of some African ancestry. Now, the storied organization formally a major player for full equality for blacks is decidedly partisan and out of sync with what black communities believe and want.
Almost to everyone, Jews support B’nai B’rith. The NAACP does not have that cachet and numbers among blacks. For lack of support among blacks, the group stumbles financially on an annual basis. Because more minorities than Blacks are discriminated against, the NAACP maintains that color is the basis for discrimination, hatred, and prejudice. The organization is a $25 million annual operation. As of 2007, the NAACP had 425,000 members. The NAACP boasts 2,000 member units across the country’s states, cities, military bases, colleges, universities and high schools. Dissenters say the NAACP has stopped advancing colored people and is subservient to the Democratic Party and for every cause not related to the “advancement of colored people.”
For the NAACP to be relevant to blacks, it will need to: consider a name change, effectively combat local and national racism, decrease the size of the board of directors, decrease socialist and Democratic Party partisanship, and hire a female president and CEO, i.e., Condoleezza Rice or Michelle Obama. The job pays $150,000 a year, but requires a messianic figure to get a mass movement of blacks to think of the NAAACP as Jews do and support B’nai B’rith.
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.