By AL CALLOWAY
The subject of national NAACP Chairman, Leon Russell’s May 19th email to the group’s membership reads, “Here’s to the next 100 years of resistance!” Before reading another word I felt outrage that an African American leader could even contemplate such a thought. Russell and his cohorts at the NAACP and elsewhere actually think black people will be in the same condition for another 100 years!
That folks is the crux of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) problem: hopelessness based on irrelevancy. The organization’s leadership looks at the future and sees only the past and present realities going forth. While the true African American reality is fraught with attempts to stave off systemic elimination by American white nationalist fervor, NAACP officialdom fears radical responses for survival.
Russell’s email is really about the official firing of NAACP CEO and President, Rev. Cornell W. Brooks, Esq., and that the organization seeks to launch a “system-wide refresh” as the Board searches nationally for a new executive. By “refresh” do Russell and the NAACP’s unwieldy Board mean to revive, or restore, maybe rejuvenate the organization?
If Russell and others listen to people across the country in tenements and housing projects, people that ride buses to and from work, people under the tree, in barber and beauty shops, the bars and soul food restaurants, and young people on college and high school campuses, they will learn that black folks want change, not a refresh of the same.
In the email’s first paragraph Russell writes, “Today, we remain fearful to drive our cars, walk in our gated communities. . .” Russell’s not talking about the people I just mentioned above, the poor and near poor people that go to jail because they can’t make bail and don’t have a lawyer, the people who struggle to make ends meet even with a job and food stamps and the unemployed. No, he’s talking about those who left, “the talented tenth” — all that remains are the preachers and undertakers.
While searching for Brooks’ replacement, Russell says that the NAACP “leadership will embark on a listening tour…” What leaders is he talking about, members of the national board, certain staff, a combination of the two, what? The national NAACP Board of Directors comprises 64 members. How on Earth do they get anything done? Cargill, America’s largest corporation for 8 of the last 10 years has a 16 member Board.
The NAACP bureaucracy is probably the main reason why the organization has not been listening and being relevant. There is a Conference of NAACP Branches in each state. Officers and Committee Chairs are elected and/or appointed at state conferences from Branches throughout each state. Each Region is comprised of several State Conferences and there are annual regional conferences. Then each July there is the National NAACP Convention, each year in a different state.
At these conferences and conventions much time is spent politicking about resolutions that are voted on and quickly forgotten. Socializing, shopping and spending money at expensive hotels and stores, for days at the national conventions, is a main feature. More often than not, NAACP people spend millions of dollars in cities that treat black people horribly. Locals are so often embarrassed and just overcome by the contradiction.
Apparently all the conferencing and Branch meetings with elaborate committee structures including oversight needs to be replaced because Russell admits a need to interact with the “voice of our grassroots membership…” Russell is finally on to something. He continues, “As we re-imagine ourselves, we want to be formed in the likeness of the people whom we serve – and to do so, we must first see, meet and listen to them.”
Unless the NAACP gets prepared to take the historical plight of African Americans to the highest international court within Western Civilization, which is at The Hague, it will continue to bask in irrelevancy. In fact the NAACP should start its transformation with the following name change: The National Association for the Advancement of Captive People!