MIAMI — Adora Obi Nweze expressed surprise when her name came to the top of the list of nominees to be president of the Miami-Dade Branch of the NAACP Monday.
The branch’s nominating committee named her president. Interim president Bradford Brown was nominated as 1st vice president, Shirley B. Johnson, 2nd vice president and Christopher Benjamin as 3rd vice president.
Elections will take place Nov. 26, and the new officers take over Jan. 1.
The nominations came days before the branch’s annual fundraising event, Freedom Fund Election Year Extravaganza, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 27.
Even though she was surprised, Nweze understands why she was chosen. “People are just more comfortable selecting people who know the ins and outs of things,” she said.
She spearheaded the formation of the branch through unification of several branches and served 11 years as its first president. She is now president of the Florida State Conference of NAACP and has a year left to serve in the office. Beyond that, she doesn’t know if she will run again for the state leadership role.
“It’s not unusual for the state rep to serve in the branch,” Nweze said. “Most state reps come from the branches.”
If Nweze is confirmed as branch president, she will succeed Brown, who stepped in after Victor T. Curry resigned in May. Brown did not seek election to the presidency.
Nweze remembers when the Opa-locka, South Dade Homestead, Greater Miami and Liberty City branches merged in 1988 to form the Miami-Dade branch of 5,000 members. The membership has declined to a little more than 1,000. That, Nweze said, reflects changes in society as a whole and the county specifically.
“Then, there were different issues that were occurring in the community: Haitian refugee crisis, things happening in education,” she recalled. “There were many proactive groups. Many groups have moved in and out; it’s a very transient community. People are moving in and out. The media were a lot different at that time.
There isn’t a lot of coverage in the community anymore. We as a community are becoming more isolated.”
Still, she said, the Miami-Dade branch has always met its mandate set out by the national office and has never been in trouble of losing its charter. In this election season, she said, the branch has registered 20,000 people to vote.
Now the branch faces the challenge of fundraising, membership growth and leadership.
Before the slate of officers was announced Monday, Brown was hoping to see a new leadership emerge to carry the torch lit by early civil rights advocacy.
“I have been active in the NAACP since 1962 but my role should be primarily supportive as the interim president to make sure we have a smooth transition,” Brown said.
“We, veterans of the ’60s, we need to continue to be active; we have a role to play,” Brown said. “But it is time for the Joshua generation, those people who benefited from those of us who worked so hard 40, 50 years ago, who have come up in a different world, those need to be the ones to move us forward into a different century.”
One of Brown’s last responsibilities as interim president is the annual fundraiser, which has the theme “Your Power, Your Voice, Your Vote.” It takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in west Miami-Dade.
Away all summer long, Brown and others returned to find there had been no planning for the fundraiser. The branch has never been able to raise enough funds to pay for an executive director to manage its affairs, so it relies on an office manager who mostly takes civil rights complaints from the public.
A flurry of activity since September, and the fundraiser has been revamped and planners are hoping it’s for the better.
“Gone are the chicken dinners and everyone squished into round tables,” said Ethel Duncan,” the branch’s 17-year office manager, who will serve as assistant secretary in the new administration.
The old format will be replaced with cocktail rounds, food stations and an informal program. Music will play and dancing is encouraged. Given its election theme,
attendees can expect to hear from those who are running for office and some who have already been elected to office, Brown said.
The Rev. Jimmy Brown of HOT 105 will fire up everyone to get out the vote, through early voting and going to the polls on Nov. 6.
Brown understands that it’s last minute that he’s reaching out to the community.
He also has to contend with the fact that contributions are not tax-deductible and he has to seek funding from marketing departments instead of community charitable funds.
But the branch is broke and needs to make at least $30,000 from this fundraiser.
“The last few years have been very difficult for everybody, whether you are a church, businesses, it has been difficult,” Brown said.