al_calloway_web.jpgFlorida’s top NAACP official is an ardent self-promoter, a steely povertician. Johnnie Raye McMillian, a.k.a. Adora Obi Nweze (a Nigerian name), amassed 39 years in the Miami-Dade school system as a teacher and administrator while moving up within the NAACP locally, statewide and nationally.

Nweze is president of the Miami-Dade branch NAACP, president of the Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches and a member of the NAACP National Board of Directors. She is also a member of the NAACP Special Contribution Fund/Board of Trustees and serves on eight or more national board committees.

In addition, Nweze is into party politics as chairwoman of the  Affirmative Action Committee of the Florida Democratic Party.

There are many other obligations, including sorority, Eastern Star and church, that steal time and effort from this super busy woman, most of whose time is spent attending meetings, talking on the phone, preparing for meetings and traveling.

While I make no claim to anything approaching an academic study of NAACP functionality in Florida, I do have 20 consecutive years of experience as an official of the Fort Lauderdale Branch of the NAACP and I also participated at the state, regional and national levels of the organization’s activities.



So, as an insider looking in on the NAACP, primarily within 16 counties from Kissimme in Osceola County to Key West in Monroe County, I made some observations. As a member of the South Florida Water Management District’s Water Resources Advisory Commission, I would be in any one of the 16 counties on occasion for at least a day and a half or two during 12 consecutive years, from 2000 to 2012.

Free time was spent around or near the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in towns and cities, as well as other inner city main drags. I’d check out beauty and barber shops, soul food restaurants, churches and bars and clubs. Over and over, I was told that Mrs. or Mr. so and so and a couple of her or his friends are the NAACP and they operate out of her or his house.

People knew nothing about membership or if there were any programs. They did know that every year there is a Freedom Fund banquet and some bigwig white folks and black politicos get plaques and their pictures in the newspaper – then silence. Nobody talked about the money raised or what the so-called NAACP does.

You see the mass of poor and near-poor, the advancing deterioration and the drabness of municipal neglect. Instinctively you just know that the future is downhill from here without organization, without a

national light to shine on areas around these Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevards from Kissimmee to Key West – and probably all over Florida.

Is the NAACP dying in Florida, and elsewhere as well? Are we witnessing a national trend? It’s been musical chairs at the top nationally since Kweisi Mfume left as president/CEO of the venerable civil rights organization. And Florida’s state president, Nweze, is so busy into self-promotion. Meanwhile, those most in need remain unorganized and without many civil rights.

Without a truly activist NAACP, where will organization and support come from to galvanize those most in need, first and foremost, and also grow a middle-class among so-called minorities? Tragically, the NAACP has been and is a national failure regarding political and economic development issues of every kind.

Oh, spokespersons rave about this or that meeting or initiative but later it is revealed that nothing really significant has occurred.

Instead of organizing the people, civil rights leaders depend almost totally on downtown financial support. Therefore, the NAACP and others are notoriously opposed to selective buying campaigns as an economic response to bad corporate and financial institutional policy.

Similarly, bad politics has been a hallmark of NAACP political activity, or lack thereof. Civil rights leaders don’t get it: Politics and economics go together like the fingers to the hand. They are inseparable and interdependent.

Ms. Nweze spent 39 years as an educator, yet cannot see the proliferation of churches in inner cities as a gold mine for education, community organization and economic development. Maybe the NAACP demise is a good thing? Maybe the organization just needs leadership change throughout?

Al Calloway is a longtime journalist who began his career with the Atlanta Inquirer during the early 1960s civil rights struggle. He is writing a book of essays. He may be reached at