Monday, May 19, 2008

Did The NAACP Finally Get Something Right?!?

Not that anyone's really noticed, but the NAACP's been asleep at the wheel since they ran off their most recent President, Bruce Gordon over a year ago. This weekend, the organization quietly introduced their new President, the oddly named Carlos Solis[1] Ben Jealous.

A 35-year-old human rights activist on Saturday was chosen to become the NAACP's new president and chief executive. Benjamin Todd Jealous, a graduate of Columbia University and a Rhodes scholar, will become the youngest leader in the 99-year history of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.

"I'm excited to take the helm of the NAACP," he said. "I believe in the urgent need for strong civil rights institutions and strong black institutions in general."

"I am tremendously excited. It's a real chance to get my generation of people — those from 25 to 45 years old — really engaged in the work of this association, and to get this association really engaged in the issues of this century," Jealous said. "This is an historic time and the association is needed, now as much as ever.

"As somebody raising a 2½-year-old black child in this country, and having enjoyed as many blessings and privileges as my wife and I have, it's still deeply troubling that we have to worry about how she might be treated in school or by the police. As parents, we want the best treatment for our child, without discrimination against any aspect of her life. That's what drives me."

The NAACP's 64-member board, however, was not united in its selection of Jealous. The vote, taken after an arduous eight-hour closed-door meeting that ended close to 3 a.m., came as some members complained that they were being shut out of the selection process.

He pointed to his youth as an asset in recruiting new members and said he thought he could work to create consensus among the board's various factions.
On the surface, I like this move for many reasons. Jealous is more or less my age, which means although he's obviously well accomplished, he isn't too far removed from the very youth the NAACP is going to need if it has any chance of staying alive, let alone regaining relevance. He comes with a background not only in activism, but also in media. He's already mentioning taking more proactive measures to increase the organization's effectiveness, as well as embracing technology, something the NAACP clearly hasn't a clue about. If you want proof, just spend a few minutes on their website trying to unearth anything of value. Simply finding ways to work with new-school "activists" like bloggers will go a long way towards pulling the organization into the 21st century.

On the flipside, I wonder if he isn't going to somehow flame out and fall out of favor with the organization's top heavy board of directors. Anytime you have to go through 64 people to get something done, you're bound to get frustrated. Speaking of which, other than to appease the egos of a lot of 70 year olds, why in the hell does the NAACP need 64 board members? What are they, the US Senate? The mere process of getting these folks to approve Jealous for the position was reportedly time consuming and quite contentious. I wonder how these graybeards are gonna react when he tells them they're gonna need Hotmail accounts.

Sadly, the bigger issue is the organization's direction. While his predecessors (Kwesi Mfume and Benjamin Chavis) faltered due to personal demons, Gordon blew it when he tried to use his experience as a corporate executive to push the organization towards social service rather than it's traditional platform of social justice. This was a good idea on paper. Had the NAACP moved forward with proactive initiatives like financial awareness and community investment seminars, perhaps the ravages of the recent economic downturn and the proliferation of predatory lending and subsequent foreclosures in the black community might have been lessened. We'll never know, since Gordon got canned for not bringing in enough corporate donations and generally pissing off the Board of Directors. So, here's to hoping Jealous' stint works out better.

I'm obviously in wait and see mode, but here's just some of what I'd like to see the NAACP focus on:

Think Proactively - Police shootings may get you in the papers, but they're around #158 on the list of Black Folks' Real Issues. Switch up your approach or you'll be about as useful as a truckload of Gregory Abbott's Greatest Hits LP's. Which is to say you'll be about as relevant as you are at the present. Which is "not so much". Comprendez?

Education Matters Most - Social justice doesn't mean sh*t if you're in jail because you can't read. Use your resources and exposure to do something about the institutional issues that contribute to the academic achievement gap. Encourage parents to do the rest.

Reach Out To Bloggers - Find ways of using the Black Blogosphere to push your new proactive initiatives. We can disseminate info far faster than any other medium. Consider strengthening ties with the Black Church as well, albeit for different reasons.

Become More Visible - I seldom see the NAACP in the media for anything other than justice issues. You do indeed do lots of proactive stuff, or so your website says. But how come I never see any of that stuff? I know the Urban League is more grassroots focused, but guess what? They're pretty visible. You're not. Fix this.

Make Membership Free - Freedom ain't free, but that's no excuse to charge folks $30 just to be down. $15 for starving college students? Hell, I see you're even hitting up prisoners for $12. Do you have any idea what having $12 in your commissary can buy you in the clink? Me neither, but it's beyond the point. I know you have financial issues, but c'mon, your pay-to-play approach is obviously not cuttin' it. Shake down your corporate donors more, trim your organizational fat, and focus on adding real people to your roles.

Kill The "Image Awards" - Any awards show that gives best-in-class kudos to Robert Sylvester Kelly, DL Hughley, and the child who played Baby Girl on The Bernie Mac Show has zero cred from the jump. Get rid of this useless circle jerk and save some money in the process.

Holler at me if you need more suggestions, Ben. You know where to find me.

I wish Mr. Jealous the best. I'll be his biggest cheerleader if this whole thing pans out.

And if it doesn't, I'll just keep on talkin' sh*t about the NAACP like I always do.[2]

Question: What practical steps can Ben Jealous and the NAACP take to become more relevant to the issues facing today's black community?

NAACP selects new leader: Benjamin Todd Jealous, 35 [LATimes]

[1] Yeah, I used to watch it. The show sucks now, but I did watch once or twice.

[2] Notice to anyone visiting for the first time. I don't just talk a good game, I actually do deliver. So please spare me the sideways comments unless you've checked this site out first.

14 AverageComments™:

inkognegro said...

Dude was hand picked by Julian Bond. Youll pardon my skepticism.

If the board aint in an uproar, he isn't doing his job.

SMW said...

I like this blog.

Symphony said...

Carlos Solis. that you mention it.

Their problem is they concentrate solely on what the white man does to us. There is all this talk about what he can't/aren't allowed to get but once we get it we don't know what to do.

Its not someone else's fault, HBCU alumni are trifling about supporting their institutions beyond football. Its not someone else's fault we don't even THINK about owning anything other than a nice ride while renting an apartment. Its not someone else's fault the only way we let our money make money for us is through good for nothing savings accounts with no return.

These issues (and many more)are what the NAACP needs to spend a lot of time on in order for us to advance.

daedalus said...

If the NAACP would start serving the interests of black people rather than concentrating on socialist politics they would have something they dont have in the eyes of many, credibility. @AverageBro, "proliferation of predatory lending and subsequent foreclosures in the black community" How is this a problem? If the terms, sucked you shouldnt sign the contract. Its all there. This is not just a black problem. Bunches of whites are getting foreclosed on too and for the same reason, not reading the contracts they sign.

Tiffany In Houston said...


I belong to the Urban League Young Professionals. Now THEY are trying to do something.

the uppity negro said...

LMAO...Carlos Solis, I thought I was the only black guy that watched Desperate Housewives--and he SOOOOO looks like him.

Anywho, I agree with inkognegro--I'm VERY skeptical, Julian Bond is on my "You Need to Die Now" list along with Andrew Young and U.S. Rep. John Lewis. Theirs will be funerals I will be happy to attend.

I am happy because he is younger, and he makes it within my reach to see myself as the director or head of a bigtime organization (granted I don't quite have the credentials) but that's 11-12 years away for me.

But, there's a lot that needs to be revamped with the NAACP and I think the board is the biggest problem. Right after Bruce Gordon left (lol) I went to the Southeast Conference in Chattanooga, and heard Jeremiah Wright give the evening sermon, and he didn't mince words in his sermon about telling the NAACP to get their $h*% together. I mean, 64 members, I bet all 64 never have been in attendence at the annual meetings. I mean prolly one is always suffering from kidney stones, or early stage Alzheimers or something--and then they wonder why my generation is like En-double what?

I just think they need to make themselves more relevant--HOWEVER that is. And honestly, coming from someone who plans to make church my life, I think there needs to be some sort of separation between the NAACP and the Black Church. NAACP is run like the Black Church, yet another irrelevant institution if you want my honest opinion. I mean it's the same thing of trying to force plans through the deacons and trustee boards and you can rarely if ever move forward. Call it agism or whatever, but round-about 65, it's time for whomever to pack up and LEAVE!

The generation gap is WAY to wide, especially when old folks can't get passed a cap on inside of a building or pants below the waist line, to see other major issues such as Rontreveon is in eighth grade and can BARELY READ!

Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but often times, the NAACP and the black (specifically with their ties to the National and Progressive Baptists) it's highly patriarchal and like the old Baptist and COGIC pastors, the only way they leave is on their back with six men carrying them.

Meh, the children of Israel wandered for 40 years waiting for the old folk to die.

Hell, I'm still waiting--and I would LIKE to get to the Promised Land before I die.


p.s. Happy 83rd B-day to Malcolm X.

the uppity negro said...


I wasn't ready for "circle jerk" in reference to the Image Awards--an appropriate analogy however.

Anonymous said...

Teach Young Blacks Males how NOT to get your Their ASS kicked by the police.


Chai said...

Great post. I have been contemplating your question for quite some time... "Education Matters Most," might be hitting the nail on the head.

AverageBro said...

@ inkog

Dude was hand picked by Julian Bond. Youll pardon my skepticism.

Very valid point.

@ smw

Thanks! Stick around.

@ symphony

Indeed, not enough people contribute financially to their alma maters. But I don't think that's necessarily an exclusively black problem.

@ daedalus

"proliferation of predatory lending and subsequent foreclosures in the black community" How is this a problem? If the terms, sucked you shouldnt sign the contract. Its all there. This is not just a black problem.

Definitely NOT an exclusively black problem, but I think we can all agree that the NAACP could do more to improve the overall financial literacy of the community they "serve". With all their corporate resources at their disposal, it's puzzling that they don't have more visible initiatives of this sort.

@ tiff

Ditto. I was part of Greater Washington Urban League Young Pros. Definitely a positive organization. The NAACP should take notes.

@ uppity

I should note that I don't watch it anymore. That show jumped the shark a couple of years ago. It's beyond believable now, or so I hear.

Mwanga said...

64 members on the board and I bet every one of them has veto power. Good luck to Carlos (yeah, I watch too--hey, 30% of Essence readers are brothas, go figure).

Anonymous said...

The NAACP is a peace of sh*t. What do they do besides having their annual Image Awards? Nothing. The organization presents itself as an elitist group of black people that only involves themselves in media drama. Which is probably only to make themselves look good. NAACP=Irrelevant to the struggle!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but wouldn't it be nice if the head of the NAACP looked like at least 45% of black folks? It's a bit disturbing that in 2008 they can only find the guys that look like Carlos Solis to run the show? Whateva.

Anonymiss said...

We'll have to only wait and see if the NAACP has finally gotten it right. They've really obsoleted themselves over the years.

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