The national office of the NAACP has made a couple of significant changes lately; they dismissed the chairwoman, Roslyn Brock, and the president, Cornell Brooks. Although I served in various capacities within the Cincinnati branch for nine years (2005-2014), through which we did excellent work for our community, I have not been a fan of the national office since Myrlie Evers took over back around 1994 or so. My experiences in our local branch left a bitter taste in my mouth as I watched the national office use its national representative, the “Luca Brasi” of the NAACP, Gill Ford, to intimidate members and even suspend them for life because they refused to capitulate to his will.
Many branches across the country have suffered from Ford’s arrogance, collusion and disruption of local branch elections and other branch activities. He had his own agenda for certain branches and exercised it summarily and arbitrarily without sanction or even a response from his national bosses. Despite branches calling, writing, suing and filing complaints against this guy, he continued to ride roughshod over the local proletariat, the volunteers, who do much of the work and pay a great deal in dues and assessment fees to the national office.
Ford’s actions, supported or ignored by his superiors in Baltimore, showed me it was all about control and money and never about support of local branches – that is, unless those branches bent to the dictatorial would of Gill Ford. I am proud to say that during my tenure we stood up to the bully and did our work in spite of him doing everything he could to control us. Although I have not seen an announcement of his dismissal, I really hope he is gone as well and, if not, that the new administration will reel him in and monitor what he does a lot more than his former bosses did. Much of the negativity and chaos within branches has been caused by Ford and overlooked by Brock, Brooks and Ben Jealous.
Leon Russell, board chair, and Derrick Johnson, vice-chair, sent a letter out announcing the termination of Brooks along with their intentions for the future of the NAACP. Following is an excerpt from that letter:
“… in the coming months, our leadership will embark on a ‘listening tour for the first time in our history.’ It is clear that Americans of all genders and ages, from all of the corners of all 50 states, have been aching to be understood, to be seen – and now, they are demanding to be heard. We want to meet those demands, and in doing so, ensure that we are harnessing the energy and voice of our grassroots membership as we pursue transformational change. As we reimagine 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. … As we embark on this journey, everyone will have a place at the table”
The most striking statement to me is that in 107 years, the NAACP has never gone on a “listening tour” to hear from its branches; but I will let you draw our own conclusions from that excerpt, and I encourage you to read the entire letter; read it and critically analyze it to see if it meets your approval, especially if you are a member.
The once vaunted and heralded NAACP has finally gotten the message, it seems, and is ready to hear from the grassroots. I trust they are truthful in that regard and will follow through on their statements. If they do not and merely put a new face on the same old problems, my advice is for members to walk away and leave them to their own devices. If they are sincere, I urge you to support this new vision and get involved to help bring it to fruition.
A Black organization with over a half million members can do so much to move us toward economic empowerment. It will not happen if corruption and distrust exist at the top. Nor will it happen if those on the local level participate in that corruption and/or turn a blind eye, a deaf ear and a mute voice to election tampering and mistreatment of branches that refuse to go along with the nonsense from the national office.
I wish Brothers Russell and Johnson well in their quest to recapture the glory of the NAACP, but they should know there is a great deal of discontentment out there that must be heard and respected. When that is acknowledged and dealt with, fairly and immediately, the organization can move forward; but it will not until that happens. Suggestion: A great place to start the listening tour is Ohio; it has been at the center of the storm for years.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the author of Black Dollar$ Matter: Teach Your Dollars How to Make More Sense. He can be reached through http://www.blackonomics.com.