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Local Voices: NAACP: Its Role And Road For The Future

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which was founded February 12, 1909, elected Derrick Johnson, 49, as its new President and CEO, for a three-year term, on October 21, 2017.

As a 77-year-old African-American male and long-time supporter, I am deeply concerned about the continuity and viability of the NAACP in the 21st century. The venerable NAACP is at a crossroads of great magnitude.

In the recent past, it has suffered from a leadership void, internal bickering, operational difficulties, stagnant membership, declining corporate support, occasional IRS inquiry, among a host of internal and external ailments. Moreover, supporters and critics alike are questioning the NAACP’s very purpose and direction.

Supposedly the NAACP has a paid membership of 300,000, or so, and an annual budget of approximately $28 million. In my opinion, these important numbers are too low for the NAACP to be meaningful and effective. Based on its outstanding civil and human rights record along, the NAACP should have several million dues-paying members, among African-Americans in particular. If it truly desires autonomy and flexibility, the NAACP must be able to “pay its own way” in terms of member participation and meaningful financial support.

Only then will the NAACP be able to fulfill its leadership role(s) and organizational objectives for the 21st century. Only then will the NAACP be able to conceive and enact those “three arts of life and survival” for its core membership: (1) the art of cohesiveness (to recognize and neutralize “enemies” from within and without); (2) the art of commerce (to develop and improve upon the skills of labor, business, and trade); and (3) the art of capitalization (to effect and promote a competence in goods and service production, financial investment, and management techniques).

This is the only way by which the NAACP will be able to adequately address the needs and ambitions of the alienated, impoverished and disillusioned people within our families and communities.

As a grassroots activist and advocate, I respectfully offer the following suggestions to the (new direction) NAACP as some possible agendas and strategies:
• Concentrate on “Silver Rights.” Be concerned about competitive education, economic literacy, job training and entrepreneurial development.
• Focus on “Golden Rules.” Be concerned about pay equity, saving, investing, venture capital and producing. Remember the old adage: “He who has the gold gets to make the rules.
• Establish ways to get the business-civic community more involved by forming task forces and think tanks to deal with education, political and economic issues that affect “us all.”
• Gather more resources, including monies, to deal with the multitude and magnitude of issues and obstacles that confront us a community and economic entity.
• Implement effective strategies and methodologies on how to involve parents, particularly the “missing father” in the raising and nurturing of their children.
• Create ways to plant the seeds of self-esteem and group empowerment early on, particularly for at-risk and disadvantaged children and families.
• Contribute on an individual and communal basis your time, skills, knowledge, monies and leadership, allowing the “best and brightest and willing and giving” of us to come together, collectively, and make it happen for all of us.

I find it fitting to end with the eloquent and wise words of Frederick Douglass, .”.. A man may not get all that he pays for, but he must certainly pay for all that he gets …” This, too, is the way now for the venerable NAACP.

John L. Horton resides in Norfolk and is a frequent contributor to this newspaper.

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