By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
For the first time in 88 years, the Virginia NAACP will not hold its annual multi-day state convention.
Instead, according to state President Robert N. Barnette Jr. in a press release on October 26 to the media and local chapters, a one-day meeting will be held on November 11 at the Omni Hotel in Richmond.
Barnette’s announcement followed days of uncertainty and frustration by many Virginia NAACP members who had heard the convention was canceled but had not received official confirmation, according to various news outlets.
The Virginia NAACP Conference’s annual three-day convention, planned for last weekend, arrived at a crucial moment for the civil rights organization as the convention was scheduled to host leadership elections.
The lack of communication and the uncertainty it created angered some NAACP members who said it was a result of mismanagement by the organization’s executive board and that it could have been easily avoided.
“You must be kidding me. While we are up against it, the State NAACP can’t get enough delegates to hold a convention?” Phillip Thompson, former president of the Loudoun County branch of the NAACP and former member of the Virginia State Conference’s executive committee, wrote in an email to reporters and some NAACP members, among others according to an article in the Washington Post.
“Nobody saw this train wreck coming? How embarrassing!”
Barnette did not explain why the postponement was needed in his email other than to say, “It was necessary to make changes so that every voting delegate could be seated.”
President Barnette told the GUIDE during an interview recently, that the convention would be canceled because a number of the local branches of Virginia’s NAACP had not submitted their annual financial and membership report reports in accordance with national guidelines and were thus not allowed to send authorized delegates to the convention.
Barnette said that instead of submitting the information to the state office via the Internet, many of the units failed to do so. Thus, not enough people qualified to vote for delegates at the event. Without enough delegates in attendance, there would not be a necessary quorum to conduct business, especially elections for the officers of the executive committee.
Barnette will not be seeking reelection. According to various sources, Cozy Bailey, an NAACP leader in Prince Williams County, is running unopposed and members say he will receive enough votes on November 11 to become the next state president.
The 88th State Convention would have been the state NAACP’s first in-person gathering since the COVID pandemic ended.
Barnette noted that the resurgence of the virus in some Virginia locales may have played a role in some members not coming even under normal conditions, especially elderly ones.
Along with highlighting and establishing new policy positions, elections of executive board members and a new state president were slated.
That exercise will take place on November 11.
The new convention date will take place four days after the state legislative elections in Virginia.
All 140 General Assembly seats are on the ballot and control of the legislature hangs in the balance. The Democrats hold a slim lead in the state Senate and the Republicans have a thin margin majority in the House.
With Conservative Republican Glenn Youngkin as Governor, Republicans could change the course of the state political shade of Virginia from purple to red, if the GOP captures the Senate.
Focusing on the Black community, traditionally local and state NAACP operations turn on the get-out-the-vote machinery in late October to spur turnout for the November elections.
Black voter turnout is crucial this year with only a small number of House and Senate races will determine which party controls the state’s political power.
Barnette said he was concerned and understood the frustration and anger of NAACP leaders and members across the state.
Since its founding in 1935, the Virginia NAACP has played an outsize role in battling discriminatory laws and practices in the Commonwealth, including leading desegregation efforts and helping bring an end to Jim Crow laws.
Last week the organization filed a lawsuit alleging that Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration failed to turn over public records to explain how it decided whether to restore the voting rights of felons who have completed their sentences.
Barnette and other NAACP leaders say they are also concerned about the state sending out the wrong absentee ballots in Chesapeake and Princess William County or having armed GOP supporters posted at polling sites in Spotsylvania County handing out campaign literature.