Having served the NAACP for 10 years in several capacities, including branch president, and having donated money to its causes, I take no pleasure in writing this exposé. But it is our responsibility to clean up our own organizations.
President Cornell Brooks sends missives on a regular basis, asking for money but also complaining about “voter suppression” by various states. Yet Brooks and chairman of the board, Roslyn Brock, accept voter suppression in their own ranks in various branches across the country. My grandmother would call that “hypocrisy.”
Accepting dysfunction within our organizations only diminishes our capacity to achieve meaningful economic progress. If all they do are 1,000-mile marches, pledge allegiance to the Democrat Party, and beg for money – the perception of our organizations will continue to be that of dependence, irrelevance, and impotence. We will be relegated to an afterthought, a nonthreatening group of Black folks who can be bought off for a pittance.
Sham and disgrace
The national NAACP has become a sham and a national disgrace to Black people. President Brooks’ latest request states, “…we need to raise at least $300,000 in December to continue our fight for voting rights, justice, and educational and economic opportunity for all.” In addition to that request, there are the ongoing solicitations for $30 memberships.
Of those $30 local membership fees, $18 goes to the national office, as does 25 percent of funds raised by local branches from their annual Freedom Fund banquets.
Here’s the rub: The Columbus Dispatch (September 2013) pointed out, “The NAACP’s most recent filings with the IRS showed the organization ended 2013 with a $5.7 million operating deficit, with $36.7 million in expenditures and $30 million in revenue.”
Yet, according to outgoing president Ben Jealous, the NAACP doubled its funds from $23 million in 2007 to $46 million in 2012. “In the last five years, we’ve had double-digit revenue growth, we’ve spent five years in the black,” Jealous told USA Today in September 2013. What happened to all that money?
Former president of the Columbus, Ohio branch, Noel Williams, who was also a victim of national NAACP corruption, says, “Today’s NAACP represents only the ‘entitled’ few, comprising representatives of the national board, special contributors, and connected state conference presidents. Local members suffer victimization by the national NAACP personnel who rake in millions of dollars from Corporate America but very little, if any, goes to the local units. Our branches are left to scrimp, beg, borrow or use any means necessary to accomplish our work, many operating on $2,000 or less per month.”
Williams continued, “The national NAACP is abusive toward its units. The circuit court judge in the West Memphis, Arkansas said it best: ‘The intervener (national NAACP) seems to regard itself as a feudal liege; the member branches, in general, its fiefdom.’”
“The national NAACP considers itself master and the local members their servants. The animus displayed by the national NAACP towards its units, and even a court of law, is evident in the Arkansas case in which the judge wrote, before issuing a judgment against the national NAACP of $120,000: ‘If the court had the least doubt about the utter disdain that its orders are held by the intervener (national NAACP), the testimony of its principals (national NAACP staff) has put that doubt to rest.’”
“The national NAACP has an internal cancer that was benign, but now the malignancy has spread to once healthy parts of the organization. Units in Ohio, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Florida, to name a few, have all been metastasized and now find themselves in the stream of suspended memberships, manipulated elections, character defamation, and a host of other non-judicious offenses,” Williams stated.
Money and perks are at the root of this cancerous corruption. Roslyn Brock has a milquetoast malleable president in Cornell Brooks, who is just what the doctor ordered for an egotistical, self-centered chairman only interested in individual acclaim.
In September 2005, Black Enterprise magazine interviewed new NAACP president Bruce Gordon. Speaking about New Orleans, Gordon said, “Most recently there are a lot of concerns about the way African-Americans are treated in the French Quarter. I would say in addition to [marching], we should take our dollars elsewhere…That, to me, is a more significant message than a protest because it has an economic impact on the offenders.”
In March 2007, the Washington Post (in response to Gordon quitting the NAACP) wrote, “In choosing Gordon, the NAACP veered from its tradition of selecting ministers, politicians, and civil rights figures. Gordon’s strong management skills as a former Verizon executive factored into why he was selected to run the 500,000-member NAACP.”
Gordon would not be micromanaged. Maybe that’s why he is no longer president of the NAACP.
Members, the NAACP is broken; hold on to your money and fix it.
James E. Clingman is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people.
His latest book, “Black Dollars Matter! Teach Your Dollars How To Make More Sense,” is available on his website, Blackonomics.com.