NAACP: On Remaining Relevant

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It's only been 19 months and already NAACP President Bruce Gordon has called it quits citing irreconcilable differences with the management style of its 64-member board of directors, a clear indication that the Black leadership is in a serious crisis. 

In an Associated Press article on Sunday, Gordon said "I believe that any organization that's going to be effective will only be effective if the board and the CEO are aligned and I don't think we are aligned. This compromises the ability of the board to be as effective as it can be." 

For the record, this is not a good thing. The NAACP, for better or worse, is the only organization that is recognized around the world for advocating on behalf of Blacks. But in the past several years, the NAACP's silence on critical issues has increasingly frustrated me and caused me to ponder their relevancy.

To begin, the NAACP has refused to address the ever growing chorus of Black pastors using their pulpits to preach bedroom politics while at the same time campaigning for a party and a President that could care less about Black people. The consequences of the Black leadership’s failure to address this were played out in the 2004 Presidential election, with a possible repeat on the way in 2008.

The picking and choosing of what hate speech to condemn and what to ignore caused the NAACP to say nothing on NBA player Tim Hardaway's comments on hating gay people. But at the same time, allowed them to condemn Asian Week columnist Kenneth Eng’s "Why I Hate Blacks", who at the end of the day, has less of an impact on Black people because most Blacks had never even heard of Kenneth Eng but were well aware of Tim Hardaway. 

The NAACP is 98 years old and at times, I feel like it's being run by 98 year olds. Which is in no way to slight my elders, but to say that at some point you have to make real room for new and younger leaders to take the helm of our organizations and causes or they are going to die with you. 

And no matter how much you think you're running things now, there isn't much you can do from the grave. All of the youth board and coalitions in the world don't mean anything if you don't eventually allow its members to move up the ladder of leadership, which at the end of the day is really the goal right? 

It's already been made clear that the NAACP's membership numbers have drastically reduced over the past decade and they have made a point to focus on younger people for membership. So then why not address issues that are relevant to the younger generations in hopes of attracting them to the NAACP.

In politics there's always much talk about messaging to the seniors because they vote. But what's going to happen when the seniors die off? Who is going to be the new consistent vote in the Black community? What are we doing to reach out to Blacks that are between the ages of 25-45 to make sure that there is a core constituency of Blacks that do vote to replace our seniors? 

Other culturally relevant issues that the NAACP could take on include the misogyny and sexism in today's rap lyrics. The degradation of Black women in today's rap music videos has gone on for far too long unaddressed. 

Then there's that little issue of gangs. Gangs continue to plague Black communities across America with no real solution in site. With every life taken by gang violence, that's one less Black going to college, getting a job, buying a home, and so on. You'd think that would be an area that they would want to focus on more intently. 

I am in no ways happy to see President Gordon go. A President leaving after a year and a half on the job is not a good sign no matter how you look at it. I thank him for his time and duty because being the President of the NAACP is not an easy job and he did rise to the occasion to attempt to take on those responsibilities. 

The future of the NAACP is now in the hands of the organization's Board Chairman Julian Bond and its 64-member board of directors and all I can hope is that the board sees this as a major issue and re-examines the way that they are currently doing business, maybe starting with reducing the number of board members down from 64. 

I am of the belief that the NAACP is needed but we need to bring the organization into the 21st century, literally. The NAACP is the organization that is flocked to when something bad is said or done to Blacks, when they speak, America listens. No one wants to piss off the NAACP. 

It's the one organization that corporation's fall all over each to sponsor to show that they like Black people. It is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and it is in a state of crisis, to say the least, and by the definition of our race, so are we.

It's time to explore new ways of thinking and to invite new people to the table. If we don't it's very likely that the NAACP will cease to be relevant to entire generations of young Blacks and eventually disappear all together. 


Cannick is a commentator/critic who addresses social, cultural, and race issues and is based in Los Angeles.  She can be reached via her website at

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