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NAACP needs a woman leader

21st November 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Julianne Malveaux
Guest Columnist

The NAACP needs a woman leader. I’m not the One. I love the NAACP. I’ve been a member since I was 10 years old. I sizzle at the history and at the historic leaders (W.E.B. DuBois, Walter White, James Weldon Johnson, Medgar Evers, Ida B. Wells, and so many others). With its 30 year campaign to stop lynching to its more contemporary work in voting registration, the NAACP has always been involved in the struggle for justice and equality. Once upon a time the NAACP was considered so “subversive” that southern teachers who belonged to the organization were fired. Today, many consider the NAACP is considered “respectable”, forgetting that different times call for different tactics..

Thus, when I first heard that the Presidency of the NAACP was available I was excited. After all, which civil rights leader, policy activist, speaker and writer would not want to lead our nations’ oldest and premier civil rights organization. As if I was playing with a Rubik’s cube, I was twisting the squares to make them fit. They don’t. The NAACP leadership would have been a perfect job for me ten years ago, or even five. Right now, I am playing to my “sweet spot,” lecturing, writing and empowering young people.

People I don’t even know have asked me if I’ll be the next president of the NAACP. They don’t understand process. There’s a search firm, hundreds of applications on file, criteria that have not been shared. Could I compete? Absolutely. Do I want to compete? No. Why would I not consider taking the helm of a beloved and historic organization? In addition to talking and writing, NAACP leadership includes fundraising. Ben Jealous set a high bar by raising tens of millions of dollars to move the organization forward. That’s a record it will be difficult to top. The person to improve on the Jealous record will be a sister with indefatigable energy, fundraising acumen, board management skills and more.

Daily, I ask my higher power that my steps are ordered in ways that serve the least and the left out and that nourish me. I will write until I cannot hold a pen, talk until I cannot embrace a microphone. And, as I have been given the gift of mentorship, I will always do whatever I can do to help young people, and especially young women reach and exceed their goals. If it is meant for me to find other ways to serve, I will embrace that opportunity.

My wish for the NAACP is that they will find a mature, well-prepared and solidly grounded woman who is a great fundraiser, an eloquent speaker, and an efficient manager. She should be willing and able to commit at least 10 years to the organization. She should be a sister with a steep learning curve. And she must love people and abhor injustice with a passion.

Economic justice is still a subversive concept. While the economy is the doldrums and unemployment rates stuck above seven percent, our Congress prefers to subsidize agriculture and cut food stamps, not examining the injustice that will affect between three and four million people. While banks are bailed out those they cheated with subprime lending have lost their homes with no bailout. While the blue-chip status of U.S. bonds faced a downgrade thanks to the government shutdown, those with low credit scores face employment discrimination because of those low scores. There are administrative assistants who pay a higher rate of taxes than their bosses because of tax loopholes. Economic justice? Not with these rules.

Poverty stifles economic growth. Forty-five years after Dr. Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign, some of the same challenges face the contemporary poor. One in eight Americans, and more than one in four African Americans and Latinos live in poverty. Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty of the sixties has become a war on poor people in the 21st century. Elected officials regularly excoriate poor people as being “lazy”, and efforts to raise the minimum wage are often dismissed. From my perspective, however, the poor are some of the hardest working people I know.

Most inequity issues, ranging from inequality in education, to inequality in incarceration, are economic issues. These are the issues the contemporary Civil Rights Movement must tackle. One of those leaders will be the woman who will lead the NAACP. She deserves our enthusiastic support!

Dr. Julianne Malveaux is a DC based economist and writer, and President Emerita of Bennett College for Women.

This article originally published in the November 18, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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