By Michael H. Cottman
It’s time for a radical change at the top: The next president of theNAACP should be a woman.
After 104 years, the nation’s largest – and oldest – civil rights organization should evolve and move into the future for the first time with a woman at the helm.
From Benjamin Hooks, to Benjamin Chavis, to Kweisi Mfume, toBenjamin Jealous, it’s not only time for the NAACP to elect a woman president, but there shouldn’t be another NAACP president named Benjamin either.
The top job is open because Benjamin Todd Jealous, the youngest president ever elected to lead the NAACP, will resign on Dec. 31 saying he wants to spend more time with his wife and children.
“Leadership knows when to step up and when to step down,” Jealous said. “This day I can say with pride that I’m prepared to step down and make room for the next person who will lead this organization to its next chapter.”
So now, as NAACP senior executives begin a national search for a new president, perhaps they only need to look down the hall where Roslyn Brock, the NAACP’s national chairman, works in her Baltimore office.
“The NAACP is alive, and it’s well,” said Brock, who joined the NAACP in 1984. “We have a strategic plan in place that will help guide our work for the next 50 years.”
Brock, a loyal NAACP foot solider for 29 years, is the youngest person to serve as national chairman, having succeeded Julian Bond in 2010.
Since 2005, Brock has been the NAACP’s point person for the organization’s Leadership 500 Summit. The summit, which was founded by Brock, welcomes hundreds of executives, educators, managers, thought leaders, community organizers and aspiring leaders for a chance to network and engage with civil rights organization.
“Leadership 500 has established itself as the leading forum for business, non-profit and community leaders to tap into the world of advocacy and social justice,” said Brock, a smart, can-do leader who works tirelessly.
“We encourage conversation that challenges our current assumptions and makes us rethink the landscape of the modern-day civil rights movement,” she added. “Year after year, attendees leave with a sense of purpose and a plan to contribute to their communities in a meaningful way.” I’ve attended Brock’s Leadership 500 summits and it’s an impressive event because Brock helps groom tomorrow’s leaders as she continues to bring young black professionals with fresh ideas to the NAACP.
So today, it’s time for the NAACP’s 64-person board to hire its first woman president since the NAACP was founded in 1909.
“There are several stellar black women leaders who could lead the NAACP in a new direction,” according to Ebony.
The magazine listed Stefanie Brown James, a former national field director and youth and college director of the NAACP and the director of African-American voting for the Obama 2012 campaign; Aisha Moodie-Mills, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress; Maya Wiley, President of the Center for Social Inclusion; Sherrilyn Ifill, president and counsel-director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; and former Bennett College president Julianne Malveaux.
“The NAACP can send a great signal that a change has come by choosing an African American woman to head the organization,” Ebony said.
“That no woman in more than a century has had the opportunity is shameful. Moreover, it reflects a continued distrust of female race leaders,” the magazine added. “Despite the fact that black women are one of the most politically engaged demographics, particularly regarding racial issues, having disproportionately outvoted all other demographics in the 2008 presidential campaign, there is still a strident distrust of nlack women running movements.”
Meanwhile, Jealous said he has no choice but to resign: He made a promise to his seven-year-old daughter that he would leave the NAACP after five years – and he plans to keep his word.
“Truly we were surprised,” Brock told USA Today. “We’re disappointed that he’s leaving at this time. He’s five years in and we were expecting him to be with us seven years, based on our agreement with him.”
Perhaps Brock will take up the mantle and, as president, lead the NAACP into the future.
Brock has spent nearly 30 years working in the trenches for the NAACP. She deserves serious consideration for the civil rights organization’s top job — if she wants it.