The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the acknowledged as the oldest civil rights organization in the United States. With more than a half-million members worldwide, the NAACP has been part of history’s most notable grassroots movements for equity in the areas of voting, criminal justice, housing, employment, and other matters.
However, as the facade of progress wrongly fooled some into thinking that there were no longer reasons to organize in the ways that pioneers of the early and subsequent Jim Crow-era American Civil Rights Movements did, the NAACP has been widely criticized for its absence in political and other arenas that deeply impact brown people in the U.S. Most notably, during Election 2016 the NAACP, once known for its strong presence —especially during contentious elections — was minimally present at best and wasn’t seen as a driving force where rallying brown voters around the importance of getting to the polls.
Nevertheless, the NAACP has fought to silence critics who say their mission is moot, vision blurry, and reputation tarnished. A huge catalyst in the fight to restore the prestige of the group has been NAACP President Cornell Williams Brooks. However, as of Friday, Brooks has been ousted as the leader of the NAACP.
A Yale educated civil rights attorney, Brooks once argued:
‘We do not crawl on the ground! We do not fall prostrate before problems! We are not relegated to the dust! We are not insects! We are an American iconic institution! We are the NAACP! It is still one of the nation’s most influential black organizations. After all, both Presidents Obama and Clinton attended this week’s convention. So why the need to defend the NAACP so vigorously?’
Addressing comparisons to groups like Black Lives Matter, Brooks continued:
‘For years now, some activists have said the NAACP has fallen behind the times. They recognize the crucial role it played in ending legalized discrimination during the Civil Rights Era. But they say it has been less effective in countering racism today, while Black Lives Matter and other protest movements have exploded.’
However, Brooks’ efforts to rally support around the 108 year-old group haven’t been enough to win over Board Chair and Vice-Chair, Leon Russell and Derrick Johnson, respectively. The pair cites the need to be stronger in the areas of advocacy and education, as well as to be better prepared to support activism on local levels, as reasons for the decision not to renew Brooks’ contract that ends in June.
On behalf of the NAACP, Russell said:
‘We want to be informed by those who are the people we serve. And to do so we have to see them, we have to meet them, and we have to listen to them.’
Johnson and Russell didn’t point to anything specific that Brooks has or hasn’t done to lead to his termination. At the same time, there were several allusions to the need for the NAACP to be able to become a stronger and more present force as part of the resistance against Donald Trump — a movement that has seen groups like the ACLU, Black Lives Matter, etc., be front and center while the NAACP seems nowhere to be found.
Soon-to-be former President Cornell Williams Brooks states that he is “baffled” by the decision not to renew his contract. Naturally, the hope is that Brooks takes his legal expertise and desire to resist to another platform to serve, as opposed to giving up because of the loss of his job.
Featured Image via Getty/Win McNamee/Staff