Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Continuing Disconnect of the NAACP by Craig Bardo

When the NAACP selected Bruce Gordon to lead it as its President and CEO in 2005, they moved away from the model of selecting high profile politicians, activists or lawyers. They selected someone with a 35 year career in corporate America. Early on, he moved to address rifts with the current Administration by meeting with President Bush at the White House. He was not reflexively vitriolic, a stark departure from past CEOs and certainly from more well known board members and the Chairman, Julian Bond. All of this caught my attention.

Last month, as I am wont to do, I left my bedroom television tuned to C_SPAN. I turned the volume up to listen to a replay of the Black State of the Union, something that I would not ordinarily watch. I was prepared to critique the leftist laden panel, but tuned in just in time to hear Tavis Smiley turn to Mr. Gordon. To my surprise and apparently to that of the audience, who did not respond in appreciation, Mr. Gordon delivered a message on process, not personality led organizations and self-reliance. I remember thinking that the NAACP is trying to become relevant.

Again on C_SPAN this morning, I heard a story about Mr. Gordon’s impending departure from the NAACP. According to the article the host quoted, there were differences between his vision to move the organization to a service orientation whose focus would be creating wealth for black Americans and that of the board who supported the traditional grievance agenda.

This public struggle and discourse reflects the private citadels so many of us deal with in the effort to move forward. The choice of where to focus so often determines an organization’s trajectory, just as it does an individual’s course. We all know those who look back to people or events where they believe they have been wronged and never move on. In fact, they shrivel and become shadows of their former selves, especially where there may be some justification for their grievance, however distant or removed from their current circumstances. It seems the NAACP has again chosen to look back instead of forward.

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