Amid Tumult, N.A.A.C.P. Elects 18th Leader
By Tanzina Vega
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People elected its 18th leader on Friday night at an annual meeting of the executive board members in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Cornell William Brooks, the head of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, a civil rights research and advocacy organization, was elected president and chief executive by an overwhelming majority of the 64-person board, said Roslyn M. Brock, the chairwoman of the national board of directors for the N.A.A.C.P.
In an interview on Saturday morning, Mr. Brooks said he was “extraordinarily humbled and honored” at being chosen to lead the 105-year-old civil rights organization. He listed voting rights, economic equality and health equity as some of the most pressing civil rights concerns facing the country today.
“Clearly there’s much work to be done,” Mr. Brooks said.
Mr. Brooks, 53, is an ordained minister and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Jackson State University, a master of divinity degree from the Boston University School of Theology and a doctoral degree from Yale Law School. Mr. Brooks has served as senior counsel with the Federal Communications Commission and on the transition team for Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey in 2010.
He has been married for more than 20 years, has two children and lives in Annandale, N.J. Mr. Brooks also owns a home in Prince William County in Northern Virginia and said he planned to move to the Washington, D.C., area for his new role. He will be formally introduced to the N.A.A.C.P. membership at the organization’s annual convention in July.
Ms. Brock said the N.A.A.C.P. had worked with the Hollins Group of Chicago to conduct a nationwide search for its new leader and had more than 450 candidates before settling on 30 finalists, eight of them women.
Benjamin Todd Jealous, the most recent president and chief executive, stepped down last year. Since then, Lorraine C. Miller has served as the interim president and chief executive. The organization has never had a woman fill the role of president and chief executive permanently, and there were calls to name one after Mr. Jealous’s departure. Ms. Brock remains the highest-ranking woman in the organization.
The election occurred during a difficult period for the N.A.A.C.P. both internally and externally. Ms. Brock said the organization “has taken proactive steps to improve our financial stability,” including reducing its staff by 7 percent in recent months. “Like all nonprofit organizations, we have experienced the ebb and flow of funding,” she said.
In an email sent to the staff at the end of April to explain the layoffs, Ms. Miller said the organization was facing “severe budget shortfalls and we need to align the shortfall with cuts.”
The organization’s Los Angeles branch is also under scrutiny after a decision by the branch’s leadership to honor Donald Sterling, the beleaguered Los Angeles Clippers owner, with a lifetime achievement award this month. Mr. Sterling’s foundations have given the Los Angeles branch at least $45,000 since 2007, records showed. The National Basketball Association banned Mr. Sterling from the league after a recording of racist remarks by Mr. Sterling was made public.
Ms. Brock said the organization had “quickly addressed that issue” and rescinded the award to Mr. Sterling. “The unit is moving forward under new leadership,” she said of the Los Angeles chapter, adding that the organization was instituting new guidelines for selecting award recipients.