Saturday, June 21, 2008

5609: NAACProgressive

From The Chicago Tribune…

The changing NAACP

A sign of changing times: The new president of America’s oldest and largest civil rights organization wasn’t alive in the 1960s. Benjamin Todd Jealous, 35, is the youngest president and CEO in the 99-year history of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Take that as a nod by the NAACP that its agenda, and that of other civil rights organizations, is changing. Laws to safeguard rights have long been in place. The focus now is on creating economic opportunity for African-Americans.

Jealous takes the leadership of the NAACP at a tough time for the organization. Its membership and funding have declined. It has struggled to get attention.

He replaces Bruce Gordon, a former Verizon executive whose business experience offered the promise of new fundraising connections and an updated agenda. Gordon expanded the NAACP’s mission to social services such as pregnancy counseling, mentoring programs and the teaching of entrepreneurial and financial skills, but he resigned over disputes with the NAACP board after just 19 months on the job.

Jealous has a broad, impressive background: He’s a former Rhodes scholar and director of Amnesty International USA’s Domestic Human Rights Program, and president of the San Francisco-based Rosenberg Foundation, which finances social justice organizations. He was executive director for three years of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, an organization of black-owned community newspapers.

His mother, who is black, was among those who desegregated Baltimore’s Western High School in the 1950s. His father, who is white, participated in sit-ins to desegregate Baltimore lunch counters. His family has stayed active in the NAACP.

All that would seem to give him a solid sense of the historic importance of the NAACP.

And the knowledge that dynamic organizations realize history is just that … history.

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