By: Harry C. Alford,
President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce
When was the last time someone asked you to take out a membership into the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People? Did you say “I am not colored”? Yes, the name is outdated and should be addressed by its membership.
My father was proud to be a lifetime member. I took out a membership once in 1988 and have not been asked since. There is something missing here. Usually single memberships represent the decision making of an organization like this. The federation or chapters were once the backbone of such a “national” association. But in America chapters or Black chapters cannot be depended on for funding and strong leadership.
The largest NAACP chapter is the city of Detroit. Considering the economic state of Detroit paints a dismal picture of this once proud and strong association.
During the Civil Rights Era the NAACP swelled in chapters and individual memberships. We won a lot during the famed Era but the fervor sort of lost its need after obtaining the goal and implementation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The next time you have a civil rights complaint call your local chapter of the NAACP and see what happens – usually NOTHING! What drives the NAACP today are major corporations and Hollywood. Within this structure are major trade unions who have no commitment to diversity. The big bucks they give annually are a method of buying peace and public relations.
Construction unions are some of the most racist organizations in this nation. But you can’t tell that to the leadership of the NAACP. “Construction unions have been our friends. I don’t know why any Black group would criticize them”, Ben Jealous, former NAACP President.
Of late, a few chapters of the association are starting to see the picture and raise protests about the trades. New York City is a fine example of that (http://nydn.us/2bw78RC). If the national leadership continues down that path the NAACP is destined to fail. Right now the association membership levels are below 1% of the Black population of our nation.
What initially caused the existence of the NAACP (1909)? It was a northern white liberal group known as the Niagara Movement. This group came together and placed W.E.B. DuBois as their spokesperson and “Leader”. His immediate role was to discredit and oppose Booker T. Washington, Founder of the National Negro Business League (1900). Mr. Washington’s work and mission (economic empowerment of the American Negro) was indeed a powerful message. He built 39 chapters in cities throughout the South. One of his most popular one was Greenwood, outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It became famous (known as Black Wall St.) and was burned to the grown by racist elements – Not long after the mysterious death of Mr. Washington. There would be other examples of destruction of Black business districts emulating the teachings of Mr. Washington.
If ever you visit Tuskegee University, a fine institution that Mr. Washington built and developed with the support of Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, President Theodore Roosevelt and other national leaders, please stop to hear the actual Atlanta Debates. This is a recording of the debates between Mr. DuBois and Booker T. Washington. In my opinion, Mr. Washington won.
Today, many of the local chapters of the NAACP are tribal. For instance, when I lived in Indianapolis the local president would not accept nor sell any new memberships. Why? He had enough votes to win any upcoming elections and he would not dilute that advantage through growth of his chapter. Many people in Indianapolis would complain to the National Office but that didn’t seem to do any good.
The NAACP must break away from the “grasp” that unions have on the chapters and their Board of Directors. Remember that stupid practice of “School Busing”? Our children would get up at very early hours to be bused across town and then return home in the late afternoon. Offended Whites would leave that school and put their children into private schools. This went on to the detriment of Black students and families alike. It was like we were forcing our children onto people who weren’t going to treat them on an equitable basis. All this harm as a result of lobbying from school bus drivers’ unions and bus manufacturers.
Now, there is a new wave of attack on our young students. The NAACP has just taken a position against Charter Schools. It is very clear that Charter Schools are producing fine Black students who otherwise would be under performing. Have they lost their minds? No, they are just following that path to inefficiency that was created by the Niagara Movement. Charter Schools are an escape from a losing environment and a door opener for success. They want to keep our children from this opportunity.
Mr. Alford is the Co-Founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: firstname.lastname@example.org