Cornell Brooks, president and CEO, pushed out
By Frederick H. Lowe
BALTIMORE — The NAACP has shown Cornell Brooks, its president and CEO, the door after the nation’s oldest civil rights organization decided to move in a new direction. The change at the top comes after NAACP officials acknowledged that after more than 100 years of fighting in the streets and in the courts to secure rights and protections for African Americans, those efforts have largely failed to help black people feel safer today; in fact just the opposite has happened.
“In 2017, a black American still cannot walk down a street, drive a car, play on a playground or enter their own home at night without the fear of being shot, beaten or harassed by their neighbors or their own police, pledged to protect him,” wrote Leon W. Russell, NAACP chairman, and Derrick Johnson, vice chairman. Both men will manage the organization on an interim basis until Brooks’ replacement is hired.
Russell and Johnson referred to a series of deadly shootings by police and security guards of unarmed black men and black-male teenagers. Many of the deadly shootings were captured on video. In each instance, the juries have refused to convict the police officers or the security guards. The deadly shootings have caused black men to suffer mental anguish and for many of them to lose hope. “When the parents of black children like 15-year-old Jordan Edwards — who became the 105th victim of police violence this year — must kiss them goodbye in the morning with the fear that they will not come home safe that evening, what hope is there?” the NAACP asked.
Russell and Johnson also cited state voter ID laws and political gerrymandering that have discouraged black people from voting. This hostile attitude toward African Americans began to build during the administration of President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president. Since he left office, things have gotten worse in a very short time, the NAACP said.
“Following his historic presidency, America elected a president who unapologetically sows division, appeals to right-wing extremists and threatens to fundamentally change the direction of our nation — for the worse,” the NAACP said. In a news release headlined: “NAACP Announces New Direction, Focus and Accountability,” Russell and Johnson said, “our organization has been at the forefront of America, making tremendous strides over the last hundred years,” Russell said. “However, modern day civil rights issues facing the NAACP, like education reform, voting rights and access to affordable health care, still persist and demand our continued action.”
In the next few months, NAACP leaders will travel to all 50 states as part of a listening tour for the first time in the organization’s history. The face-to-face meetings will ensure that the organization harnesses the energy and voices of its grassroot members.
“The goal of the listening tour is to help the organization achieve transformational change and to create an internal culture designed to move the needle forward on civil rights and social justice,” Johnson said. Russell and Johnson devoted only one sentence to Brooks’ tenure, adding that he will remain with the NAACP until June 30, the end of his current term.
Brooks, an attorney and a Yale University Law School graduate, was named to NAACP president in 2014. Russell was elected NAACP’s board chairman in February. Johnson also assumed his position in February. The NAACP was founded in 1909 and is the nation’s largest nonpartisan civil rights organization.