Last week, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced the appointment of Rosyln M. Brock as the organization’s new board chair. Julian Bond stepped down as chairman after 12 years of service and touted Ms. Brock’s appointment as “dynamic new leadership.” At 44, Ms. Brock is the youngest ever and fourth woman to serve as chair of the NAACP’s Board of Directors, great strides for a 64-member board of directors that leans heavily on the male side and whose average age is 58.
But let’s just run the numbers for a minute here. Ms. Brock is hardly “new” leadership for the NAACP board, having been vice chair for the past nine years. And if all the hoopla seems like déjà vu, that’s because it is.
A year and a half ago, I wrote about Mr. Bond’s announcement that he was stepping down as chairman of the NAACP’s board after 10 years, although he would still remain on the board. Back then, he said the time was right to “let a new generation of leaders” take over the NAACP. I said myself that Ms. Brock would be the perfect choice to succeed him, as she was already the vice chair and had been for years, not to mention the whole being a young female thing.
We heard the same promise of “young, new leadership” from the NAACP at the hiring of Benjamin T. Jealous, who at 35, was the youngest NAACP president ever elected. It’s still not totally clear, however, that the organization is truly engaging young people in any real way, as questions of relevancy still plague the organization 100 years after its inception. In particular, the NAACP has not yet fully ignited the potential of Generation Y, a major force for social change in America at 80 million strong.
What is clear, though, is that since Mr. Jealous took the helm, the “NAACP is fiscally solid and has proved its staying power, having recovered from crippling scandals and layoffs in the 1990s,” according to a report in The Washington Post. The Post reports that Mr. Bond says that the civil-rights group “is now increasing its staff, raising money and planning for the future. . . . It claims 500,000 members, including nonpaying members and sometime donors who have signed up online.”
Perhaps what we’re supposed to read between the lines is that the NAACP has finally gotten its financial act together and now has the capacity to increase its relevancy and impact for today’s generation of African Americans, who are just as in need of help now as we were during the civil-rights movement 40 years ago. If that’s the case, I hope to see Ms. Brock shaking things up and trying out some bold new ideas as she steps into her “new” role as board chair.