WASHINGTON, D.C. (NNPA) – Five years ago, Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, made two promises. The first was to the NAACP to help the organization get to the next level, revitalizing the mission and the relevancy of the storied civil rights group for the 21st century and old and new battles ahead. The second promise was to his then three-year-old daughter that he would return to being a full-time daddy in five years. He says now is the time to keep that second promise.
“Leadership involves knowing when to step up, and when to step down,” Jealous said Monday on a telephone call with reporters.
Looking back at his accomplishments, he mentioned how the annual revenue of the NAACP doubled from $23 million in 2007 to $46 million in 2012. Donors also increased from 16,000 to 132,000 over the same period. According to Jealous, the NAACP has more activists online (1.3 million) and on mobile devices (more than 430,000) than any other civil rights organization.
“We’re not just more powerful and more effective and larger, we are also financially solvent and more sustainable,” Jealous said with pride.
And many activists agree.
Ron Daniels, president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, a group that works to build economic social and political power in Black communities, said that Jealous energized the NAACP by bringing a lot of young talented and gifted people on board.
He also said Jealous highlighted the issues of environmental justice, mass incarceration and the war on drugs.
“[Jealous] uplifted these issues as being vitally important to healing and revitalizing sectors of Black America moving forward,” said Daniels.
“There is a way that people tend to stay in these positions for a very long time, five years is not a long time. His tenure was really successful and I was actually looking forward to more.”
Al Sharpton, president and founder of the National Action Network, said that he had mixed emotions when he learned that Ben Jealous would resign from the NAACP.
“I am happy that he has done so well and leaves his post with no scandal, shame, or physical challenges, and young enough to have a bright future,” said Sharpton in a press release.
Mary Frances Berry, history professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and former chairperson of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, was on the NAACP selection committee to pick a successor to Bruce Gordon.
“We expected him to make the organization financially solvent and he did,” said Berry. “We hoped by appointing someone younger and someone new that had a lot of energy and interest in the organization that it would create a more livelier organization.”
She said he accomplished that mission.
“[Jealous] stayed on the case all the time and he made sure that the NAACP was in the forefront of trying to deal with the emerging issues,” Berry said.
Jealous said that once he steps down at the end of the year, he will dedicate more time at home being a dad, help train the next generation of leaders and work on a political action group that can help Black, Latino and other progressive candidates of color compete for leadership positions in the South.
Jealous recognizes that he leaves the organization (although stable) at a time of great change in the country.
Jealous said that the first century of the organization’s existence their work revolved around federal court cases. Now in the second century, Jealous said that the NAACP’s focus has shifted from federal litigation to state legislation. Addressing issues at the state level will take more boots on the ground and more diverse collaborations.
“We have to get much more adept at building big robust coalitions of people,” he said, listing the NAACP’s recent efforts in bringing together Black, Latino, gay rights groups and city council members representing Muslim and Arab populations to effectively combat the ‘stop-and-frisk’ tactics conducted by the New York City Police Department. Recently, a judge ruled those tactics unconstitutional in practice a major victory for the NAACP and its partners.
“That is how a democracy works and we in the civil rights community have been rising to that challenge and becoming more effective,” Jealous said.