A couple of months ago I met a gentleman in D.C. by the name of Kevin Myles. Kevin is the President of the Wichita branch of the NAACP, and I found him to be down to earth, sharp, and conscious. Most of all, he got it. He understood that the only way that the NAACP was going to truly become relevant as an organization, was to embrace the future, adopt to the changing ways of the information super highway, and organize around it.
The fact that I met Kevin at a bloggers technololgy conference was proof positive that he had his head in the right place, and we talked about his organization (the NAACP) and the future of other traditional civil rights groups like it.
I remembered Kevin today when I read about the NAACP selecting a new national president, a brother by the name of Ben Jealous ( I love that name). Oxford educated, Ivy League degree, Rhodes Scholar, community organizing since he was 14. (Did I say Jealous or Obama?) He clearly has all the right credentials, and I love that fact that he is only 35 years old. At least the elders at that venerable organization are starting to look in the right direction. Nothing against some of our older traditional leaders, but I was tired of the recycled preachers and the old boys club from the traditional civil rights movement. Here in Philadelphia the President of the NAACP is a self promoting, egomaniacal loof ( that's a backwards fool for those of you not familiar with field speak). He is one of the reasons that I stopped paying dues to the organization years ago. They were out of touch with the younger generation, and they closed ranks and refused to listen to other voices or let anyone else take an active role in the organization's direction.
Now, of course, we don't need them anymore. We can organize ourselves. Thanks to the Internet we can raise money, organize around causes, and get important messages out to each other.
The NAACP has approximately 500,000 members around the country. But Color of Change, an Internet activist group based out of California, has about that many people signed up and ready to go as online activist. Groups like the Afrospear (sphere), a coalition of bloggers of color, have over 100 active blogs with the power to organize and reach readers with their message. So while the NAACP has the brand, they need to recognize that they must adopt to change and try to combine the power of their brand with the technology now available to them.
Mr. Jealous is an old newspaper man (former executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association), but I am hoping that he can divorce himself from the traditional thinking of the old old black media, and move into the 21st century. He should be able to, because he is obviously a smart man, and he is young enough to understand the nuances of the new phenomenon that is online activism.
Kevin Myles understands it. But he is just one man from one of many NAACP branches around the country . He has started a blog for that chapter, and he has a vision of synthesizing the traditional message of the NAACPP with online activism and organizing. I wish him luck, because old habits are hard to break.
When W.E.B. DuBois and Ida Wells-Barnett started this great organization in 1909, I am sure that they never dreamed that it would grow into the powerful organization that it eventually became. But sadly,today, the NAACP is in trouble-- They were forced to lay off a third of their staff because of budget shortfalls--, and if their leadership don't get their heads out of their asses and stop enjoying the smell of their own shit, this once great organization will be reduced to just a footnote in history.