Civic leaders: Young national NAACP president is long overdue

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It’s about time. That was Karl A. Brinson’s reaction to the NAACP’s selection of its youngest president ever, 35-year-old Benjamin Jealous. Jealous, a Rhodes Scholar and former director of Amnesty International’s U.S. Human Rights Program, got the nod fro

“It should have happened a long time ago in our community, because we don’t have a lot of young leadership. What’s wrong with young ledearship?” Brinson, 51, president of Chicago’s West Side NAACP chapter, asked rhetorically. Rev. Jesse Jackson%uFFFDwho got his start as a 26- year-old national director in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights movement%uFFFDsaid that there is a historical precedent to young, Black leadership.

“Dr. King did the Montgomery boycott at 27,” Jackson, 66, pointed out. But some would accuse leaders like Jackson of not stepping aside once the civil rights movement was over, and thus delaying the rise of young Black men and women like Jealous. “If you look at our leadership, we have the same leaders that started the civil rights movement.

You can’t identify many high profile young persons that are trying to address civil rights issues now. If you look at any other ethnic group, it does not wait till the end of time to replace leadership,” Brinson said. Although he said believes in the NAACP’s mission, Jonathon Thornton, 27, said he has never been involved with the organization.

But news of Jealous’ election piqued his interest. “I think it’s pretty safe to say that the NAACP has lost some steam,” he quipped. “To choose a younger guy, this should get some younger people motivated. I think they’re looking to revive and continue a vision%uFFFDOr at least I would think that would be the hope.”

Jealous has said that his being young “means having somebody who is impatient and outraged that race is still a factor in our society.” He is prepared to address the issue differently than many of his predecessors. “This is the century when white people will become a minority in this country.

What that means is right now, we need to have a clear picture of where we’re headed and work together diligently with Latinos, Native Americans, Asians and progressive white groups as if our collective future depends on it. I’m committed to that,” Jealous said.

“It should have happened a long time ago in our community, because we don’t have a lot of young leadership. What’s wrong with young ledearship?” %uFFFDKarl A. Brinson, West Side NAACP

______ Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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