Is The NAACP Lynching Its Leadership?

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Clovis Honore; former president of the San Diego chapter of NAACP is questioning the legacy organization’s loyalty to its leadership. He spoke to SDMNEWS editor sharing with us his agenda, and devotion to his community.

SDMNEWS: In general terms what kind of leadership did you want to offer San Diego, Black San Diego specifically?

CH: I try to take the broad and comprehensive perspective. 

The NAACP San Diego Branch has 23 Standing Committees, plus other ad hoc committees. For the purposes of civil rights that means the NAACP can strive to address a wide range of issues – from education to criminal justice to economic development to health to youth and much, much more. The NAACP for more than a century has been on the front lines of addressing civil rights for Native American Indians, LGBTQ, immigrants, women and just about everyone else who has struggled for equity and equality in America. 

Long before I was elected to office in the San Diego Branch, the NAACP stood out front with oppressed persons and groups and applied its resources and its highly recognizable name to their causes. Alfred Olango, Section 8 housing vouchers, discrimination in the schools, homelessness, lack of minority contract from the City of San Digeo and countless other issues and causes the NAACP has taken on, with very little fanfare.

I want to continue to build on that great legacy. While the NAACP is best known for its advocacy work and policy work, there is an element of community organizing for direct action they could be using to push the envelope on the civil rights agenda. My background and training is in community organizing. Once the NAACP is well organized and structured according to its Constitution and Bylaws, it can move forward on an aggressive agenda.

Specifically, for the Black community of San Diego, I am driving on a program to achieve equity within the next generation. I have grandchildren and I am working, not just hoping, to help raise the profile of the Black community of San Diego so that they have opportunities equal to that of others. What does that look like? One example is economic equity. Black people make up approximately five percent (5%) of the population of San Diego city and county. However, we only account for about one percent (1%) of the gross domestic product or GDP. So, over the next generation the GDP of the Black community needs to increase by five times or 500% PER YEAR to get ‘parity’. Then, there is still a huge asset deficit that must be addressed to achieve some degree of equity. Nationally, white people have about one and a half time or 150% of the income of Black people. But they have 10 times, or 1000% of the WEALTH of Blacks. This is because of the history of slavery, segregation, discrimination and racism in America. White Americans and many immigrants have been taking advantage of the infrastructure of white supremacy and white privilege for centuries to accumulate wealth at the expense of Black people. For centuries Black labor has become white wealth.  I’m working on strategies for Black labor to create the same kind of wealth for Black people that it has historically created for whites and others. Again, with 23 committees covering many aspects of Black life, these strategies can be applied to lifting the Black community in every area of life.

SDMNEWS: Give us a roadmap to the matter in which led to your suspension?

CH: 2016

  • The NAACP San Jose Branch wrote a resolution calling for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools. 
  • The NAACP California State Conference, headed by NAACP State President and NAACP National Board member Alice Huffman, supported the moratorium resolution and offered it to the NAACP National Convention for consideration.
  • The National Convention passed the moratorium resolution
  • The NAACP National Board of Directors adopts the moratorium resolution  – over the objections of many black community members and leaders. (The California Legislative Black Caucus sent a letter signed by all of its members imploring the NAACP National Board of Directors NOT to adopt the moratorium. CALIFORNIA LEGISLATIVE BLACK CAUCUS CALLS ON NAACP TO REJECT RESOLUTION CALLING FOR MORATORIUM ON CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS)

2019

(During the timeline described below there were many phone calls and emails between the NAACP San DIego Branch and the NAACP California State Conference regarding these issues. )

  • May 1 – After a very contentious time dealing with the San Diego Unified School District and other school districts in the county of San Diego, the NAACP San Diego Branch Executive Committee, according to the authority vested in the Executive Committee in the NAACP By-laws, votes to adopt a resolution asking the National NAACP to end its moratorium on charter schools, citing statistics that show that African American children in public charters schools perform better than their counterparts in traditional public school. Two other Branches of the NAACP in California, San Bernardino and Southwest Riverside (Lake Elsinore) offer what are later described and ‘identical’ resolutions.
  • May 1 – The San Diego Resolution was sent via FedEx to the National NAACP, according to the rules for submitting resolutions. (The resolution to end the moratorium was rejected by the National NAACP Resolutions Committee)
  • May 2 – The General Membership of the NAACP San Diego Branch discusses and ratifies the vote of the Executive Committee of the Branch in support of the resolution to end the moratorium.
  • May 3 – An article appears in the LA School Report describing the tensions in the NAACP,  “3 California NAACP chapters break with state and national leaders, calling for charter moratorium to be overturned.”  
  • May 6  – An opinion piece appears in the Wall Street Journal, “An NAACP Revolt on Charters: Three local chapters in California oppose a union-led moratorium.”
  • May 23 – California State Conference sends a letter to NAACP National President calling for “Article X” investigation of three branches of the NAACP. The letter is signed by NAACP California State President Alice Huffman.
  • June 5 –  I responded to Alice Huffman’s letter.
  • August 6 – Article appears in the Huffington Post,  “Inside The NAACP’s Civil War Over Charter Schools.”
  • September 26 – NAACP National President, Derrick Johnson, sends a letter to me stating that I was suspended pending an investigation and that I could request a hearing. The letter does NOT state why I am being suspended.
  • October 10 – I sent a response letter to the National NAACP and requested a hearing.

2020

  • January/February 2020  – I received a packet in the mail from NAACP National Headquarters stating that a hearing would be held on February 4.
  • February 4 – Hearing.
  • February 26 – Letter from National NAACP stating that my suspension was upheld by the National Board of Directors.
  • …and there is more….

SDMNEWS: Do you feel the mission of the NAACP has changed?

CH: I’m not sure I’ve been with the NAACP long enough to say that I have been a part of its history. I did a podcast with the Union-Tribune when I was the president of the Branch. I talked about what I have witnessed in the NAACP and here in San Diego. The NAACP is a bit behind the times. They’ve been trying to catch up, but the leadership is dominated by older people who have loyalties and commitments to people, systems and agencies that have supported them for many years. That worked very well for Black people and others who are supposed to be served by the NAACP, and in most cases it appears that it still does. 

But times have changed and it doesn’t appear that the NAACP as it is currently configured has been able to make the pivot as nimbly as it could’ve. Again, the current alliances of the NAACP and may be making change difficult.

SDMNEWS: What would be the disruption of an organization like this that would meet Black America where it is now?   

CH: The leadership of the National NAACP is highly centralized. While the regional State and local units have some degree of autonomy, all of the absolute power is held in the hands of the National Board of Directors. The names of more than 60 board members appear on the National NAACP website. Many of these are icons in the history of the NAACP and civil rights. They will have to figure out how to do two thing, in my opinion – and this is what all of our legacy civil rights and civil rights era Black agencies will need to do: They will need to 

  1. Create and implement a strategy for turning over these agencies to the next generations. And these agencies will need to be reconfigured for the ways of being that Black young folks embrace within the context of civil rights and justice. They didn’t grow up in the same racial, social, religious, cultural and political world that these older Balck folk grew up in. Their psyches were formed differently. They have a different worldview. Don’t give our children a civil rights and social justice organization that doesn’t recognize this.
  2. Stand guard over the work of the next generation. Just as we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, we have to make sure the foundations for success are in place for the next generation. David was not allowed to build the temple for God, but he made sure the materials Solomon would need were already in place when he was ready to build. The NAACP, or any of our legacy social justice organizations need to ensure that the fundamentals for success are solidly in place. There has to be a dedicated funding stream. There need to be appropriate legal structures in place. There has to be accountability to the masses. The incoming leaders have to know and understand the successes and errors of the past and how to use them to negotiate the present and future. Old leaders have to pass the baton to new leaders, and it has to be a very strong hand off. 

SDMNEWS: Are there younger leaders being brought in and vetted to bring the NAACP forward?

CH: Yes. The NAACP at every level is working very hard to bring in and give voice to our youth. I believe they are making strides, but it is not without its struggles. I remember one NAACP National Convention when the youth had to disrupt the proceedings to get their point across. One of the reasons I WAS proud to say I was a member of the NAACP, in the face of many who say it is obsolete, was because of its potential to empower youth. Again, the structures have to be properly in place, they have to be adequately supported by the institution, and the NAACP is going to have to take risks on our youth and give them the baton to run with. Help them get up when they fall. Help them dust off. And deal with anyone who dares to try to stand in their way – inside or outside the culture.  

SDMNEWS: What would have been ideal for you in this situation moving forward, what are your plans moving forward?

CH: Well, I think it’s pointless to try to go backwards. There is a new President and that needs to stay in place for continuity and consistency, and I fully support the President, Francine Maxwell.  I would love to have my NAACP membership back – after all, I paid for it. I joined the NAACP and accepted leadership positions because I thought the NAACP could help the Black community with its structures, respect and power. Unfortunately, the current leadership at the state and national level, who clearly don’t know a damned thing about Black people in San Diego, aren’t interested in the needs of the Black community of San  Diego. So I’m taking a short break, making sure the NAACP San Diego Branch has everything I can give it from outside the fold and then I’ll be looking for new opportunities to serve the community.

SDMNEWS: Is Black America having the same dog fights it once had at the conception of the NAACP?

CH: That’s a deep question. 

Yes, I think it’s that same fight, but in a different arena with different rules. This interview comes in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic and the most recent economic disaster.  We like to say, “When America gets a cold, Black people get pneumonia.” Well America has the coronavirus pandemic, much more deadly than a cold. What is going to happen to Black people? We’ve already seen that we are bearing a much greater part of the pain, death and sorrow than whites and others. The real question for me is.  Will Black people wake up and start to employ new strategies for our own liberation, equity and equality? Or will we keep waiting for someone ‘else’ to save us?

I say two things:

  1. We need a realistic and accurate assessment of our condition. We need to answer as many of these questions as possible as soon as possible:  AALF-Strategic Questions. We need to follow Neely Fuller Jr.’s prescription for addressing white supremacy in the areas of economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, sex, and war
  2. No one is coming to save us but us!! We have to drop the victim disposition and recognize that Black people in America (ADOS) are the survivors of American racism, discrimination, segregation, mass incarceration, Jim Crow, enslavemant, middle massage, maafa, and attemptem annhiliation for more than 2,500 years. And, as Morpheus said, “WE ARE STILL HERE!!!” Maybe the path of destruction that COVID-19 is plowing through our community is a wake up call to get back up on our feet and fight for our lives, as Brother Malcolm said, “By any means necessary”. (Please understand the subtleties of that statement.)  We must build Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Beloved Community, but we have to build it for ourselves first, before we can share it with anyone else. 

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