This post gets a bit long and rant-ish. So if you’re not up for it — don’t say you weren’t warned. In the continuing saga of JJP Meets NAACP or Cutting Edge Meets Dull Blade, there’s an update.

Y’all might remember that during the NAACP’s convention in mid-July, I wrote a post called: The NAACP Doesn’t Care About Black People. If you missed them, you might want to refer to the following posts for reference before we begin:

The NAACP Doesn’t Care About Black People

The NAACP & The GOP: Dodos of a Feather?

Reactions to NAACP Doesn’t Care About Black People

I’d say pretty much 95% of the feedback I’ve gotten about the original post has been positive and head-noddingly supportive with the exception being those connected with the NAACP. Natch.

Several weeks after the convention I was sent an email from Leila McDowell, VP of the NAACP’s communications department. In it was a response to this post that was purportedly from Julian Bond, Chairman of the NAACP’s Board.

Just receiving this “response”, which you can find below, shocked me because well, shucks, who would think they’d care about our lil ole blog, honey? Given their pitiful use of the internet which I documented in detail in my post, let’s just say I was surprised to learn that Bond was aware of blogs, let alone actually reading JJP. I say that in part because the last official NAACP Blog post remains almost 2 months ago (Jun 26th to be precise) and unchanged since my last post! You’d think they at least make an effort before sending this over to us. But no…

Upon reading the lengthy screed that followed, I went from shocked to appalled. There is definitely a Crisis over at the NAACP for sure, and it ain’t just the name of their glossy magazine.

If Julian Bond really wrote this incoherent, inaccurate, confusing, condescending and clueless missive, then it really is past time for what must be a deluded, doddering and drooling old man to be given his applesauce, go back to watching his stories and leave you and me at JJP alone.

If he didn’t write this (which I think is more likely) then this has only increased my concerns for the NAACP communications department and for the leadership abilities of Ben Jealous. What was sent to you and me here at JJP is insulting in its unprofessionalism and its failure to acknowledge the substance of the 67 comments you left (and the many thumbs up I received via email, on Twitter and Facebook) which all agreed with my assessment of the irrelevance of the NAACP given its disinterest in and failure to actually do a damn thing lately for any black people that I know of personally. It reads like it was written by 5 different interns with 10 different feelings about our community at JJP. If sending around stuff like this is intended to encourage folks like you and me to have confidence in and work together with the NAACP under new management — #FAIL.

I sent it around when I first received it to a group of other black bloggers whose reactions matched mine. Some were even angrier than I was! In the meantime, while I tried to recover from the shock & horror, I started getting really annoying phone calls from Leila McDowell, including one at 7am one morning. The last one was over 2 minutes long and was sort of an angry yet pleading rant begging me to post this piece of trash, which frankly I was reluctant to do given what its incompetent quality says about the organization itself. I listened to about a minute of her before I stopped listening and then stopped taking her calls.

If that’s the quality of the staff Jealous is building over there – we’d better rely on ourselves for realz y’all if we want to further the Advancement of Colored People (and all people) in America. Certainly the NAACP won’t be guest blogging here any time soon, if ever. The JJP community is about the future and working with cutting edge, creative, innovative organizations comprised of and led by us like Color of Change, Hip Hop Caucus, Southern California Library, Green for All and Applied Research Center so that each of us – you, me & JJP — can use our personal power to make a difference. The NAACP frankly don’t qualify.

“Julian Bond’s” entire “response” to your concerns about the NAACP’s future can be found below with a few notes from me in bold italics to clarify from my perspective. I borrowed the whole “quotes” thing from their “response” as you’ll see, “btw”. Enjoy.

July 24, 2009

Dear Cheryl, aka Jill Tubman,
We appreciate your interest in the NAACP. As you noted in your July 12, 2009 posting, we recently celebrated our Centennial Anniversary with a convention in New York City. Our gathering drew more than five thousand NAACP volunteer members from across America, along with President Barack Obama, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and a host of other state and national political and community leaders.
While we sincerely admire your work at Jack & Jill Politics, and are grateful for your “coverage,” we are compelled to rebut a few of the claims that you make about the association in your posting, “The NAACP Doesn’t Care About Black People.”

We hope you receive this effort to correct the many factual inaccuracies found in your piece in the spirit in which it is intended: To assure that our dialog is both constructive and based on accurate information. We do appreciate critique. It is criticism and self criticism that makes us strong as individuals and organizations.

The NAACP founders in 1909 included journalists and writers, notably, WEB DuBois, which is in part why we are absolutely committed to a free and robust press — and to the free-wheeling opinion exchange that the Internet is fostering. In keeping with this spirit, we will forgo any questioning of journalistic ethics that your posting gave rise to. In particular, your description of what you acknowledge was an “off the record” meeting you participated in with Benjamin Todd Jealous, the NAACP President and CEO, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008. We are confident that you are aware that “off the record” means that quotes or paraphrases from those in attendance are not to be published.
[Jill — If you hadn’t noticed, I AIN’T no journalist. This here is a blog. I’m just an ordinary citizen who at best is an accidental community manager. I’m not even sure what off-the-record means, frankly. In both meetings, it was never clear exactly what was or wasn’t off-the-record, btw. Plus, that’s a weak and cowardly defense to hide behind rather than dealing with the issues I raised. Eyeroll.]

Now, to the specific charges we would like to correct:

Your assertion that we “took credit” for the activism around the Jena Six case. In truth, many thousands of those who turned out at the mobilizations were NAACP members who also happen to engage in other social media networks. You incorrectly presume that the two are mutually exclusive, and that we had not been sounding the alarm, encouraging our members to take action, as the case developed. We were, and they did. Most importantly, as is characteristic of the NAACP; our local units – state conferences, branches, youth and prison chapters – are an integral part of the communities within which they live. As Ben often says “we are triage rooms for communities in crisis”. In the case of Jena, the NAACP was involved at the grassroots level from getting march permits to many other efforts before the world took notice. Our members live there and were active before, during and after the demonstrations. Similarly, the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP has been engaged in the Troy Davis case for years – and it recently bubbled up to the national which has taken it on as a major national campaign. In North Carolina, our state conference was instrumental in helping 5,000 mostly African American and Latino workers unionize the world’s largest pork processing plant called Smithfield, a plant where injuries and abuse was common. In Seattle, our branch fought to keep open public schools targeted for closure in our communities. In Maine we help prisoners vote and stay in contact with their families. In Erie, Pennsylvania we are in the forefront of the fight to make the police more accountable after our branch exposed the actions of an officer bragging of tasing one young black man and making fun of the mother of an African American murder victim. In New Mexico our state conference helped compel the Governor to sign anti death penalty legislation. In another state, we successfully made it possible for prisoners to wear head scarves as an exercise of their religion. The local grassroots character of the NAACP is often obscured but the reality is day after day, they lead important fights for justice and are often the only organization that folks can turn to for redress. What is particularly impressive is that our 625,000 odd members [Jill — I happen to know from both internal NAACP and external movement sources that this number is at best fudged and at worst a downright fiction and that the Hip Hop Caucus and Color of Change each have supporter lists that exceed that of the NAACP] are volunteers making us one of the largest advocacy organizations in the country. Finally, while we do lead many struggles, we are proud of joining in coalition with others who are fighting for justice and equality. Coalitions are a critical part of any movement for social change, so we are happy to add our strength to others to make a difference – no ego here. That is how we will ultimately all win. [Jill — note that there is no mention of my specific comparison re: the NAACP’s pitiful fundraising and lack of support for the Jena 6 families in contrast to Color of Change who raised 10 times as much money, all of it going to the families. Nor the failure of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s website to even mention Jena 6 for much of the controversy. I also note that this may actually be the longest paragraph ever written. Who says the NAACP ain’t making black history no mo’?]

Your assertion that we are not “relevant to young people.” Yes, we are a century-old organization, but our Brand does appeal to youth who see the NAACP as a living link to black American proud history of accomplishment and self-respect and a potential powerhouse to help bring about the social change that many young people are passionate about. We are, in fact, seeing a dramatic increase in youth participation, nearly 12 percent since President Obama’s inauguration. Over the last year and a half, we have chartered more than 35 new Youth and College Branches across the country, from the campuses of Harvard, and Stanford Universities to rural Jasper, Texas, and Piney Woods, Mississippi.

Moreover, since January of this year, we have welcomed 11 new Youth units, including in Utah Valley University, Long Island University; C.W. Post; Loyola University of Chicago; Cameron University, and the Phoenix Community College. We’ve also been pleased to welcome the Greater Norristown Youth Council, the Vancouver Youth Council, the Tampa Youth Council, the Anchorage Youth Council, the Drake University College Chapter, and the Charlotte County Youth Council.

Also, we are alone among large, national nonprofit organizations in reserving dedicated numbers of our Board seats (seven) for individuals no older than 25 years. Those elected to these seats are elected by members who are age 25 years-old or under. Moreover, in the past two cycles, all of these seats have been highly competitive, when they come up for re-election. [Jill — how about members between the ages of 25-45 — Gen X and Gen Y AKA the internet generations? I’m guessing precious few except ambitious social climbers and country club members.]

In sum, we have no issue at all with what appears to be your larger point: the NAACP is technologically a click (or two) behind the times. At the same time, we think you may agree that our mission will be unquestionably relevant as long as racism and discrimination and class bias still unfairly skew the playing field in America. (For example, here we must point out that the nation’s pre-eminent black studies scholar, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., was arrested on his own front porch in New England in a case of racial profiling……on the afternoon of the same day that President Obama addressed our 100th Anniversary Convention.) [Jill = In sum?! This is the first time that the NAACP’s sad failures online I pointed out are even mentioned? This response is so krazy!]

Speaking to our Centennial Convention on July 16, 2009, President Obama delivered a resounding rebuttal to those who argue that the NAACP is no longer relevant. It was a bittersweet coincidence, to be sure. As Benjamin Jealous, the NAACP President and CEO is fond of saying, “We are in the business so that we can go out of business.”

Yes, we recognize that digital technology has changed the game. We are determined to not only catch up – as evinced by our introducing the Rapid Reporting System during our centennial, thank you for noticing! — But we hope to eventually surpass the existing models of nonprofit Internet activism, and make them uniquely and effectively our own. We will over the coming year roll out a comprehensive Communications, Digital Outreach, and Social Network Activism strategy that will push forward our historic efforts to achieve social justice, civil, and human rights for all. [Jill — I’ll believe it when I see it. Oh and the Rapid Reporting System? I’d be a lot more impressed if it weren’t just gathering data “for statistical purposes only” as the complicated form states. There’s no call to action, no activism, no offer of legal representation or resources. Yes, I’d be real impressed with the RRS if the people who take the time to fill out the hackneyed dissertation were given any hope by the NAACP that they might receive some assistance from the many many people who work there doing as far as I can tell — ahem, not much.]

It is true that we are in need of building our effective use of social media -something that President Jealous is deeply committed to. One of the commitments of President Jealous is to create a dynamic web activism side. Your information on our job openings in that field was incorrect, as well. We currently have open: The Director of Web Campaigns and New Media and the Senior Communications Associate for New Media. In addition, a Web Content and Special investigations unit manager will help create an energetic group of citizen online journalists and bloggers who can begin to share the struggles of the grassroots with the world. If you know any folks, please refer!!! I am not sure where you got the misinformation that these were six month postings – that is just simply wrong. [Jill – I received this info from a black blogger who applied for one of these jobs. I don’t know all the deets, but I’m inclined to believe him over you. Y’all have lost much cred with me.]

You were also incorrect in assuming that our new website had been launched. It will be unveiled in the fall. [Jill — what’s hilarious about this is the falseness, the CYA and the obfuscation. Like I said in my post, I happen to know for a fact from the inside that the NAACP website was due to be re-launched in time for the July convention and as I mentioned in my original post — that didn’t happen. The fall, eh? A vague timeframe to be sure! Don’t hold your breath, peeps, on that one.]

In addition, our Communications, and Information Technology teams, in particular, are working to prepare a major new initiative to leverage our solid on-the-ground networks of Branches, State Conferences, and Youth and College units, into a powerhouse of news, information, and social justice activism.

We have a ways to go in social media – but please be patient. Give us a little time I think you will find that it will emerge as an impressive use of online organizing to complement the ongoing grassroots organizing that NAACP has done for a century. (And we would love to guest blog for Jack and Jill as well as other African American oriented sites so thank you for the forum! ) [Jill — Ummmmm, how to put this nicely? We’re interested in partnering with innovative action-oriented modern organizations led by us like Color of Change, Hip Hop Caucus, Green for All and ARC. That don’t describe you. Don’t call us, we’ll call you…]

It is OK if you are at this point skeptical that the NAACP will meet the challenges of the brave new frontier. We appreciate your concerns. It is precisely because of black folks’ sharp critical thinking skills, our moral grounding, and our healthy level of skepticism that African Americans have overcome the immense obstacles flung down before us during our time in the US. But we also hope you acknowledge that a big bus does not turn easily on a dime. [Jill — it’s even harder for big, bloated, ancient, broke-down, rickety-old schoolbuses driven by the elderly. Good luck with that.]

We want to be a part of the conversation. We do not shrink from the challenging quest for solutions. We welcome your input, and are eager to communicate. [Jill — you know, it says something about Ben Jealous’ leadership style that he and his team have managed to alienate so thoroughly those who once extended a helping hand. Smoke on that, Julian.]


Julian Bond, Chairman
National Board of the NAACP

[Back at ya, JB! — Jill]

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