For years, however, there have been questions about the NAACP’s relevance — especially among young blacks, some of whom are Jealous’ contemporaries. In talking with the organization’s new leader a few months ago, I asked him how he responds to such commentary. He told me that the focus of today’s NAACP would include the development of programs to reverse the high incarceration rate of black males, halt predatory lending practices, combat environmental racism and provide access to educational opportunities for impoverished youth — all topics on the convention’s week-long agenda.
At our hour-long meeting, he admitted that re-energizing the organization and recruiting new members would be a daunting challenge. But he plans to connect with new members by promoting the value of service and developing a digital outreach effort.
Organizations like the NAACP will remain relevant by squarely dealing with issues that African Americans face in 21st Century America with a 21st Century approach. Even the Obama Administration has narrow its broad-based efforts on some issues and has begun to focus on programs targeted at blacks: for example, in the past two weeks, it has held summits on poverty and its impact on African American children and minority businesses development. (Since Paterson assumed the governorship roughly 18 months ago, he has increased minority procurement among New York state agencies from 5 percent to 25 percent.)
But there’s a key component to making the NAACP relevant: you. Instead of criticizing such outfits, we need to join and help bolster them–yes, I’m renewing my membership. By doing so, we can play a hands-on role in solving the problems confronting our communities as well as shape the agenda for the next 100 years. We can ensure that our long-term investment pays huge dividends in our economic, political and social advancement. To paraphrase Obama, we must do what we can to win our fight.
Derek T. Dingle is the editor-in-chief of Black Enterprise magazine.