The Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church writes to you to reaffirm our support of the NAACP and to express our concerns for the future and relevance of this historic and productive organization. Today we call upon the National Board of the NAACP to restructure the organization, define its mission and set forth its vision, lest it remain on its current path toward irrelevancy and ultimate demise. The Board’s recent decision not to renew the services of Rev. Cornell Brooks, heightens the need and urgency for the NAACP to define why it should continue to exist.
The NAACP boasts that it is the oldest civil rights organization in the country. While this is true and ought to make us proud, longevity alone is not proof of relevance. For the reality is that today the NAACP is smaller and less influential than it has ever been in its history as an organization. Today the NAACP intimidates no one. To be perfectly honest, the same challenges that face the NAACP, face mainline faith denominations. We are old, and have not structured or positioned ourselves to meet the times in which our congregants live. The Black Church is seeking to confront its own challenges, and we call upon the NAACP to do the same.
This urgent restructuring must begin with the NAACP National Board. The NAACP National Board is too large to function effectively. The Board of 64 members must be reduced. The present Board is noted more for its size, than its effectiveness. A Board half its size is more realistic and in line with best practice board governance standards of operation and effectiveness.
What is the mission and vision for the NAACP today? If you get on a bus, you want to know where the bus is going. We don’t know where the NAACP is going. This is the reason many, particularly millennials are not getting on the bus called the NAACP. The NAACP is to be about the advancement of people of color, and people of color are not going to advance without a good education; with the consequence of not being able to get or create good jobs, decent housing, healthcare and creating good communities. What is the NAACP position and strategy on these issues? What is the NAACP position and where is the fight for criminal justice reform? What would inspire Black Lives Matter and other such groups to join us?
The NAACP seems tired and unfocused. In addition, it now depends on some of those who are hurting our people to finance us. Who sponsors and funds our conventions? Tobacco, alcohol, certain self interested union leadership and other entities to name a few, that effectively harm our people. Do you rely on this support because our own people aren’t supportive financially? Could this nonsupport be because people interested in advancing the interests, access and opportunity of African Americans don’t believe the NAACP is relevant?
As the NAACP begins its search for a new president, we call upon the Board to also deal with the organization restructuring, mission and relevance, so that the next president knows where the organization wants to go, and can lead in that direction, with a growing and multigenerational crowd eagerly following. The African Methodist Episcopal Church has supported the NAACP in the past, and currently, but we want and need to have the NAACP a strong and relevant partner in advancing the cause of people of color in these challenging and polarizing times.
The Christian Recorder is the official newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the oldest continuously produced publication by persons of African descent.
Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Chair of the General Board Commission on Publications
Rev. Roderick D. Belin, President/Publisher of the AME Sunday School Union
Mr. John Thomas III, Editor of The Christian Recorder