By James Clingman
“Whoever loves money never has enough.” – Ecclesiastes 5:10
I would offer that verse from the wisest man in history to our national NAACP president and board. They sent me at least five letters in December asking for money to help meet a $100,000 goal. Are they that strapped for money? After all, when Ben Jealous left just a short while ago, he boasted about having increased their coffers from $29 million to $46 million during his tenure. Rather than the above Bible verse, maybe the folks at the NAACP subscribe to one of the most misunderstood and misused verses in the Bible, Ecclesiastes 10:19: “Money answers all things,”
Having served in several positions in my local NAACP, including a brief stint as branch president, it is very clear to me that the primary purpose of the national NAACP is to get more money. While local branch members work tirelessly as volunteers, the national office is comprised of salaried elitists who pass down edicts from on high like a pimp in a 1960s Blacksploitation movie. “Branch betta have my money!”
Most people don’t know that only $14 of each $30 membership fee stays with the local branch. Branches are not allowed to own real estate, and we only have one fundraiser per year, the Freedom Fund Banquet, from which 25 percent of the profit must be sent to the national as well. With thousands of local branches under its rule, you would think the NAACP would have enough money and not have to beg intermittently for another $100,000 or so throughout the year.
After receiving the solicitation letters, I wrote back a few times but never got a response. I told them I would not be giving one dime to the organization until it cleans up its act vis-à-vis its treatment of local branches. They want their money on time, but they are not timely when it to comes to rectifying situations left by the likes of their field director, Gill Ford.
What I now call “The National Association for the Acceptance of Corrupt Personnel,” is mired in legal battles with local branches, allows voter suppression and voter intimidation, requires voter photo ID’s at its elections, does nothing about corrupt practices in its local elections, that is, unless it’s to help their chosen candidate, and stands by a man who has left a trail of destruction in his wake by participating in and sanctioning illegalities in local elections. That man is Gill Ford; and they are asking us to send more money? You gotta be kidding me.
Since my last article on the NAACP, I have received emails from several other branches that are getting the Gill Ford treatment. This guy has a history of partisanship, intimidation, retaliation, and ruthless arrogance toward local branch officials. He must have something on the national office because they refuse to do anything to stop his “inimical” behavior. And they want more money? “Not one dime,” is my answer.
In Cornell Brooks’ initial letter as president asked: “Is the NAACP still relevant?” Our local branch in Cincinnati proved our relevancy by doing our work despite Gill Ford’s collaboration with our detractors. We maintained the highest integrity and excellent stewardship of our funds, growing $40,000 in branch funds to more than $250,000. Relevancy is relative, and while the national NAACP may yet be relevant, it should clean up its own house.
The larger question is: “To whom is the NAACP relevant?” Is it only relevant to the national office and board? Is it only relevant to celebrities who get Image Awards? Is it relevant to convention hotels that offer suites and other perks to officers and board members? Is it relevant to young people who are well prepared to take the reins of the NAACP? Is it relevant only to unions and Democrats? Is it relevant and responsive to its many branches? Or, does the national office just see us as conduits through which our local money flows back to their coffers?
Nelson Rivers called the NAACP “The big dog!” If the big dog just barks and doesn’t bite, no one will fear it. And it will be irrelevant. NAACP, before asking for more money, stop biting the hands that feed you. Be a true leader for your branches by empowering them rather than imposing non-economic liberal policies on them. Help us rather than stymie us; we do most of the work —for free! Do the right thing and do not allow yourself to be pulled beneath the waves of mediocrity, greed and lust for money, political partisanship, and selfishness. Rise above it and stay above it, and there will no longer be a need to pose the question, “Is the NAACP relevant?” Its relevancy will be quite obvious. Remember: Whoever loves money will never have enough.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, Blackonomics.com.