From left: Johnnetta Betsch Cole takes the oath of office as new chair and president of the National Council of Negro Women as Ingrid Saunders Jones holds Bible and former Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman, an adviser to NCNW, swears in Cole during the council's biennial convention at the Grand Hyatt Washington in D.C. on Nov. 11. (NCNW/Summerland)
From left: Johnnetta Betsch Cole takes the oath of office as new chair and president of the National Council of Negro Women as Ingrid Saunders Jones holds Bible and former Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman, an adviser to NCNW, swears in Cole during the council's biennial convention at the Grand Hyatt Washington in D.C. on Nov. 11. (NCNW/Summerland)

EDITORIAL: Survival of Historic Black Groups Rests in Change of Focus

Over the past century, America’s leading Black organizations, including the NAACP, SNCC, CORE, NSBE, National Urban League, Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the National Action Network, have been instrumental in efforts to improve the quality of life for African Americans, secure equal rights and open previously-bolted doorways and windows long-denied from people of color.

And while some may think we’ve finally achieved equal status as U.S. citizens, the evidence suggests otherwise. Simply look at the midterms elections and voter suppression initiatives, the continuing injustice of the murders of innocent Black at the hands of poorly-trained law enforcement officials and vigilante white men and the ongoing decline of Black homeownership and it’s clear, African Americans still have not “overcome.”

That’s why we’re encouraged upon the recent decision of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) who appointed Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole as their new chair and president during their 58th Biennial National Convention. The organization, like many others, appeared to have floundered, losing its focus, if not its relevance, after the death of the incomparable Dr. Dorothy Height who led them for more than 50 years. Dr. Height followed in the footsteps of NCNW’s legendary founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune — a feat well worthy of praise.

But if the nation’s long-established Black organizations hope to remain alive and thrive in the new millennium, they must abandon their personality-driven strategies where one person alone determines their success, failure or continuity. Rather, it’s imperative that historic Black groups remain solely focused on building their institutions — not celebrating charismatic individuals.

Do they have young men and women standing in the wings who are being trained, mentored and allowed to exercise their talents and voices? If not, those organizations are planning their own inevitable demise. We must ensure that we’re prepared for tomorrow. But that only can happen if we’re cognizant of the importance of preparing today’s youth for the challenges that await in the future.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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