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NAACP Sets Its Sights on D.C.

Jilted Baltimore Officials Chide Move

The decision by the NAACP to move its national headquarters from Baltimore to the District has received praise and groans from the respective cities as the organization seeks to sharpen its mission of fighting for the civil rights of Americans.

In a joint statement, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson announced the move on June 29. The NAACP will be a prominent tenant at the newly rebuilt Frank D. Reeves Center for Municipal Affairs in Northwest, the mayor said.

Bowser seemed pleased with the NAACP, billed as the nation’s largest civil rights organization, coming to her city and setting up shop at the Reeves Center.

“The Reeves Center stands in the iconic and culturally significant area of the U Street corridor with deep connections to the NAACP,” the mayor said. “As we continue fighting for change and working to build a more fair and just nation, we look forward to welcoming this iconic civil rights organization to Washington, D.C.”

The NAACP has a Capitol Hill bureau where it lobbies the Congress and interacts with federal agencies and courts on its behalf. While Bowser and Johnson appeared happy with the move, Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott criticized the relocation.

“The NAACP’s history runs deep in Baltimore,” he said, mentioning Baltimoreans such as Thurgood Marshall, a former general counsel of the organization who became the first Black to serve as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as Juanita Jackson Mitchell, a NAACP Baltimore leader for civil and feminist rights, and Parren Mitchell, the first African American to represent Maryland in the U.S. Congress.

Scott pointed out two of its recent leaders, Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) and Ben Jealous, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Maryland, as native Baltimoreans.

Scott, who won the Democratic Party primary for mayor on June 2, said his city and the NAACP have a bond.

“We are in the midst of the largest civil rights call to action that our country has seen in a generation,” he said. “Baltimore and the NAACP alike are integral pieces of Black history that should remain together and continue to break barriers, cultivate the impossible and represent justice, equality and equity for all.”

Bowser said on July 1 she sympathizes with Baltimoreans who are upset with the NAACP leaving their city, saying she knows how it feels to be on the short end of a relocation decision.

“I like Baltimore,” she said. “There is hope for Baltimore.”

Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, expressed excitement about the move, calling D.C. “the epicenter of change.”

“A new home in Washington will allow us to not only fully participate in the growth of this great city, but to also amplify the voices of Black people as we fight for the crucial policy changes and economic empowerment needed in common across the country,” Johnson said.

The Reeves Center, named in honor of civil rights attorney Frank D. Reeves, has been on the corner of 14th and U streets in Northwest since 1986. Many economic development experts say the Reeves Center jumpstarted the commercial activity that defines the area presently. John Falcicchio, the acting deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said the Reeves Center will be transformed into a transit-oriented, mixed-used development with office space, affordable housing and neighborhood serving amenities “in a way that reflects the site’s historical and cultural significance.”

“The inclusion of this national institution, the NAACP, as a foundational partner in the Reeves Center redevelopment sets a cultural and historical intention that will serve the neighborhood and Washington, D.C. for years to come,” he said. “We look forward to this partnership to bring the NAACP to the U Street neighborhood.”

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