Editorial: New president should break new ground

Sep. 09, 2013 @ 08:18 PM

When selection is complete, a black woman should be the next president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The NAACP is about to lose its 17th president, Ben Jealous. He told his staff Monday he will be leaving at the end of the calendar year. He was the 17th man in the position.

From the organization’s website: “While much of NAACP history is chronicled in books, articles, pamphlets and magazines, the true movement lies in the faces — the diverse multiracial army of ordinary women and men from every walk of life, race and class — united to awaken the consciousness of a people and a nation. The NAACP will remain vigilant in its mission until the promise of America is made real for all Americans.”

At 104, the NAACP rightly bills itself as the oldest grassroots civil rights organization in the country. It campaigns for equal opportunity.

Long the backer of efforts breaking down barriers, it now can eliminate one of its own. The timing couldn’t be better.

A younger man’s vision through the eyes of Jealous has led the NAACP to partner beyond familiar boundaries. Longtime associations have been enhanced. The organization’s foundation has been strengthened.

Jealous was a controversial pick at age 35, the NAACP’s youngest ever. He took the meandering donor base from 16,000 in 2007 to 132,000. Revenue for the non-profit swelled from $25.7 million to $46 million.

It no longer operates in the red. Its messages are reaching more people. That’s not coincidence.

Charity Navigator, a well-respected reviewer of non-profits, scored the NAACP at 70 of 70 for accountability and transparency.

No matter who she would be, her life’s experiences and teachings would shape a vision unlike any other NAACP president, just as did Jealous. Rest assured, accomplished women of color are emerging each day in all areas of society.

Few outside of civil rights circles had heard of Jealous before he took his position. Most Americans may not yet have heard of his successor.

The NAACP has been delivering “firsts” since inception. Black women have also been delivering firsts, arguably not as fast as their male counterparts.

It is time for another barrier to fall.