Friday, November 12, 2010

Time for a NAACP president who believes in Black People

There are moments when a speaker will say something that illuminates their core beliefs that is far more revelatory than they could have imagined or intended. It comes across with such immediate and astonishing clarity that all else the speaker says just fades away. For me, such a moment occurred when George Forbes answered a question at the NAACP Executive Committee meeting in September.

Under discussion was the local NAACP branch’s apparent inability to generate much publicity about its ACT-SO program [Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics]. ACT-SO is a student enrichment program to promote academic and artistic excellence among students of African American descent, culminating in a local and national competition.

Cleveland youth have had considerable success in recent years in national competition, bringing home several gold, silver and bronze medals, in addition to numerous scholarship awards. The concern at the September meeting was why the Branch had been unable to get a story about the most recent successes published in the Call & Post, a paper that targets the local black community.
Mr. Forbes’ offhand answer was direct: “Hey, look, it’s a black newspaper. You have to write it, take the pictures, and deliver it to them.”

The remarks were delivered with an avuncular sort of bemusement that the question even had to be asked. 'See here, he was saying, these are black folks. They can’t do any better. It’s not a real newspaper, you know. It’s not like they have real writers and editors.'

There it was: the emperor with no clothes. Here was the leader of the local chapter of the nation’s preeminent civil rights organization, charged first and foremost with defending and advancing the interests of African Americans, pretty much putting down his own race and proclaiming the incompetence of black people.
Is it any wonder that white power brokers in Cuyahoga keep going to him for deal-making about county reorganization, or protection from complaints about a lack of inclusion when multi-million dollar contracts are being discussed?
Keep in mind that Mr. Forbes’ name appears on the masthead of every issue of the Call & Post, advertising his status as “Chief Legal Counsel”. In front of fifteen or so presumed advocates of equality and inclusion, he is publicly, nonchalantly and gratuitously denigrating his incompetent client, owned by his good friend and client, the boxing promoter Don King. [Mr. King would not even be the owner of the paper but for his lawyer’s suggestion, but that’s a story for perhaps another day.]

How long can Cleveland’s black community allow George Forbes to speak for them and allow him to negotiate on their behalf when it is clear he does not respect them?

Mr. Forbes could be heard last week vouching for the integrity of a wealthy white businessman for the umpteenth time. Dan Gilbert can be trusted, he told a lunchtime group of mostly senior citizens – NAACP Life Members whose votes he will be looking for this Sunday to maintain his bully pulpit. Mr. Forbes had dealt with a lot of rich white men, he told the crowd, citing his friend and former client, the late Dick Jacobs -- and he knew which ones to trust. Therefore, the community could be assured that black people would be treated fairly.

One by one, three members of Dan Gilbert’s development team, stood up at the luncheon and assured the crowd in the most reasonable tones, that they would work closely with Mr. Forbes to insure a fair deal for the black community.

Newcomers to Cleveland figure out where Mr. Forbes is coming from after about five minutes of watching this act. They uniformly assert that this kind of “leadership” would not fly in Alabama, Georgia, New York, or wherever they have just come from. How long will we tolerate it here?

In a comment to yesterday’s post, david asked: “Nice as he is, are we to select [attorney Larry] Floyd primarily because he isn't Mr. Forbes? What is it about Mr. Floyd's vision and agenda that makes him the guy?

Fair questions. The first answer is “yes”. The answer to the second question is that Mr. Floyd has been an active member of the branch, volunteering both personal and professional time. He has offered the outlines of a strategic plan for the branch, parts of which at least he seems to have mailed to each eligible voter.

The Floyd plan cites the NAACP’s assets [its history, legal successes, etc.] its weaknesses [including “outdated image, low active membership participation, lack of collaboration with other organizations, etc.] and its current challenges/opportunities [restoring credibility, establishing accountability, fundraising, growing the membership, etc.].

An important sidebar to this race is whether the branch will retain executive director Stanley Miller if Mr. Forbes is re-elected. Longtime branch official Jocelyn Travis declined to run for re-election, fueling speculation that she would like to replace Mr. Miller in a new Forbes administration. Rev. Miller was recruited by Mr. Forbes four years ago following a successful corporate career, but some say that Mr. Forbes has soured on his choice, citing Mr. Miller’s less than wholehearted defense of the NAACP’s endorsement of the statewide ballot issue in 2009. Passage of that issue authorized Dan Gilbert to build and operate the Cleveland casino, the construction of which will has Mr. Forbes as the anointed gate-keeper of black Clevelanders’ interests, pending Sunday’s vote.

Results posted here Sunday as soon as available, possibly as early as 6PM.


Anonymous said...

I share your concerns of Mr. Forbes, and have so even before he was first elected to serve as the NAAACP's President. As a former Board Member of the NAACP, I did not vote for him then and never will. As a matter of fact, I stopped paying my dues after he became President. It is definately time for a new President and I endorse Larry Floyd as well. If he becomes the new President, I will renew my NAACP membership.

By the way, what are the names of those who are running for the other Executive Offices and Board seats?

Richard said...

I apologize for not having seen your comment in a timely fashion 13 months ago!

I would heartily encourage you to rejoin the branch so that you can help ensure new leadership at the helm in next fall's election.

Let me know if you receive this. Thank you.

Richard said...

@ Anonymous: Time to renew your membership! See post later today.