Thursday, November 11, 2010

Top Ten Reasons George Forbes Should Not Be Re-elected as NAACP President

George Forbes was first elected president of the NAACP in 1992, defeating former city councilwoman Mildred Madison, and the Rev. Larry Harris of Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church. Between 1500 and 3000 people turned out to vote one very cold day at the Martin Luther King Branch library in University Circle. Mr. Forbes has been unchallenged since his victory that day, as many principled members of the branch's executive committee grew weary of solitary struggle and moved on to other endeavors.

Mr. Forbes announced at the September meeting of the branch's executive committee that he would not be running for re-election. He said he had had enough and that he was tired. When the nominating committee submitted its report at the October meeting, Mr. Forbes was at the head of the ticket once again. He said that he had been persuaded to change his mind at the behest of Dan Gilbert. Mr. Gilbert, of course owns the Cavaliers and was given a license to become a billionaire by Ohio voters who guaranteed him a monopoly in perpetuity to own and operate casinos in Cleveland and Cincinnati. According to Mr. Forbes, Mr. Gilbert's Rock Ventures' Cleveland casino is to be a model of inclusivity and Mr. Forbes is indispensable to making that happen.

We don't agree, and herewith offer ten reasons why George Forbes should no longer run the NAACP.

10. The Cleveland NAACP has lost its credibility as an honest broker in civil rights. The branch is widely perceived to be an extension of of Mr. Forbes' political and business interests. [See # 2 below]
9. The Cleveland NAACP cannot lay claim to the high moral bround essential to its mission when its president has been repeatedly involved in ethical murky waters, including several occasions directly related to his role as branch president.
8. During Mr. Forbes' tenure, the branch has been unable to sustain the corporate and larger community support essential to its programmatic and financial success. Corporate support of the Freedom Fund Dinner has virtually disappeared and corporate representation on the executive committee is practically non-existent.
7. During his tenure, community interest in the NAACP has dwindled. Dues-paying membership has dropped and interest in the organization is at an alltime low.
[Personal note: I was once an active member of the Cleveland branch NAACP. At one point I ran for president of the local chapter and finished a very distant third to attorney James Hardiman and Fr. Austin Cooper. The sixty or so votes I got in that election [1978?] were more votes than the total number of ballots cast in 2006 and 2008 combined. Read that sentence again. Fewer than 25 people bothered to turn out to vote for NAACP officers in either of the last two elections. Nonvoters included many of the officers themselves.]
6. There has been a wholesale failure during Mr. Forbes' tenure to develop any meaningful new lay leadership. The same officers and executive committee members serve term after dismal turn. Some of the biggest offenders in this regard have been officers for FORTY YEARS.
5. Two decades as chief honcho of a nonprofit organization is too long for anybody, even if their accomplishments have been stellar. Organizations need to recruit and develop new talent to remain vibrant and relevant.
4. Mr. Forbes' best days as a leader are long behind him. At the very latest he should have retired when he was honored a couple of Freedom Fund dinners ago.
3. There is a total absence of programmatic leadership or planning by the NAACP board. Executive Committee members supinely follow whatever dictates their president announces.
2. Mr. Forbes has remained in power by posturing as the sole leader who can effectively represent the black community. He repetitively stands in front of black people and relates how he told this or that white person -- Bill Mason, Bruce Akers, Ted Strickland, Dan Gilbert, whomever -- that he is the arbiter of what is good for black people. He presumes to know the answer and is ever ready to tell black minions which white people are trustworthy. This straw boss role has greatly enriched Mr. Forbes and made it easy for corporate and political interests to do one-stop shopping to appease the black community.
1. Even when arguably effective at a given moment, there is in the longer term gross inefficiency and grave danger in the Messianic leadership model so prevalent in African American communities. We revere Martin Luther King Jr. for his role as leader in the civil rights movement. He may have emerged as first among equals but he had a mighty strong cadre of leaders who worked alongside and counseled him. We gravely misread history when we exalt Dr. King as a savior. The civil rights movement had many mothers and fathers. 
Any NAACP member who comes out this Sunday to vote for attorney Lawrence Floyd as branch president will be casting a vote against bossism, messianic leadership, and the plantation politics.
* * *
There is at least one other overarching reason Mr. Forbes should be replaced as branch president. I will write about that tomorrow.


Marvin McMickle said...

As a former branch president from 1988-1992 I remember the time when the rule of thumb was that a person would serve two consecutive two-year terms and then voluntarily step down to allow for someone else to lead. That had been the practive for decades within the Cleveland NAACP. I can only assume that members of the branch were willing to suspend that rule after my two-term departure. The Rev. Marvin McMickle, Ph.D., pastor of Antioch Baptist Church

Anonymous said...

The NAACP can be viewed as an adjunct to George Forbes's law firm. Nothing more at
this time, unfortunately.

I would add that the NAACP should be a membership-dependent organization and not depend upon corporate largesse. This is also corrupting.

Roldo Bartimole

Steven E. Boyd said...

I honor the work of our elders and community leaders of the past. However, I strongly encourage that we now look to the future with vigor and embrace qualitative and quantitative change. Our problems and opportunities are much too challenging to expect that antiquated, monolithic solutions are EFFECTIVELY possible. In this 21st century, we need ALL knowledgeable hands on deck, particularly the younger strong ones. No disrespect is intended.

david said...

Ooo, and does it not seem a tad clumsy to say I'm done, adios, I can't do this anymore... only to have Dan Gilbert fire you up to go again? From what you're writing here, it wasn't the plight of the constituency, it wasn't to keep the county government transition fair nor even to protect a pet project about which the President is passionate. Are we to gather that the motivating factors relate to the casinos, and that Mr. Gilbert needs him to make the casinos... whatever it is that only Mr. Forbes can?

Scary part is, nice as he is, are we to select Mr. Floyd primarily because he isn't Mr. Forbes? What is it about Mr. Floyd's vision and agenda that makes him the guy?

Richard said...

Steve: there are many ways to lead, many ways to support, many ways to participate.

Re Anonymous note: I posted that reply by Roldo Bartimole with his permission when the rulers of cyberspace would not permit him to do it directly.

Anonymous said...

It's time to pass the mantle to someone who has ethics and values.

-- Lora Thompson

agb said...

Every organization that wishes to be viable and effective in the 21st century should make certain that its leadership has the capability to embrace and respect, all cultures, all genders, all religions ALL PEOPLE. Clearly that has not been the practice of all of the leadership at this branch of the NAACP. Therefore, it is time for a change if this branch is going to survive.