Sunday, November 11, 2012
Golden Opportunity Today for Local NAACP
A small number of Greater Clevelanders have an excellent chance today to strike a large blow for the future of their fellow citizens, especially the ones of African American descent, by voting for two rising stars as part of the Cleveland NAACP leadership team.
The two stars — Clint Bradley and Danielle Sydnor — epitomize what civil rights pioneers must have envisioned a half-century ago: a new world that the children of hard-working families could, by working hard themselves, staying out of trouble, taking advantage of educational and career opportunities, practicing a strong personal and communal ethic, building healthy families, focusing on achievement instead of glitz, could become accomplished citizens and community leaders.
Clint and Danielle have achieved all this and more. Today they are asking voting members of the Cleveland NAACP to ratify the faith their elders placed in an even younger group of civil rights leaders in the most glorious days in the history of civil rights. Martin King Jr. was 26 when he was named to lead the bus boycott in Birmingham. Malcolm X was at his most brilliant in his 30s. Carl Stokes was barely 40 when elected Cleveland mayor. To this list could be added Julian Bond, John Lewis, Bob Moses, Diane Nash, and literally hundreds of others.
How did we get so fat and happy as to think that we could prosper and grow as a community only by entrusting our communal power to a small group of largely self-appointed old men who amass and circulate power only among themselves? [I pose that question specifically with Cleveland’s African American community in mind, but the same question could be posed of the people who for so long controlled this city’s financial and legal communities. And, oh yes, some members of one of the country’s major political parties might be looking for answers to that question as well.]
Clint Bradley and Danielle Sydnor are perhaps the first people under forty in a generation to seek leadership roles in the Cleveland NAACP. Clint is 37, grew up in Collinwood, won an early scholarship award from the local Metropolitan Alliance of Black School Educators, went to college in Indiana and then returned home to build a career in business and raise a family. He is not one to take the easy road: he’s the only black commercial real estate broker in this region, and perhaps the state. Along the way he has acquired master’s degrees from both Case Western Reserve and Cleveland State, and just last year bought and revamped a thirty-year old construction company in the inner city that has won contracts with both Cleveland’s casino and the Medical Mart.
Danielle grew up learning the value of hard work and entrepreneurship from her parents, who operated a small print shop — Sydnor Printing — in Cleveland’s Larchmere neighborhood just off Shaker Square. Today, she counsels small business owners, families, and professionals on wealth building strategies as a Merrill Lynch representative. She is also raising two remarkable poised young men as a single parent; they accompany her frequently as she participates in civic engagements.
Clint and Danielle face formidable opposition in their bid to begin the rebuilding of a once respected but still important civic organization that long ago lost its way as a result of a generation of selfish and sclerotic leadership that even now seeks to perpetuate itself in place.
This is in no way an attempt to castigate my good friend Hilton Smith, the odds-on favorite to be the next Cleveland NAACP president. Hilton has been a faithful supporter of the organization for more than four decades. He has nationwide connections with NAACP elders, has built a strong record on equal opportunity for Turner Construction, and has faithfully discharged many civic responsibilities in our fair city.
At age 66, Hilton’s contemporaries respect him immensely and value his counsel. But the time for him to lead the NAACP should have come and gone. I would have championed his candidacy had he stepped forward at any time in the past two decades to challenge the misguided and disastrous reign of the incumbent. He didn’t do it, nor did anyone else. The torch must now be passed to a generation with new ideas and energy.
It may readily be conceded that Hilton’s prestige, personal integrity, and bulging Rolodex of influential people would do much to begin the rehabilitation of an organization that is but a shadow of its former self. But Hilton himself has a shadow of great concern is in the person of the esteemed E. T. Caviness, senior pastor of Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church, where Hilton himself is an associate pastor.
In sharp contrast to his personal flamboyance, Caviness is moving to consolidate virtually all local civil rights influence in his pulpit seat. He is president of the Cleveland chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He leads the local efforts of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. He controls a local Baptist ministerial group. He established control of the Cleveland NAACP’s nominating process and is running unopposed as for First Vice President. His daughter, who reports to Hilton at Turner Construction, is also a candidate for the NAACP Executive Committee. Several other slate members defer to him as well.
Caviness is 84 years old but possesses the vitality and apparently the ambition of a much younger man. It is neither healthy nor necessary to entrust so much authority in one person or place. Neither the Speaker of the Ohio House nor anyone else should be able to make one telephone call and receive a blessing in the name of a whole community on matters that affect that community. We have been there and experienced that enough. Can I get an Amen on that?
You can check out Clint and Hilton’s cases for their election here, along with that of Jocelyn Travis, a longtime NAACP worker and perhaps the Branch’s most loyal member. But if you are eligible to vote, you should choose Clint and Danielle.
The particulars of the election are at the end of this post. One final note: James Hardiman, the current local NAACP president, withdrew his name as a candidate for 3rd Vice President. He told friends that he felt it would be hypocritical for him to run for the position when he has been a proponent of developing young leadership.
Danielle Sydnor is about 30; her remaining opponents are double or close to triple her age.
The basics: every two years the Cleveland NAACP elects officers along with an Executive Committee that is supposed to function as a Board of Trustees. This year’s biennial election takes place TODAY, Sunday, November 11, 2012. There is ONE POLLING PLACE — Calvary Church of God in Christ, 2940 Martin Luther King Dr. Voting begins at 1PM and the poll will close at 5PM. Any eligible member [dues paid thirty days before today] in line at closing time will be allowed to vote.
This is not a meeting, simply a vote. The process for most should take no more than five minutes, as there are only two contested races: President and 3rd Vice President. The other offices are all uncontested. There are twenty-five candidates running presumably for 24 seats on the Executive Committee. I attempted to verify the number of committee members to be elected but not one member of the Elections Supervisory Committee or the office responded to my inquiry.
Bring your membership card and some photo identification, if possible. You can’t be too careful these days.
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I expect the results will be known by about 9PM today. I will post periodically throughout the day. Stop in to check because I probably will be too preoccupied to send the usual tantalizing emails.