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New NAACP leader faces challenges

Irv Randolph | 6/1/2014, noon
When the NAACP National Board of Directors recently announced its selection of Attorney Cornell William Brooks to be the Association’s ...
New NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks shakes hands with Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors. NAACP Photo

When the NAACP National Board of Directors recently announced its selection of Attorney Cornell William Brooks to be the Association’s next National President and CEO it could not have come at a more opportune time.

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Irv Randolph

The organization will introduce Brooks at its national convention in July in Las Vegas. Brooks succeeds past President and CEO Benjamin Jealous who resigned at the end of 2013.

The NAACP needed some good news to report after weeks of bad publicity from prominent chapters in Los Angles and Philadelphia and recently announced plans to cut about 7 percent of staff at its Baltimore, Md. headquarters.

And the selection of Brooks appears to be good news indeed.

Brooks, a longtime lawyer, human rights activist who currently serves as the President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice based in Newark, NJ, appears to be well equipped to lead the organization.

Brooks earned a Bachelor of Arts from Jackson State University, a Master of Divinity from Boston University School of Theology, and a Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School.

A fourth-generation ordained minister, Brooks has worked to pass legislation enabling previously incarcerated men and women to rebuild their lives as productive and responsible citizens. His efforts have been called a model for the nation by the New York Times.

Brooks has also successfully pushed for state legislation to reduce the effects of widespread foreclosures and has worked to develop methods to employ more people in higher wage work.

Brooks has served as senior counsel for the Federal Communications Commission, executive director of the Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington and as a trial attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. He has also been a strong advocate for public education, affordable healthcare and fiscal responsibility.

Brooks is going to need to bring all his skills and experience to lead the NAACP and bring about some needed reforms.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest civil rights organization. The venerable organization is still seen as the premiere advocate for civil rights for many African-American communities across the nation.

But recently the NAACP has been making news headlines for the wrong reasons. The organization is making news not for fighting for civil rights, but for the internal feuding of its Philadelphia chapter and the unsavory conduct of its Los Angeles chapter.

The recent trouble of two of its largest chapters underscores the need for the NAACP to make some urgent reforms.

Most recently, two suspended members of the Philadelphia NAACP filed legal papers demanding to review the financial records of a defunct nonprofit run by Jerome W. Mondesire, the suspended president of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania branches of the NAACP.

Sid Booker and the Rev. Elisha Morris have claimed Mondesire mismanaged the local chapter’s finances, inappropriately mixing funds intended for the chapter with those of Mondesire’s defunct nonprofit Next Generation Community Development Corp.

Mondesire said he has done nothing inappropriate.

Mondesire, Booker, Morris and Ducky Birts, who also accused Mondesire of inappropriate conduct, were suspended in April by the national office of the NAACP for their roles in the controversy.