Newswire : NAACP Board elects Mississippi’s Derrick Johnson to be its President, will work closely with Black press

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)


Derrick Johnson


The future of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is inextricably linked to the future of African Americans and its incumbent upon the nation’s oldest civil rights organization to work with the Black Press to get that message out, said new NAACP President Derrick Johnson.
On October 21, the executive committee of the NAACP National Board of Directors announced that the Detroit-born Johnson would lead the organization as the president and CEO.
Johnson formerly served as vice chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors and the state president for the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP.
Board members said Johnson was selected to guide the organization through a period of reinvigoration and realignment with the current challenges of today’s civil rights movement.
To accomplish that mission, Johnson said the NAACP will lean heavily on the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the trade association that represents more than 200 African American-owned newspapers and media companies across the country.
“We must be successful to ensure that democracy works for all and that individuals of African descent are treated with dignity and afforded equal protections under the law,” Johnson told the NNPA Newswire. “We’ve met with [new NNPA Chairman] Dorothy Leavell and [NNPA President and CEO] Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr., and we see a bright future and we are mutually tied to the same reality, because the NNPA is critical, as the delivery source of information for our community.”
The fact that the NAACP chose Johnson to lead the organization was music to Leavell’s ears. “I believe he is the right leader for the NAACP at this most important time in our history,” she said. “The NNPA looks forward to working with him and the NAACP.”
Chavis, a former executive director of the NAACP, said he’s known Johnson for a long time and he’s confident that Johnson’s leadership expertise and experience will take the NAACP to greater heights in terms of membership and civil rights activism.
“If there was ever a person alive that personifies the living spirit of Medgar Evers, it is Derrick Johnson. Thus, the NAACP will grow and expand under the leadership of Derrick Johnson,” Chavis said. “Johnson personifies the courage and genius of a freedom fighter, who will now lead the NAACP forward with fearless boldness.”
For his part, Johnson, who received a juris doctorate from the South Texas College of Law, called the Black Press an under appreciated institution.
“It’s incumbent upon the NAACP to work directly with the NNPA to make sure that, as we get control of our narrative, we’re utilizing our most important tool, which is the Black Press,” Johnson said.
A veteran activist, Johnson, 49, said it’s also important that the NAACP engage and support young people. “We urge the young ones to keep studying and continue advocating to make sure their voices are not suffocated, because of a lack of knowledge,” Johnson said. “I’m encouraged by the number of young people who have taken to the streets with the tools at their disposal to become more active. If they find that the NAACP is a tool they’d like to use, then it is incumbent upon the NAACP to support their ability to do that, because the young activists of today will be our leaders of tomorrow.”
A regular guest lecturer at Harvard Law School and an adjunct professor at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss., Johnson previously furthered his training through fellowships with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
As president of the NAACP Mississippi State Conference, he led critical campaigns for voting rights and equitable education, NAACP officials said in a news release. Johnson also successfully managed two bond referendum campaigns in Jackson, which brought $150 million in school building improvements and $65 million toward the construction of a new convention center.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Johnson founded One Voice, Inc., to improve the quality of life for African Americans through civic engagement, training and initiatives, according to Johnson’s bio on the NAACP’s website. One Voice has spawned an annual Black Leadership Summit and the Mississippi Black Leadership Institute, a nine-month training program for community leaders.
“I really appreciate the support of the chair of the Board of Directors, who invested confidence in me to do this job,” Johnson said. “I think we have to control our narrative and tell our story, because we have units across the country that have been extremely effective in their work, but we haven’t been able to control the narrative.”
Johnson called controlling that narrative both a challenge and an opportunity. He said the NAACP is working diligently toward the 2018 midterm elections and making sure to tackle voter registration and issues that have worked to deny African Americans the right to cast a ballot.
“We have to figure out how to maximize the engagement of folks in our community to exercise their right to vote,” Johnson said. “We have a fertile and vibrant pipeline for young people to have a stronger voice in what’s taking place and, at the same time, we can support young people already out there advocating with the understanding that social justice is not a competition, but an opportunity for many individuals to add their voice for progressive change.”

Newswire : NAACP focuses on millennials for future growth

By: Lauren Poteat (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

 NAACP D.C. Branch President Akosua Ali gives remarks during a press conference during the group’s 108th national convention in Baltimore, Md. (Hamil Harris/NNPA)
As Derrick Johnson assumes the role of interim president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), leaders of the nation’s oldest Black civil rights organization say that young people must come first.
Youth-led civil rights groups like Color of Change, Black Youth Project 100 and Dream Defenders have effectively used technology and social media to advance their causes online and around the world, while critics of the NAACP question the group’s relevancy, as it struggles to connect to a younger generation that doesn’t always relate to the battles of Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
During a press conference held on July 21, kicking off the group’s national convention in Baltimore, Md., many NAACP officials and affiliates gathered to address a critical need to keep millennials active and engaged within the organization.
“We have a responsibility to lift up the least of us, but most importantly to put our hands on the young people,” said Baltimore’s Mayor Catherine Pugh. “We can change the trajectory of our lives. Let’s have some real conversations around guns in the community killing our children, because we need [our children] to grow up and be a part of the future of our nation.”
In order to ensure that such goals come into fruition, NAACP D.C. branch President Akosua Ali, formally announced the launch of a national Next Generation Young Professional Leadership Program to train eligible millennials for leadership roles in the NAACP.
The initiative is in line with the NAACP’s National Youth and College Division that cultivates young, civil rights leaders. Messages promoting the division were prominently displayed during the convention.
“This national convention will be critical in transforming the association,” Ali said. “The Youth and College Division continues to train and cultivate young leaders that are activists within their own community and, because of that, the NAACP will launch a Next Generation Young Professional Leadership Program geared toward training young adults between the ages of 21 and 35,” for positions in the NAACP.
Ali continued: “These positions include, but are not limited to: political action chairs, health chairs, environmental justice chairs and branch leaders. We have been very fortunate to have the support of national and youth board members, who have all given input into what is needed for young people to remain active to remain engaged and to be strong leaders within this organization and we are immensely excited about the future of the NAACP through this program.”
Eager to see the organization grow and move forward, Hiruy Hadgu, an NAACP member from Howard County, Md., shared his views on the organization’s plan to ramp up efforts to actively engage and recruit younger members.
“I joined the NAACP after the 2016 election and was responsible for helping my chapter revamp membership efforts, which proved difficult, as we had a hard time keeping up with who was a member or not…a lot of the processes seemed old and outdated and overall didn’t really seem to engage people,” said Hadgu. “I’m only 31, but with these challenging times, I think it’s very important to really re-engage with the community…especially our youth.”