America’s next great black [woman] leader

Maya WIley, Julianne Malveaux
Maya WIley, Julianne Malveaux Image: MSNBC/C-Span

Ben Jealous’ announcement that he will step down from the leadership of the NAACP, the oldest Black civil rights organization, opens up a space for an African American woman to the lead the organization for only the second time in its 104 year history. Myrlie Evers-Williams chaired the Board of the Directors in the mid 1990s.

Though African American culture is still enamored with charismatic race men, the NAACP can send a great signal that a change has come by choosing an African American woman to head the organization. That only one woman in more than a century has had the opportunity is shameful.  That Ben Jealous forgot to name Myrlie Evers-Williams when speaking about the need for new leadership is even more troubling.

By all accounts, Jealous has reenergized the organization, with several years of double-digit financial growth, a significant increase in membership, and a move toward coalition building with LGBTQ organizations, labor unions and public education advocacy initiatives. However, his departure seemingly comes as a surprise to the NAACP board of directors. Black organizations, like black churches, don’t always adjust well to change, particularly given a new generational mind-set in which people do not remain in any kind of organization – job, activist or religious — out of a sense of tradition or brand loyalty.

It may therefore be difficult for the organization to choose a woman – despite how absolutely unradical that choice is in 2013. But if the organization is to remain relevant, the time is now . . .

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