Change the NAACP or let it die?

South Florida Times - - OPINION - REV­EREND DR. R.B HOLMES Al.Cal­loway715@gmail.com mis­ter­jim90@hot­mail.com

Florida A&M Univer­sity is be­gin­ning a very im­por­tant chap­ter in its sto­ried life. Un­doubt­edly the gem of His­tor­i­cally Black Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties, stake­hold­ers writ­ing that chap­ter are anx­ious to re­store the bril­liance of the brand; Ex­cel­lence with Car­ing. They are not cling­ing to the past, but com­mit­ting to the legacy that se­cures the univer­sity and pre­pares our stu­dents for the fu­ture.

FAMU has a long his­tory of turn­ing an in­her­ent dis­ad­van­tage into suc­cess, fas­ci­nat­ing ed­u­ca­tors with each new bench­mark. The new stan­dard con­firmed its rel­e­vancy. The univer­sity landed squarely in the Ivy League realm, on the radar of ma­jor cor­po­ra­tions, the re­cip­i­ent of patents, ma­jor grants, re­search con­tracts, and find­ings. Merit schol­ars and fac­ulty clam­ored to be part of this emerg­ing phe­nom­e­non.

It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand that in­sti­tu­tional re­silience is a FAMU trade­mark. Re­mem­ber, HBCUs are in great peril and their pres­i­dents must be ready to de­fend and ad­vance the mis­sion con­stantly.

For that rea­son, a na­tional pres­i­den­tial search is nec­es­sary. Trans­parency is crit­i­cal to the process. It will pro­vide the clar­ity nec­es­sary to find the right leader. FAMU can­not be vic­tim­ized again by a hid­den agenda fa­cil­i­tated by side deals that cost the in­sti­tu­tion it’s rel­e­vancy, dig­nity and pur­pose. A trans­par­ent search process gets us there.

Merit is the ar­biter of this process; there­fore, we must un­der­stand that no one is en­ti­tled to the job. There can be no back­door en­try for our next pres­i­dent.

FAMU de­serves ex­cep­tional lead­er­ship and a na­tional search will de­liver such a can­di­date. The in­terim pres­i­dent, Dr. Larry Robin­son, must have the right to be el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply.

Florida A&M Univer­sity is the great equal­izer, re­ward­ing the best of us and the least of us with an ed­u­ca­tion that pre­pared many to com­pete, work and con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety that has been less than wel­com­ing. This univer­sity has done great ser­vice to our com­mu­nity and we are ob­li­gated to keep the FAMU legacy alive.

I’ve been blessed and highly fa­vored. Daddy has been around for as long as I can re­mem­ber. He turned 94 this year. He still has his men­tal fac­ul­ties and can still, with a lit­tle help, get around. Last week we went fish­ing “down at the pond” be­low the house he shared with my mom for about 20 years af­ter they moved back to Bed­ford, Vir­ginia from Philadel­phia where they raised my sis­ter and two knuck­le­head lit­tle boys (my brother and I) into adult­hood.

As a child, I revered him, I saw him as a su­per­hero of sorts: tall, pow­er­fully strong, and on the side of right. I also re­spected him in the sense that I loathed the thought of him (or my mom) dis­cov­er­ing any mis­be­hav­ior on my part. Par­tially be­cause I feared pun­ish­ment but more so be­cause I hated to dis­ap­point them.

You see as I grew older, be­fore I started school and there­after, Daddy would take us to work. He worked a full time job as a cook at the Vet­er­ans Hos­pi­tal in Philly and later in Val­ley Forge. But Daddy had mu­cho skills. We went with him af­ter work on his job. He worked do­ing al­most ev­ery­thing: plumb­ing and heat­ing, hang­ing wall pa­per, paint­ing, and work­ing on cars. We would clean up, sweep, pick up trash, load and un­load the var­i­ous cars (like the old Dodge sta­tion wagon with the push but­ton trans­mis­sion). Some­times we would just stay in the car all day Satur­day out­side his job.We’d wait for him to fin­ish, en­ter­tain­ing our­selves with toy sol­diers, flash cards and comic books.

Through it all, we learned first-hand how hard he worked to put food on the table, pay the mort­gage on our mod­est three bed­room West Philly row house, and keep us in clean clothes and de­cent shoes. We saw the sweat drip­ping off his chin on those hot sum­mer days in the con­verted evening be­fore the com­ing Thurs­day elec­tion. If by some mir­a­cle the op­pos­ing slate(s) get to copy enough ad­dresses for mail­ings, letters or what­ever won’t be re­ceived un­til Wed­nes­day or Thurs­day, Elec­tion Day. Some lists have no tele­phone num­bers and/or email ad­dresses.

The voter sup­pres­sion ac­tiv­ity ac­tu­ally be­gins be­fore the April 1st dead­line for all per­sons want­ing to run for of­fice in the com­ing Novem­ber elec­tion. All such per­sons must be a “mem­ber in good stand­ing” of the NAACP Branch in which she, he or they seek to run for of­fice. Known op­pos­ing slate mem­bers may send in their mem­ber­ship or an­nual mem­ber­ship re­newal pa­per­work in­clud­ing dues as early as say Fe­bru­ary of the elec­tion year.

How­ever, at the Oc­to­ber Nom­i­nat­ing Meet­ing some 8 months later, op­pos­ing slate mem­bers learn that un­for­tu­nately their mem­ber­ships were not in or­der be­cause they were not re­turned to the Branch by the Na­tional Mem­ber­ship Of­fice un­til af­ter the April 1st dead­line. That hap­pens when a Branch holds mem­ber­ships for a cer­tain pe­riod be­fore send­ing to the Na­tional NAACP, in ef­fect, sup­press­ing can­di­da­cies.

Elec­tion voter sup­pres­sion oc­curs in the same way: New mem­ber­ships not known to fa­vor the ex­ist­ing regime are held so as to not be valid un­til af­ter the elec­tion. (A per­son must be an NAACP Branch mem­ber, “in good stand­ing,” at least 30 days be­fore an elec­tion in or­der to be an el­i­gi­ble voter.) Maybe the NAACP pen­chant of in­ter­nally sidestep­ping the demo­cratic process is why theirs is not the loud­est voices in im­por­tant rooms con­cern­ing the na­tional black voter sup­pres­sion cri­sis.

A sep­a­rate or­ga­ni­za­tion, the NAACP Le­gal De­fense and Ed­u­ca­tional Fund, Inc., car­ries out le­gal work on is­sues in­clud­ing voter sup­pres­sion laws. But lo­cal, state and re­gional NAACP or­ga­ni­za­tions could have put in place since the white na­tion­al­ist voter sup­pres­sion thrust, an an­ti­dote pro­vi­sion such as uti­liz­ing church buses and car pools to take poor and el­derly black peo­ple to get newly re­quired state iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, or what­ever.

The trou­ble with civil rights in the first place is that its be­liev­ers by­passed hu­man rights to get there. How can you pos­si­bly deal with civil mat­ters be­fore you deal with Hu­man Rights? horse sta­ble garage he rented for twenty five dol­lars a month to work on cars. He would do all kinds of au­to­mo­tive work like body work, en­gine tune-ups and change the brakes on his co-work­ers cars. When I was tall enough, it was my job to pump the brakes to get the air out of the sys­tem. I can hear him now: ”Al­right pump it…keep pump­ing it …hold it… push down... are you pushin’ ?” My brother and I had all kinds of an­cil­lary du­ties, and ad­ven­tures, with Daddy in the garage.

As I grew older, the first thing I wanted to do was get a pay­ing job. My thought was, if I’m go­ing to spend my spare time work­ing (with my dad) I might as well try to work some­where and get paid. I started “junkin’” with my friend Rab­bit, and clean­ing at Mrs. Hill’s house, when I was about 11 years old and there was no turn­ing back.

I also be­gan to learn more about my su­per­hero Dad. As I grew taller than him, he was still tall. As my brother grew stronger than him (I don’t think I ever was) he was still strong. I learned that he was a WWII era Navy Vet­eran; worked in the coal mines of West Vir­ginia as a young man and maybe fin­ished eighth grade (no won­der he and my mom were so hot on us get­ting through school). As I grew into man­hood I be­gan to see him as a man, with faults, short­com­ings, and hav­ing made some mis­takes along the way. In short, as a man hav­ing lived life. But he was never less to me than the father I’d al­ways known, loved and ad­mired.

On our fish­ing trip last week, we got stuck three times - twice get­ting down to the pond and once get­ting back to the house. Al­though he doesn’t drive on the street any­more, I gladly turned the wheel over to Daddy to nav­i­gate the truck out of the mud and milk­weed each time, get­ting us to dry land so we could move for­ward. Oh, the score: Daddy caught eight keep­ers, I caught none.

Through it all Daddy has al­ways been Daddy. He has never been my “friend” al­though I‘ve al­ways loved him and we’ve al­most al­ways been friendly. I’m not one who has had a lot of friends. But I’ve al­ways been happy to have a father who was a father. He doesn’t have to be my friend, I have friends and will hope­fully have more. I won’t have an­other Dad and, be­cause he is who he is, I won’t need an­other one. Blessed and highly fa­vored.

Happy Father’s Day Daddy.

PHOTO COURTESY OF FLORIDA A&M UNIVER­SITY

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