Twenty-eight-year-old and openly gay Prof. Ravi Perry made history this month when was elected president of the NAACP chapter of Worcester, Massachusetts. The veteran civil rights organization is seeking more gays and more ethnic diversity to broaden its leadership and agenda, reports the AP.
"This is the new NAACP," said Clark University political science professor Ravi Perry, the new chapter president in Worcester. "This is a human rights organization, and we have an obligation to fight discrimination at all levels."
NAACP branches have been recruiting gays, immigrants and young people who grew up in a world far removed from the landmark 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling that outlawed school segregation. Now, leadership positions that were once held only by blacks are being filled by members of other racial or ethnic groups. in recent years NAACP chapters in New Jersey, Connecticut and Georgia have elected Hispanics as president. A white man was picked to lead the chapter in Aiken, S.C. And two years ago, NAACP members in Hamtramck, Mich., a Detroit suburb, selected a Bangladeshi American to revive their long-dormant chapter.
There has been some pushback. In Worcester, Perry is responding to critics in the local chapter who "feel blindsided by what they say appears to be 'his own agenda'," reports the Worcester Telegram. Presumably that is a reference to LGBT issues.
Perry's appointment is welcome. Much of the NAACP is still largely controlled by traditional anti-gay black churches and ministers, such as Rev. Keith Ratliff, Iowa's leading black pastor and the anti-gay chair of the Iowa/Nebraska chapter.
In February 2010, the NAACP elected 44-year-old Roslyn Brock as its new chairwoman to replace the legendary Julian Bond. Brock joins 37-year-old NAACP President Benjamin Jealous—who has tried to engage LGBT issues— and both have pledged to make the veteran civil rights organization more relevant.
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28YO Gay Man Elected Head of Worcester NAACP