NAACP Benjamin Todd Jealous will step down as president of the nation's oldest and largest U.S. civil rights organization, the Baltimore-based organization announced on Sunday. The resignation will become effective on December 31.
Jealous has been the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for five years and is credited with "re-energizing and modernizing" the iconic civil rights organization, notes the Baltimore Sun.
Jealous, 40, took the helm of the 104-year-old organization in 2008, at a time when members openly lamented their inability to attract a younger generation to the group. ... When he was tapped for the job five years ago, the vote was split — some members wondered whether Jealous, then 35, was too inexperienced. Only a year before that, the NAACP let go about half its staff to dig itself out of debt. Membership has declined, and its image has suffered. Clashes with the NAACP board led the former president, Bruce S. Gordon, to leave abruptly in March 2007.
Under Jealous, NAACP helped to repeal the death penalty in New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland; registered hundreds of thousands of voters for the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections; and organized against New York City's use of stop-and-frisk policing.
Jealous' leadership has increased the organization's revenue and digital footprint, adds the Washington Post.
Last week, Jealous said that his NAACP tenure was a sprint that has left the organization with more technological savvy and on sounder financial footing. It now has 420,000 mobile subscribers. The organization’s e-mail list has jumped from 174,000 names when Jealous joined to 1.3 million. In the 2012 election cycle, the NAACP registered 374,553 new voters — more than double the number it registered in 2008.
Given the NAACP’s periodic money woes and controversies, the most important numbers may be financial: According to the organization’s tax filings and numbers it provided, its revenue has grown from $25.6 million in 2008 to $46 million last year, and its individual donor base has expanded eightfold.
"As others questioned its vitality, we have been able to regrow the mightiest of all trees in the ecology of social justice," Jealous told the Washington Post. "I’m really going to miss the street fights we’ve been in."
As has been reported numerous times on R20, Jealous has worked to engage the NAACP in LGBT issues. In February 2009, the national board called for the overturn of California's Proposition 8 but stopped short of endorsing equal marriage. Later that year, the National Black Justice Coalition became the first Black LGBT group to address the national board. In March 2011, the first openly LGBT president of a local NAACP chapter was elected. In August 2011, the organization held its first town hall on LGBT issues.
These actions climaxed on May 12, 2012 when the NAACP board of directors voted to endorse equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. This marked the first time the national board has fully endorsed marriage equality—and came ten days after President Barack Obama's historic announcement supporting that position. The resolution was presented at the civil rights organization's annual retreat in Miami. It was approved by an almost unanimous vote—only 2 members of the 64-member board opposed.
In February 2010, the NAACP elected the now-45-year-old Roslyn Brock as its new chairwoman to replace the legendary Julian Bond, a civil rights icon and one of the first Blacks elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. Brock and Jealous both pledged to make the veteran civil rights organization more relevant.
Jealous says that he is leaving office to spend more time with his wife, civil rights lawyer Lia Epperson, and children, daughter Morgan, 7, and Jack, 13 months. Jealous will also launch an organization to raise money for Black political candidates. In an interview with USA TODAY, Jealous described his vision as an "EMILY's list for people of color."
Bravo and a thousand congratulations to Benjamin Todd Jealous who has left an incredible legacy on social justice.
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