Top-level fuss taints groups ambitions
The Portland chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is in the news again, for reasons having nothing to do with advancing people of color. What's being advanced instead are several personal agendas.
Simply put, the organization is suffering at the hands of those who have come to see the post of president as a tool for garnering fame and favors, rather than as a pulpit for change. Just last month, two people laid claim to the branch presidency.
Finally, after a shameful drama, one man emerged as the legitimate leader of the local NAACP. He is Robert Larry, a local businessman and community activist. At least that's the judgment of Edna Pittman, president of the NAACP's regional board.
For the Portland chapter, it's the second leadership tussle in two years, coming barely a year after its officials abruptly resigned their positions because of internal strife.
Here is the latest brouhaha:
Shortly after the group's election in November, Skip Osbourne, the former president whose term was supposed to have expired last month, refused to give up his post, citing election irregularities. He fired off a protest letter to the NAACP national headquarters in Washington, D.C., asking for a temporary suspension of the local charter.
Osbourne claimed that the election he participated in and lost was bogus because the eventual winner, Larry, had at one point withdrawn from the race, then muscled his way in against election rules. So Osbourne continued to present himself as the chapter's legitimate president.
In fairness to Larry, the newly elected president, there's nothing in the chapter bylaws that says you cannot re-contest an election. It states that any member in good standing for at least a year who meets registration requirements can vie for a board position.
Larry, the apparent president-elect, countered by asking the regional board to remove Osbourne as a member of the Portland chapter. So far, there's been no response to the request. But Pittman did issue a memo declaring that Larry is the legitimate president of the branch.
Clearly, this recent controversy continues to dim the aspirations of those who would like to see the Portland chapter of the NAACP take its traditional place as a rallying point for civil-rights troops.
After last year's mass resignations, I wrote that if the branch hopes to survive, it must avoid excesses and unite behind an agenda of improving the political, educational, social and economic status of people of color. I implored its leaders to rise above their personal egos, become willing partners and return to the organization's traditional role of ensuring civil rights compliance.
Twelve months later, the plea hangs unanswered.
With educational opportunities dwindling for poor kids of color Ñ and poor white kids Ñ now would be an excellent time for the organization to provide a platform on which Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, blacks, browns and whites could join hands in waving down inequality and injustice.
Will a true civil rights leader please stand up?