Roslyn M. Brock’s election as chairman of the NAACP is being hailed by the civil rights organization as a “generational shift” in leadership. Her ascension to the chair makes her the fourth woman to hold the position in the 101 year history of the civil rights organization.
Brock, elected by the NAACP’s 64-member board today, succeeds Julian Bond, who did not seek re-election to the seat he had held since 1998. In announcing his pending resignation in late 2008, Bond, 69, a longtime civil rights activist who helped organize student sit-ins and anti-segregation protests as a youth, gave a nod to America’s new leadership as a reason for his decision.
“We have dynamic new leadership,” Bond said in a 2008 statement to the Chicago Defender. “The country has a new president in Barack Obama; the organization has a new CEO in Benjamin Jealous; and we’ll soon have a new Chairman of the NAACP Board. The NAACP and the country are in good hands.”
Brock, 44, was elected as the first woman vice chairman of the NAACP in February 2001. She is a beneficiary of the movement forged by Bond and countless other civil rights leaders who sought, fought and died for the equal rights and opportunities for African-Americans. She holds multiple degrees, and is a vice president for Bon Secours Health System Inc.
Yet, while her chairmanship is touted as being about change, some may suggest otherwise given that Brock has been involved in the NAACP since she was a freshman in college at Virginia University in Richmond, Va.
Such assertions don’t bother Brock, who organized grass roots activities involving Virginia’s black college students to help elect L. Douglas Wilder as the nation’s first black governor since Reconstruction.
“I cut my teeth from there and have been involved since then,” she added. “I continue to be amazed at the civil rights stalwarts and the opportunity to work with them.”
Brock peppers her conversation with mention of Bond, Myrlie Evers Williams, board chair from 1995 to 1998, and Benjamin Hooks, her mentor who served as the NAACP’s executive director from 1972 to 1977. At the same time, she knows that the NAACP’s future lies in a new strategies, which she calls “PGA: policy, governance and accountability.”
“I’d like for it to be more strategic in its focus,” she said. “Historically the NAACP rallies and tells us what its against. I’d like for it to be more proactive and strategic. During our policy making sessions…we pass myriad resolutions year after year. I really want to assess that process.”
Jealous, 37, said he is excited about Brock’s election because he believes she is the “right person at the right time who brings a sense of urgency of someone who grew up after Brown v. Board and the Voting Rights Act” to current societal ills such as high murder rates and incarceration among African-American males. He added that Brock’s connections to faith communities, along with her fundraising abilities, will continue to help drive the NAACP
Ronald Walters, a retired professor and director of the African-American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland, applauds the NAACP’s election of Brock. Like Bond, he says she will complement Jealous’ presidency.
Brock represents a new generation of leadership and “coming from the inside is good and it’s good that the organization continues to have women in leadership roles,” Walters said.
Also, because the NAACP, which has 500,000 members between ages 55-60, historically attracts older people from religious backgrounds, Brock’s relative youth and corporate background will help raise its image among young professionals, Walters noted.
While questions remain how effective Brock will be, she and Walters are adamant when responding to questions about the organization’s relevance.
“Is it relevant? Absolutely yes,” said Walters. “There are two NAACP’s —-the one the media write about and the other is when Joe or Henry calls when they are in trouble on their jobs. The calls to the local branches…..how do you duplicate that function in terms of the breadth of this country? No organization surpasses the service of the NAACP.”
Brock concurs, saying that although the organization continues to make strides through its use of social media and technology, it will continue to use tried and true strategies such as organized protests and marches.
“The Tea Party used marching effectively,” she said, referring to the current political movement that advocates limited government. “It’s long been a tool in our arsenal.”
WATCH BROCK INTERVIEWED ON MSNBC’S ‘THE DAILY RUNDOWN’: