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Crisis in the Minneapolis NAACP Branch
The NAACP has long played a leading role in the struggle to close the gap in educational achievement between people of color and whites, and between poor and middle class students. The NAACP advertises itself as the oldest, the biggest, and the baddest civil rights organization of the face of the earth. And it has a long tradition and very deep roots in the black community.
However, since the Minneapolis NAACP branch was taken over by a faction supported by the Democratic Party in mid-1999, the Minneapolis branch has not organized a K-12 education committee to do the kind of educational advocacy work that one might expect a branch of the NAACP to do. Most of the active members of the organization who did not support the post 1999 leadership were kept off of committees and eventually became inactive or quit the NAACP. Attendance at monthly branch meetings dropped from an average of about 30 to 40 from 1998 to mid-1999 to 15 in early 2000 and 10 in the first part of 2002.
In 2002 Ron Edwards, a longtime NAACP member, well known community activist, and co-author of "The Minneapolis Story" was a candidate for branch president. Edwards and his supporters recruited and continue to recruit new members who regularly attend branch meetings, which has forced the elected leadership to recruit new members and make an effort to turn out its supporters to the branch meetings. Attendance at branch meetings has increased to upwards of 40 in recent months.
Since mid 1999 the Minneapolis NAACP branch presidents have maintained a secret liaison with leaders of the public schools establishment, through which a tentative agreement to settle the educational adequacy lawsuit was made in 2000.
It is also evident that at some point prior to August 16, 2002, the branch president (then Shalia Lindsey) made a commitment to contract with the state to operate Parent Information Centers, but did not inform the branch about the proposal for NAACP Parent Information Centers until October 2002. Complete information about the proposal for NAACP Parent Information Centers was not available to branch members for review until the latter part of April 2003.
The branch membership meeting on June 28, 2003 was the first opportunity for branch members to support or reject the Parent Information Centers project after the proposal was made available to the entire membership. A motion to instruct the branch executive committee to not open the centers and to return the money it had received from the state to open the centers was ruled out of order by the chair, Albert Gallmon. However, the ruling of the chair on that motion was challenged and overturned by a two-thirds majority. The motion to back out of the Parent Information Centers project was put to a vote and approved by a two-thirds majority.
A letter dated June 30, 2003 to the Minneapolis NAACP branch executive committee from the office Kweisi Mfume, president and CEO of the NAACP approved of the plan for NAACP Parent Information Centers, but with caveats that suggest that he was unaware of what transpired on June 28, 2003. The Branch expressed its opposition to moving forward with the Parent Information Centers project, but the Branch Executive Committee is moving forward with it anyway.
The cozy relationship between the branch presidents and the people who run the schools in Minneapolis has been OK with the majority of the branch executive committee, and apparently with the NAACP leadership at the state, regional and national level. I doubt that an appeal to the NAACP leadership, by itself, is likely to bring about an intervention in support of the position adopted by the branch membership. And if the national NAACP leadership intervenes in support of the branch executive committee on this issue, it is going to cost them something, and the more the better. That is why I am speaking out publicly on this issue and encourage other NAACP members to do the same.