By Jesse Washington, AP
The NAACP elected a health care executive as its youngest board chairman Saturday, continuing a youth movement for the nation‚Äôs oldest civil rights organization. Roslyn M. Brock, 44, was chosen to succeed Julian Bond. She had been vice chairman since 2001 and a member of the NAACP for 25 years.
Brock works for Bon Secours Health Systems in Maryland as vice president for advocacy and government relations, and spent 10 years working on health issues for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. She joins Benjamin Todd Jealous, the 37-year-old CEO of the NAACP, as leader of the 500,000-member organization.
Brock said she plans to focus on pushing for policy changes to eliminate inequality, strengthening the relationship between the national and local NAACP branches and holding people accountable.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not always what someone is doing to us, but what we are doing for ourselves,‚ÄĚ Brock said in an interview.
The departure of Bond, 70, after 10 years as board chairman marks a turning point for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Bond came of age in the segregated South, helped found the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and was on the front lines of the protests that led to the nation‚Äôs landmark civil rights laws. He is a symbol and icon of ‚Äúthe movement,‚ÄĚ which was a defining experience for older generations.
In recent years the NAACP has endured criticism that it is old and out of touch. Then Bond brought in Jealous, then 34, as the NAACP‚Äôs youngest CEO, and endorsed Brock‚Äôs bid for board chairman.
The selection of young leaders ‚Äúis deliberate, but it‚Äôs also fortuitous,‚ÄĚ Bond said. ‚ÄúWe are lucky to have had this confluence of a young CEO and a young chair. I don‚Äôt think we plotted and planned that in 2010 the stars would align this way.‚ÄĚ Jealous said he belongs to a generation ‚Äúwhose greatest accomplishments are in front of them ‚Ä¶ who are even more hungry for change.‚ÄĚ
Bond said the board asked him to run for another one-year term, but he declined.
‚ÄúFrankly, this is the most difficult nonpaying job I‚Äôve ever had,‚ÄĚ said Bond, who has served in the Georgia state legislature, is a member of several corporate boards and a professor at American University and the University of Virginia.
Brock was selected in a vote by the 64-person NAACP board. Her opponent was Rev. Wendell Anthony, leader of the NAACP‚Äôs Detroit chapter, who withdrew Friday after he was not re-elected to his seat on the board.
Brock graduated from Virginia Union University and has an MBA from Northwestern, as well as master‚Äôs degrees in health care administration and divinity. She described health care as her passion and said the current reform debate hinges on one fundamental question.
‚ÄúAm I my brother‚Äôs and my sister‚Äôs keeper?‚ÄĚ Brock asked. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs the question that we‚Äôve got to ask our legislators. Are we really, really concerned about our neighbors, and about their health, and their children‚Äôs health?‚ÄĚ
While acknowledging the need to ‚Äúretool our front line‚ÄĚ and develop young civil rights activists, Brock said the wisdom of the older generation is still needed.
‚ÄúIf it were not for that ‚Äėaging‚Äô membership, the NAACP would not be who it is and what it is today,‚ÄĚ she said.
Many conservatives question the need for an NAACP and say that an association for the advancement of white people would be considered racist.
Brock said the NAACP has erroneously been classified as a black group: ‚ÄúWe are not. We are a multiracial, multiethnic organization. So as we move into our second century, our desire is to cast our net broader.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúPeople of color‚Äô or ‚Äėcolored people‚Äô really speaks to those who are falling through the cracks ‚Ä¶ who feel locked out,‚ÄĚ she said.
She said the nation was at a pivotal moment after electing the first Black president.
‚ÄúI‚Äôd be the first to say that at the NAACP we have to acknowledge how far we‚Äôve come as a nation in terms of race relations, but also in that acknowledgment, understanding that we‚Äôre not where we ought to be, but we thank God we‚Äôre not what we used to be.
‚ÄúWe need to draw a line in the sand and say thank you, America ‚Ä¶ but also challenge America that we still have much more work to do.‚ÄĚ