Tessa Hill-Aston asserts “there is more to the story” behind her departure as president of the Baltimore NAACP in late Oct. Despite reports to the contrary, Hill-Aston says there has been no rupture in her relationship with the branch. “My relationship with the NAACP is fine,” Hill-Aston told the AFRO. “I’m working closely with the administrator who will be taking over the branch.”
Maryland State Conference President Gerald Stansbury has been charged with overseeing the Baltimore branch by the NAACP National Office. First Vice President Ronald Flamer assumed the presidency after her departure. Hill-Aston said she is vested in working toward a smooth transition. “I’m working with him because he’s the person who will be overseeing the day-to-day operation of the branch,” Hill-Aston said.
Hill-Aston won re-election as president of the Baltimore branch, a volunteer position, in November 2016 in one of the most closely contended elections in recent history for the branch. She defeated the Rev. Cortly “C.D.” Witherspoon. Hill-Aston admits it was a tough fight, but she said after the election was done, the fight never ended.
“The problem is that if you lose, you are not supposed to continue to verbally attack the person who won the position. This is a volunteer position. All of us are volunteers on the branch level,” she said.
Hill Aston says branch meetings became battlegrounds. “I resigned because outside forces came to NAACP meetings to interrupt,” she said. “I don’t need anybody to come to a public meeting of the NAACP, cause havoc and attack me. I do not like people who try to bully people. I will not tolerate it.”
Hill-Aston insists she has not heard from the national office since the organization’s July convention, hosted by Hill-Aston and the Baltimore branch. She said she believes the NAACP’s national office should have had a technical assistance process in place to support the Baltimore branch when meetings continued to be contentious.
Hassan Giordano, former chair of the Baltimore branch’s Criminal Justice Committee said that Hill-Aston’s collaborative leadership style agitated opponents who wanted the chapter to move more aggressively to a protest model.
“She was given a bad rap because she worked for the city. I didn’t see that. Tessa was more of a person who wanted to build bridges. She would rather meet with the mayor and governor first before we organized a rally or a demonstration to make our point,” he said. Hill Aston works full-time as a program administrator in the Baltimore Health Department.
Hill-Aston says she is leaving the Baltimore branch with her head held high. “I’m not leaving the NAACP in a negative way at all. We just hosted a very successful national convention in Baltimore,” said Hill-Aston, who maintained that she is not finished with civil rights work.
“I help people every day of my life. People who know me well know that. I help people with court, evictions, gas and electric bill turn-offs. The Baltimore branch of the NAACP was right there and opened an office in West Baltimore immediately after the unrest,” she said.