Cornell William Brooks, recently appointed president and CEO of the NAACP.
Inspired to help people of all walks of life, Cornell William Brooks, recently appointed president and CEO of the NAACP, wants to expand the civil rights organization into a more 21st Century state of mind. He is currently on a justice tour, traveling state to state to spread the NAACP’s message and listen to members voice their questions, concerns, aspirations, and perspectives on how to make the organization better.
“By doing so,” Brooks told the AFRO Oct. 9, “not only are we well positioned to well represent the actualizations of the association, but more importantly we are well positioned to grow the NAACP into a 21st century civil rights advocacy organization that is multiracial, multiethnic, multigenerational – one million members strong.”
Brooks said the organization can stay true to its African-American roots and also reflect the experiences of other communities of color. “I’m looking at the NAAACP to reflect the many-ness of a pluralistic America and nevertheless reflect the oneness of the African-American experience,” he said.
Brooks said he was influenced by the first generation of civil rights protestors during his studies at Jackson State University in Mississippi, Boston University School of Theology in Massachusetts, and Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn. He said many people, whether African American, Hispanic, gay or lesbian, experience civil rights violations, and we need to come together because we are fighting against similar types of injustices.
“We’re not talking about diversity in a superficial way, we’re talking about the real ways in which people experience bigotry and biasness in similar ways, not all the same way, but in similar ways,” Brooks said.
The NAACP has a hand in combating several contemporary issues on racial profiling, the right to vote, and economic improvement for low-income Americans. The organization released a report, “Born Suspect: Stop-and-Frisk Abuses & the Continued Fight to End Racial Profiling in America” in September. The report analyzes racial profiling as it plays out in Black and Brown communities, as well as racial profiling as it affects gays and lesbians.
“We talk about these issues simultaneously, diversely, concurrently, empirically and with a low voice,” Brooks said.
The NAACP is encouraging people to get out to vote and to protect the right to vote by reaching out to voters and would be voters, across the country, as the midterm elections approach. The organization is also pushing for a fix to the Voting Rights Act. “For the folks on main street who believe that voting is a civic sacrament, you would assume that the right to vote is your right, unchecked, un-infringed, unimpaired and we need to make sure that the Voting Rights Act that we have fought for over literally a generation continues to do what it has done, which is providing the means to ensure that your right to vote is unimpaired,” Brooks said.
Growing the NAACP to reflect several different American communities is a way the organization will fight for equality. “What I would say to Black folks who are struggling in this dysfunctional economy, is that we are not the only ones who are struggling and we need to link arms, link shoulders, with people who are struggling similarly,” he said.
To accomplish these goals, the NAACP is currently lobbying to Congress, educating the public, and encouraging voters to vote for representatives, senators, and office holders who support their right to vote. “We are an organization that’s well represented all across the country,” Brooks said of the NAACP. “But as big as we are, as widespread as we are, we’re looking to be even bigger . . . because, in effect, our country and our communities need us, and we will be true to our history and true to our future.”