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Blackstonian Exclusive: Countdown to NAACP Election

Blackstonian Exclusive:  Countdown to NAACP Election
by: Jamarhl Crawford Publisher/Editor

The race for the Presidency of the Boston Branch of the NAACP has been heating up considerably in the past several weeks.  The candidates, Sen. Bill Owens and Michael Curry have been sounding the drums to their respective networks which has resulted in a membership boom like no other in the past decade. Several hundred new members have joined the local Boston Branch, including myself, in anticipation of this election.
I was asked to join the NAACP by Michael Curry at a Black Men’s Leadership Breakfast at the Boston Foundation attended by approximately 80 Black Men.  Curry appealed to the group for his candidacy and as an organizer of the group I joined later that day as an example and in a show of support.  As a member since April 2010, I had no knowledge that Sen. Bill Owens would join the race in his own bid for the Presidency of the Boston Branch.
I have worked with Senator Owens on several projects, most notably 2004’s National Black Agenda Convention, which Sen. Owens convened and organized. My relationship with Sen. Owens is one of elder mentorship and mutual respect and admiration, his entrance into the NAACP campaign for Presidency forced me to pick a side and after weighing all the pros and cons, it became clear that my support had to go to Sen. Owens.
Since that time, I have carefully monitored the campaign and all media coverage as I do with most stories that are relevant to Boston’s communities of color. What I want to do here is an analysis of the race thus far, particularly the media coverage of the campaign and a comparison between the two candidates.
In all fairness, I am unabashedly a Bill Owens supporter, but as always I will strive to use logic in order to do a critical analysis which you can and should fact check before making your own decision. It is my hope to provide some information and perspective to assist in making a more informed decision. 

It is my concern with some of the pervasive recurring themes in this campaign to analyze, address and share a few of my observations.
First off, we must remember that ultimately this race is a question of leadership for the Black community in a current vacuum of leadership and with the history of the decline of the Boston NAACP’s relevance and activity.  We must all agree that this race should not be a popularity or beauty contest, but rather a hard look at two men in order to determine who is in fact the “Best Man for the Job”.  To do anything less is to cheat the community and further deprive all of us from the best suited leadership and voice to address the myriad of issues we are facing.
Media coverage:
We will use 3 examples of print media coverage. Many of you saw the video footage from Basic Black with Callie Crossley featuring both candidates. The WGBH produced show I thought was fair, balanced and gave an accurate portrayal of both candidates. Both candidates were well spoken and this was the first time I felt the public got a sense of the two men and their attitudes and personalities.
Melvin Miller, Bay State Banner Editorial
“Curry for President” Thursday November 24, 2010
Melvin Miller Bay State Banner Editor said “This is clearly a job for a young man with young legs” However, I think there would be a strong protest from Mr. Miller if there was a young man who wanted to take the helm of the Banner. If Mr. Miller truly feels this way, I wish there was a way to examine how many times he has been in support of a younger person taking a leadership position. There is no Melvin Miller mentee to speak of, and after his much publicized about-face on all Menino coverage for a paltry $250,000 ethically questionable loan, his editorials don’t hold as much weight as they used to. His endorsement of Curry, with no supporting evidence other than age, and no mention of Curry’s qualifications, seems more like a “dis” of Senator Owens rather than a heartfelt, well thought out endorsement.
Adrian Walker, Boston Globe Column
“NAACP, time ripe for change” Monday November 15, 2010
Adrian Walker in his column stated “Unofficially, it pits an old guard that has run the branch for years against a younger generation that believes its predecessors’ day is done.” I would submit that Curry has a closer proximity to the NAACP’s old guard than does Owens, considering his lengthy membership, branch participation and mentee relationship with former Branch President Lenny Alkins. Once again, Walker seems to assert that the major component of this race is age, rather than track record and who is better fit for the job. There is again NOTHING in this column that speaks to Michael Curry’s experience or qualifications.

Bridget Brown, Bay State Banner Article
“Curry, Owens vie to lead NAACP Boston” Thursday November 24, 2010
In this article Curry is once again visibly favored and bolstered with anecdotal references of life lessons and describes the impact of his relationship with 10 yr. former President Lenny Alkins. Overall the article is biographic, but neglects to mention specific references to accomplishments in order to establish qualifications.
Promotional Materials:

All of the promotional materials do the same thing, they endorse Michael Curry and allude to years of community service and work, but neglect to mention what those things are and provide examples. Curry has been involved with many community endeavors, mentoring, meetings, board meetings and work related events. None of this gives a clear picture of self-initiated programs or leadershi
p; these examples speak to participation, but not creation, organization or implementation. They often speak of vision, but never tell you what that vision is or how it will be achieved. The promotional materials and website are all expertly graphically designed and have all the slick polish we have come to expect from politics and nightclub promotion.  Most of this is simply text book marketing and promotions, high on image and presentation, lacking in substance.
Curry Campaign Video
10 minute biographical campaign video for Michael Curry; engaging story, convincingly articulated, excellent film footage, however I came away still not knowing what Curry has accomplished and what qualifies him to lead the Boston NAACP in the face of the powers that be.
Councillor Ayanna Pressley Letter of Support
My favorite Black Woman City Councillor, wrote a letter of support which was mailed out with Curry Campaign materials. Now nobody better not say nothing bad ‘bout Sis. Pressley ‘round me, but I must admit I was disappointed that her letter, which was sincere, committed some of the same omissions that had concerned me in other writings. Once again, it seemed as if Curry was praised for community work which was only described in vague terms at best and left me still without a clear idea of his accomplishments and qualifications.

Received a robo-call from former 10yr. Branch President Lenny Alkins, current Election Supervisory Cmte. Member and former Nominating Cmte. Chair, Marvin Venay as well as candidate Michael Curry.

This robo-call was disturbing in that it reinforced the message of “Vote for change” without telling me what the difference is between what is and what will be and further establishing the pattern of not mentioning accomplishments and qualifications.
And how did I end up on a robo-call phone list?
Old vs. Young
Does age trump experience? This is a critical question, is Michael Curry better for the job, simply because he is younger? 

A common theme of this campaign has been “Ushering in New Leadership” or “Ushering in the Next Generation of Leadership”… both of these themes have always concerned me because most often it is used in the context of careerism, social climbing, bourgeoisie, talented tenth, Jack & Jill, intellectual elitist type talk and is almost never associated with a grassroots, revolutionary, nationalist, pan-afrikanist and Afrocentric viewpoint. Here in Boston the “Next Generation of Leadership” has shown itself, time and time again, unwilling to do the due diligence of research and study on subjects and situations that they would portend to be experts on. Leadership is a responsibility, not a coveted position. 

Leaders, lead by example, Faith AND Works, Talk AND Walk and therefore any leader who steps up should have a track record of organizing and associations with Elders and Peers in the same movement. In this case, Michael Curry does not have a track record to my knowledge of organizing or agitation and I am concerned that a non-confrontational or non-combative stance cannot effectively speak to our issues of discrimination, violence, police brutality, disparate sentencing, prison abuse and further I am not confident Curry has the fighting spirit and instinct to speak truth to power without fear of retribution, retaliation or reprimand. I do not believe Michael Curry would take any aggressive stance against the Boston Police Department or Commissioner Davis, the City of Boston or Mayor Menino or the powers that be in the various State Agencies, like the Department of Corrections, that affect our overall quality of life.
Insider vs. Outsider
As a member of the NAACP for 11 years, a protégé of former Branch President Lenny Alkins, and Chair of the Political Action Committee is Michael Curry a Boston NAACP insider?
If the Boston NAACP has been ineffective in the past decade, weren’t some of the same key players involved? Lenny Alkins, NAACP Boston President (approx. 1997-2007), Michael Curry (11 yr member, Chair Political Action Cmte (approx. 3 yrs) Chair, Freedom Fund (2008), Chair, Community Coordinating Cmte. (approx. 3 yrs)
Michael Curry in his promotional campaign video counts as accomplishments his founding of events such as Afrocentrics, the Neo-Soul Festival and the Collaborative Cookout.  He goes on to share all of his stations in life; Father, Son of a single parent, Nephew of a murdered Aunt, Uncle of a Murdered Nephew, etc.  All of the above are facts and the events Curry founded and promoted were all successful and well received. Unfortunately, under close scrutiny we would have to agree that none of those things amount to experience, accomplishments or could be classified as qualifications of leadership.
I would like to be able to put together tangible accomplishments and qualifications to establish Michael Curry’s track record in order to compare and contrast to a brief mention of a few of Sen. Owens accomplishments.
Sen. Bill Owens
Founder, SOWMBA – State Office of Minority and Women Business Assistance
RCC – Roxbury Community College Funding Allocation
Reggie Lewis Center – Funding Allocation
Walpole Hostage Negotiator
Convener, National Black Agenda Convention

While the emphasis has been on the changing of the guard and ushering in new leadership, my fear is that Curry will preside over the branch in much the same manner as his predecessors of the past decade, most notably, Lenny Alkins and Karen Payne. There is nothing about the Curry campaign that indicates there will be anything but business as usual in the branch. They all possess a similar style in approach which has been evidenced to be one of non-confrontation. The obvious upside of a Curry Presidency in my view, would be the social networking component, more and better events, nightclub parties/fundraisers, glossy flyers, facebook page, better website, more “young professionals”, etc.  However, all of these social networking components are only cosmetic in nature and not persuasive in the search for leadership.

Overall, I know the same thing I did in the beginning. I know Curry is from here and we know ALOT of the same people and are roughly the same age, but I still don’t feel confident in his ability to look evil in the eye and pimp slap it. Curry is an Attorney but I know nothing of cases he has worked on or if he has even litigated a case. Curry is a lobbyist for Health Centers, which is a red flag and raises concerns of relationships built through his lobbying activities which may be compromising when advocating in the State House on behalf of the community. Does his job as a lobbyist prevent him from being an effective advocate on any issue before any legislator who he may have to work with on other, job-related issues.
Overall, the important thing is that you do your own research, develop your own conclusion and cast your own vote.
Most elections are open to more folks, this is a small membership based election but it deserves the attention and somber mindedness of any and every time we cast a ballot in representation of our ideals.
I personally endorse Sen. Bill Owens and not because of our personal relationship, but simply because in terms of fearlessly advocating on behalf of our people and because of his history of institution building and organizing. If I did not truly feel this way or feel this was important for the benefit of our community, I would just remain silent. I operate and write from a place of no threat of harm and no promise of reward. If there was a crisis in education, prison, policing, housing, employment or discrimination as an activist and a student of History, I know that “without struggle there is no progress” and “power concedes nothing without demand” and as a revolutionary I know that negotiation comes after agitation. At some point maybe we will need negotiators, right now we need agitators.
Voting Information:
Monday, November 29, 2010 –  5:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Roxbury Community College    Media Arts Building
1234 Columbus Avenue, Roxbury, MA
(corner of Columbus Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard)                              
Each voter is required to present some form of ID  Photo ID or utility bill with current address is acceptable.  

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