January 4, 2011

NAACP Support of Scott Sisters: Damned If They Do, Damned If They Don't

The NAACP continues to struggle to regain its relevance in the Black community. Somewhere along the line the organization lost its voice. NAACP president Ben Jealous works hard to find ways to get the NAACP back in the discussion. The organization is large and has ability to get visibility from the mainstream media on occasion. Of course, because the organization is large ... it is difficult for it to be quick or nimble. As a result, the NAACP often seems to chime in towards the end of the life cycle of a problem.

The NAACP was late to the story of the Jena 6. They were late to the story of Troy Davis. And last month, the NAACP was late to the story of the Scott Sisters.

Some online activists have damned the NAACP for being glory-hounds who simply cherry-pick on issues that are already close to resolution. For example, the Scott Sisters have been imprisoned for over 16 years, yet the NAACP didn't get engaged until September 2010 in spite of a call for their support much earlier.  Evelyn Rasco, the mother of the two sisters, indicates in this radio interview with Nordette Adams that she has not heard from Ben Jealous or anyone else from the NAACP until this past week.

On the other hand, African American Pundit reports that the true hero in the Scott Sisters case is a Black freedom fighter named Nancy Lockhart. Ms. Lockhart has been suing the Internet, and her Free the Scott Sisters Blog, along with radio shows began a grassroots effort to free the Scott sisters.

I suspect that Jamie Scott and Gladys Scott are grateful to the NAACP and anyone else ... late tot he party or not ... who advocated for their release.   At the end of the day ... isn't that the point?   The publicity-hound nature of the NAACP on a national basis is self-evident.  However, would we rather have a publicity-hound NAACP advocating for good causes *or* would we rather that they be silent on those same good causes?

Is the NAACP in a case of being damned if they do and damned if they don't?


KMyles said...

Absolutely... Let me give you a good case and point.

We had a situation in my City where a very large institution made a deal with the City that would have impacted the African American community directly. Now we have a very well organized network of Neighborhood Associations and they were actively fighting the deal, so we stood down. (Organizationally, we each try to respect each others efforts)

Towards the 11th hour, it became Crystal Clear that they community was going to lose out. The Newspaper was publishing editorials supporting the deal, the City was rolling out companion projects, Politicians were making speeches to promote the plan, Pastors had been brought in to offer cover... it was a done deal. The City Council scheduled a hearing and vote that would take place over a three week period - fait accompli

At that point we decided to get involved. NOT because we wanted publicity or "glory". But because we knew the City couldn't ignore us the way they were prepared to ignore the residents. We could command the media that the neighborhoods couldn't and WE COULD GET THEIR MESSAGE OUT.

We met directly with the heads of the Institution, members of the Council, and the local press. We held 5 community meetings where we actually pulled together ALL of the neighborhood associations in the whole area. We had people go door to door in the immediate area and interview residents. We KEPT it in the press and stayed in the Institutions faces. We contacted the Pastors who were offering cover and won them back to OUR side. AND we came up with an alternative win-win proposal for the city and institution, using some of our own and the communities resources - We hustled our asses off!! - and in the span of just two and a half weeks after some very intense private meetings- the institution announced that it was withdrawing its plan.

It happened so suddenly that the Mayor actually called us a few names from the bench and one City Council member started crying. But we won the battle the community was undertaking. Not on our own behalf, but for and WITH them.

But afterwards, instead of being able to celebrate the fact that the community had come together and taken a stand successfully. Some, and I repeat SOME, in our community went on to attack us for getting involved. Talking as though everything would have been alright had we not come along and that the only reason we did is so we could look good when it was all over...

Now don't get me wrong, I love AAP and Field and all my blogging brethren. But until we are able to celebrate our community's successes without the need to launch into diatribes about who is not worthy, valuable, or necessary, we'll still be short of fulfilling our potential.

SReid said...

Hello, My name is Scotty Reid and I first pointed out via a youtube video that the NAACP was using the Scott Sisters name to solicit funds that were going to the NAACP National HQ. The NAACP contributed nothing to the Scott Sister's legal fund and they ignored pleas for help from the family many, many years ago. Yes, I say damn the National NAACP. They are not respected among the people and and they have enemies every where.

They are opportunistic and they sold out the people on Net Neutrality, yes, damn them.

Vérité Parlant said...

Wayne, I just wrote an essay about frustration and the Scott Sisters' freedom, not so much directed at the NAACP, but they are mentioned briefly. It should be live at BlogHer.com possibly this afternoon. But I also interviewed the Scott Sisters' mother, Evelyn Rasco, last night. The podcast is up at my personal blog, and we talked a while about the NAACP. She is grateful to them; however, she is far more grateful to the people online who took up the gauntlet early. And she's not too anxious to pat ole Haley Barbour on the back.

I think the NAACP suffers from the curse of many older heralded institutions, old blood and lack of vision. They have a tendency to see themselves as the big star and others as the little twinkles, and so they cripple themselves by an unwillingness to embrace new ideas and people and form the alliances that will be critical for power in the coming age. They persist in functioning like gatekeepers more than community collaborators. Their greatest asset, however, and we can't ignore this, is that the NAACP still has the name and the clout that opens doors. I think some people in mainstream media didn't pay close attention to the Scott Sisters case until the NAACP stepped in.

Nevertheless, I believe there was some grandstanding and opportunism involved. I suspect that after the Shirley Sherrod incident, they began to listen to some of the criticisms thrown at them which are that they let women do much of the grunt work but tend to make men their causes celebres. That whole incident caught them with their pants around their ankles.

So, while taking up the Scott Sisters' cause may have been motivated by a need to recover and other ulterior motives, I guess we can give them points for listening.

Unknown said...

Kevin - I appreciate the work that you do as the president of the NAACP Wichita Branch. You and your branch are very proactive in your community ... as demonstrated by the story you shared in your post. More importantly, you and your branch are consistent in your communication with the community via your award-winning blog. Perhaps the national organization could implement more of the 'best practices' from your chapter as they implement future 'National Initiatives'. Anyhow, thanx for coming by and sharing your insights.

Scotty - Thanx for visiting. I hope you have reason to come back to this blog again in the future. I'm curious ... what would you like to see the NAACP do? Do you want them to simply fold their tents up and close down as an organization?

Nordette - I'm heading over to listen to your podcast with the Scott sister's mom. I think that your balanced view on the NAACP's actions in this case are on point. I just hope that the folks from the NAACP are listening.

AfricanAmericanPundit said...

Interesting post, I respect yet disagree with your observations.
Nevertheless, I agree with one of your readers who said, "I believe there was some grandstanding and opportunism involved."
Let me say, as a former Board member of the Boston Branch of the NAACP back in the 70's, I have been involved with the NAACP when some of the folks writing were just born. The national NAACP is exactly like the reader said, a old group that lacks vision. He is right, when he said the NAACP has a tendency to see themselves as the big star and others as the little twinkles, and so they cripple themselves by an unwillingness to embrace new ideas and people and form the alliances that will be critical for power in the coming age. Ben Jealous is just a younger elitist face to old national NAACP gate keeping strategies, that won't work. Technology is allowing for a new group of activist to engage in action organizing. The national office of the NAACP in the coing years may find itself even more irrelevant with black folks. It seems that the only thing it knows how to do well in recent years it to put on on the image awards. And some have wondered about that...

Unknown said...

AAP - The beauty of us having a disagreement is that we don't bring Uzis or Glocks to the discussion!

Happy MLK Weekend my blogging brotha!