Is the NAACP still needed?

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) recently selected its new president, 35-year-old activist Ben Jealous.

From the Associated Press:

Jealous was born in Pacific Grove, Calif., and educated at Columbia University and Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

He began his professional life in 1991 with the NAACP, where he worked as a community organizer with the Legal Defense Fund working on issues of health care access in Harlem. His family boasts five generations of NAACP membership.

During the mid 1990s, Jealous was managing editor of the Jackson Advocate, Mississippi's oldest black newspaper.

From 1999 to 2002, Jealous led the country's largest group of black community newspapers as executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

Jealous left the Publishers Association for Amnesty International to direct its U.S. Human Rights Program, for which he successfully lobbied for federal legislation against prison rape, public disapproval of racial profiling after Sept. 11, and exposure of widespread sentencing of children to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Since 2005, Jealous has served as president of the Rosenberg Foundation, a private institution that supports civil and human rights advocacy. His experiences caught the attention of the NAACP's search committee, and Jealous said mentors encouraged him to take the job.

Jealous seems to have great credentials and is widely respected. It is clear that because of his young age, it seems on the surface the venerable civil rights organization wants to address critics who feel that it is out of touch with younger African Americans. Specifically, there have been complaints from the black blogosphere that the NAACP has been slow to embrace the cyber-activism. While some support the new ideas Jealous might bring to the table, others are skeptical that there will be any change in the organization, due to allegations that Jealous was hand picked by NAACP chairman Julian Bond himself.

However, with the emergence of the Internet as a tool for social justice, as seen in examples on a daily basis worldwide(including this blog), what is the point of having organizations like the NAACP and "official" black spokespeople like Rev Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson anymore? The power of social media has given individuals the ability to start their own revolutions by advocating and organizing on issues they feel are not being poorly addressed.

There is no better example of this than the 20,000 people who converged in Jena, Louisiana last year in support of six black teenagers charged with beating a white teen, through the help largely from black radio, but also the black blogosphere. The rally is considered the largest such demonstration in the post-Civil Rights era. And there have been many other examples of this on a smaller scale in the last few months alone.

Furthermore, while the NAACP has made incredible strides to advance African Americans politically, socially and economically, its long history has now been tainted with recent charges of corruption and nepotism. Today's so-called "civil rights leaders" are not without their problems either.

With or without the NAACP, "Civil Rights 2.0" will carry on.

The revolution is not being televised, it's being digitized.



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