Historic Week for NC NAACP as Dr. William J. Barber Steps Down as President of the State Conference

by September 29, 2017

The 74th Annual NC NAACP Convention this week, Oct. 5 – 7, will go down in history for a monumental changing of the guard, as Bishop Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the state conference of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization for the past 12 years, officially relinquishes his office.

There is little question that throughout the long history of the NC NAACP, with the exception of Kelly Alexander Sr. in the 1940s, Dr. Barber is credited with being the most consequential president since it’s founding in the early 1900’s.

First elected in 2005, Dr. Barber leaves an impressive history of accomplishments behind him, including the Historic Thousands on Jones Street marches and rallies; Forward Together/Moral Monday Movement demonstrations; Wake School Board protests (where he was handcuffed by police and jailed for disrupting  proceedings); several Million Voters March registration campaigns; lobbying for One Stop/Early Voting (which ultimately helped Barack Obama, the first black president, win North Carolina, and the White House in 2008); the Truth and Hope statewide poverty tour; countless sermons and speeches (including at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia); numerous court victories against the Republican-led NC General Assembly to defeat voter suppression laws and schemes; among many other achievements.

“I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity, as an adult, to serve this particular state conference that has had such a storied history, and such an important role in the cause of civil rights,” Barber, who started out as the president of the Youth branch of the Washington County NAACP when he was a high school student, recalls.

He adds that while he is joining the national Poor People’s campaign, but will remain an active member of the NCNAACP Executive Committee, and will remain pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro.

Indeed, many credit Dr. Barber with saving the NCNAACP.

“It had become a dormant and ineffective organization which had the label of being the defender of civil and constitutional rights in North Carolina for African-Americans, but had lost its will and ability to fight the critical battles which needed to be fought,” says attorney Irving Joyner, chair of the NC NAACP Legal Redress Committee.

Barber ultimately created, and then led, a multi-racial, multi-generational coalition of social activists from every corner of the state, building the largest state NAACP conference in the South, making him a force to be seriously reckoned with by every political leader in North Carolina.

After 12 years of Barber’s dynamic leadership, two candidates are now vying to be the next NCNAACP president elected at the convention this week – Rev. Dr. Portia Rochelle, president of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP; and Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman.

“Because of the firsthand experience that I have had in working with the [Raleigh-Apex] branch here in Wake County,” Dr. Rochelle said, when asked why she would be best suited to serve as president. “We’ve had to tackle numerous issues, and we are at the forefront of most issues that occur here in North Carolina, whether we desire to be or not. The general public calls on us, and that has given me a vast amount of experience as far as working through civil rights issues with the community, and the people injustices are being done to. I’ve had nine years of experience, and I feel that I can do it on the state level.”

When asked the same question, Dr. Spearman replied, “I’ve seen a great deal of merit in the work of Dr. William J. Barber II, and want to see this movement continue that has been started over the course of the 12 years that he [has] served in leadership.”

Rank-and-file NCNAACP members from the state’s more than one hundred local branches will decide between Rochelle and Spearman at this week’s convention.

“This is a civil rights convention for you to learn, to be entertained, to be prayed for, to continue the movement,” said Daphne Holmes Johnson, NCNAACP Convention Planning Chair, during a recent press conference in Raleigh. “We will bring you many, many speakers, many plenary workshops, and you will get to have fellowship with the greater area of Raleigh, and other members that join us from across the nation.”

Among the highlights, a special “Forward Justice” session Thursday featuring veteran civil rights leader, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and others to talk about the next phases in the fight for voting rights, including automatic voter registration.

Friday morning, Oct. 6th at 9:30 a.m., the convention will feature “The Great Debate” presented by the NCNAACP Education Committee, and moderated by Dr. Terrence Ruth, Ph.D, the new executive director of the state conference. The topic: how should charter and /or traditional schools help low-performing students.

On Saturday morning, October 7th, at 10:30, the last day of the convention, Bishop Barber will deliver his final State of the State address on civil rights, as president. Barber said he will not say farewell, but “thank you,” and talk about the road ahead in the struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

Other notables invited to appear at the 74th NCNAACP Convention include new interim NAACP national Pres./CEO Derrick Johnson, U.S. Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) and prominent black journalist Roland Martin, who will be the keynote speaker for the Saturday evening Freedom Fund Banquet.

For more information go to www.naacpnc.org.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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