Friday, December 5, 2008

"Regarding tomorrow": An open letter to the NAACP National Board of Directors


Chairman Bond, National Board members, and members of the SCF Board of Trustees,

I hope this letter finds you all well and in good spirits, and I greet each of you, my colleagues, with warm salutations. My name is Kevin Myles; President of the Wichita Branch NAACP. I am writing you today to share my thoughts and concerns about the coming transition, as you select a new Chairman for the Organization.

But let me first say at the outset: Chairman Bond, as an NAACP Branch President, as an NAACP member, and even moreso as a young African-American man; I could never thank you enough for your years of dedicated service to our community. My life and the lives of my children are better because of Your efforts, Your words, and Your sacrifices, and we will never forget that. You are a true champion of the people, and I only aspire to make a difference in the way that you done. Thank you for all that you have so graciously given...

Thankfully, we have within our ranks a number of highly qualified and passionate leaders who could step in at a moments notice and provide leadership and guidance for the Board. However, in this period of profound change, when the Zeitgeist is so clearly tilting towards a new American dialogue, we should perhaps focus less on which "leader" we wish to support and focus more on which "direction" we wish to travel.

The American paradigm is shifting. And as our Nation, struggles to redefine itself and its image, under the leadership of our newly elected 47 year old African-American President; we should aspire to be a part of that defining process. Moreover, we should be willing to mirror a similar process of self-examination and redefinition as well. For if even America can change, so should we...

Certainly the temptation is that we would not change. The easy road would be for us to maintain our Status Quo; relying only upon the same hands to carry us forth by the methods and manners to which we have become most accustomed. These are the voices that fear the change that Mr. Bond's transition might bring. These are the voices that call for stability over innovation, that call for tradition over boldness, and for predictability over evolution. These are the voices that cry out, "not now, ...not yet", to those of the next generation. 'Just one more year, one more election, one more celebration, one more convention, to me then, at some future time, and then maybe we'll be ready to change.'

These voices called to mind a quote I once happened upon. Short yet profound and in this case, apropos: It read, 'the only difference between Medicine and Poison is dosage'.

It suggests that the very hands that have carried the Organization this far will one day squeeze the life from it if they hold on too long. And that they would not do so out of a desire to hurt the Organization, but precisely the opposite; those who love for the organization, and who truly want to help the organization, can be the ones who unintentionally suffocate it, if and when they fail to recognize the point when their protective embrace becomes hurtful.

It is also analogous to a relay race in which our lead-off runners, enamoured by the cheers and adulation of the crowd, desire to keep on running far beyond the designated hand-off. The challenges we must face are in a constant state of reformation and renewal; monthly, fresher and fresher competitions take the field. Yet our team continues forward, albeit with strong competitors; yet those same few champions, who simply can not now imagine or accept that they've reached a point where their best effort and fastest pace are not enough. We need new runners. 'But can they run as hard or fast as their predecessors?', some ask. But there is hardly a need for such unnecessary thought exercises. Those whose hands reach back toward the baton may not run exactly like their predecessors; but these are runners whose time has come...

We are living in a period of exponential change. Our Nation is rapidly evolving technologically, politically, and socially, yet we as an organization are no longer keeping pace. Barack Obama's election brings with it an opportunity for us to make a transformational leap forward or to become an organizational anachronism. We absolutely can not step forward into a new tomorrow when our message, our methods, and our mediums remain so thoroughly steeped in yesterday. We are rapidly becoming a living nostalgia; far more a symbol of what was, than a vision of what must be. We have become retrospective and reactive instead of prospective and visionary...

We just can't continue fighting the last war; we have to turn the page.

Change is already upon us. We have to look to those new runners who have taken their place at their mark. Now is the the time that we should look to and embrace those New champions who can lead us through tomorrows paces. Champions like Roslyn Brock. Now is the time to reach out towards a New vision. Now is the time not to look for the person who best represents the NAACP we've been, but to find that person who best represents the NAACP we wish to become. We can ill-afford to maintain the model of the NAACP we knew as children; we must be bold and visionary as we create a new model of the NAACP that our children will come to know.

And so I ask each of you, that you would embrace the change that is to come. I ask each of you, to look favorably upon Vice Chair Brock, who has taken her mark on the field, and who stands at the ready with her arm stretched back. I would ask each of you that as we approach this critical point of transition, that you not pass her over, but that you would prepare to pass that baton. As you deliberate, please look beyond the conventions and the Centennial celebrations, please look beyond the press, and commitments of right now. I ask that each of you deliberate with regard to tomorrow and with due consideration for who can best prepare us for the challenges of the next 10 or 15 years. I believe that choice is clear, and I eagerly anticipate your decision.

With Best Regards,

Kevin Myles
President; Wichita Branch NAACP #4043

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