NAACP Makes Politically Charged Moves
LAKSHMI SINGH, HOST:
It has been a weekend of huge changes at the NAACP. The civil rights group just elected its new president. And as NPR's Colin Dwyer tells us, he has wasted no time in signaling a new, more politically engaged direction for the organization.
COLIN DWYER, BYLINE: It appears there was no question who was the right person for the job. The NAACP voted unanimously to pick Derrick Johnson for president and CEO. And on a call with reporters, Johnson appeared equally certain about one thing - change is coming for the 108-year-old organization. And he said it begins with supporting the group's local chapters.
DERRICK JOHNSON: They want to be able to have a stronger voice, a more collaborative voice around local public policy, state public policy and on the national level.
DWYER: To do this, Johnson wants to change the very nature of the NAACP - at least, according to the tax code, that is. The group plans to change its status at the national level from a 501(c)(3) charity to a 501(c)(4). That designation would give it more leeway for political lobbying and to bring it more in line with its local units, which are already 501(c)(4)s. L. Joy Williams leads the Brooklyn chapter of the NAACP. She says her unit is no stranger to political engagement - lobbying lawmakers, getting out the vote.
L. JOY WILLIAMS: And I think the national organization recognized that, with changing the organization over or maybe just adding a (c)(4) arm, in the current political atmosphere that we're in, it's going to allow the national organization to have a louder voice and a more influential voice.
DWYER: As for whether the group needs to change to stay relevant for a new generation of activists, Williams says yes. But she says it has always had to be changing to adapt to the demands of each new era. It's no different for this era of what she calls aggressive politics.
WILLIAMS: Yet again, the organization has to change in order to fight back against that.
DWYER: On that much, she and NAACP President Derrick Johnson appear to be in agreement. Colin Dwyer, NPR News.
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