Today marked the 18th day since my election as president of the St. Petersburg Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Congratulations have streamed in from mayors of the surrounding communities, former politicians, and hundreds of St. Petersburg residents, Africans, Caucasians, Asians and Hispanics all of whom in addition to sharing their congratulatory remarks have shared their votes of confidence that I possess the skill, passion and level of integrity to lead the NAACP! For that I am humbled!
The NAACP is the oldest and the boldest civil rights organization in this country with the mission of ensuring the political, educational, social and economic equality of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. What a mission!
I am one in a long line of people who have taken on this gigantic mission. While some may criticize or may not have understood or agreed with their leadership styles, the reality is they stepped up to the plate and accepted the mammoth challenge.
For the last 18 days, I have been doing what I always do when preparing for battle, I have been conducting reconnaissance missions and surveying the land for pertinent information that will aide me in determining just how fertile the battleground is that I am about to embark upon.
The one common theme that appears to emerge and support my experiences within the NAACP is the notion that often times the branch presidents were seen as the NAACP. As a result they were often times left standing alone while the troops often retreated to safer ground.
History will reveal to us the many reasons why the troops may have fallen back, but the fact remains that the presidents were often times left to fend for him or herself and maybe with a small cadre of faithful soldiers.
If the St. Petersburg Branch of NAACP is to begin to take a bite out of this mission, the troops must recognize that this is a battle that all whom are able-bodied and able minded must own. This branch can no longer be defined by its president.
The NAACP must come to be known as a team of talented and committed individuals of all ages, races, creeds, colors, sexual orientations and from all walks of life along the socio-economic continuum that have come together, simply bound by the NAACP’s mission.
I have often commented that St. Petersburg has some of the brightest minds I have ever known and as a result have often found myself perplexed by actions, or lack thereof, that have continued to perpetuate a sense of mediocrity and marginalization within the African-American community.
In the 21st century, effective leadership is characterized by accountability and strategic actions and reactions toward a given mission that ultimately produce tangible outcomes/results. There can be no room or tolerance from those whom see their personal agendas as greater than the mission!
We must be honest and collectively acknowledge that in some pockets of our fair city there simply is no sunshine! Then and only then can we begin to work collectively toward a mission that ensures equal access to all and for all!
Maria L. Scruggs, President | St. Petersburg Branch, NAACP