Area NAACP seeks youthful leadership


The Minnesota area president of the NAACP says one of his main objectives is to ensure that young blood is infused into the organization.

“Our job as elder leaders is to develop a bench,” says Duane Reed. “That bench has to be younger folk that have some degree of continuity in building toward a mature model. We have some very brilliant young folk that just need to be trained and developed.”

Assembling the 15-person executive committee is a first step, explains Reed, the former Minneapolis Branch NAACP president who was elected last October to his present post. “The team that I am building will give us continuity,” he notes.

Reed quickly adds that his role should not be a legacy position. “I planned on being [Minneapolis Branch president] two years, but I ended up being there four years. I said when I took this position [that] I am going to be here two years. I have very specific goals and objectives in the internal capacity building of our branches on one accord, and getting a succession plan in place so that we can move into the next decade.

“I have no ambition of being area president more than two years,” promised Reed, adding that this doesn’t mean he’s tired. “When I was at the [local] branch, it was day-to-day, answering phone call after phone call after phone call, and nothing seemed to get accomplished.

“Now, I can look at a collective of branches and start dealing with more policies relative to what our strengths are,” he points out. “I think my expertise as a former corporate person and a former school board president in Illinois, and being retired, will give me some advantages, and I can put all these experiences together.”

Minnesota has eight NAACP branches, including one each in Minneapolis and St. Paul, along with one each in North Dakota and South Dakota. Reed says he wants to see communications between the branches improve.

“It’s really a work in progress,” he admits. “I call it ‘capacity building,’ that we are able to talk to each other throughout the branches in the state, in the area and the nation.”

Each NAACP branch’s strength lies in its volunteers. “We’re the only organization that’s all membership and all volunteer,” claims Reed.

Furthermore, Reed believes that both locally, statewide and nationally the NAACP is as important today as it has ever been, especially in this region, where the Black population in the region is somewhere between five and 10 percent. The NAACP has “a strong branded label of creditability,” he says.

“Is there discrimination?” he asks rhetorically. “Is there an income gap? Is there an education gap? If you answer [yes] to those questions, something causes that. This imbalance is racial. It is cultural to the extent that we have different cultures and nationalities that exist in this part of the Midwest.”

Add to this the country’s current economic woes, and the Black community “is going to be suffering and be disenfranchised more than anyone else,” Reed believes. He further points out that electing a Black president didn’t eliminate racism. “Just because we have someone in the White House, we can’t fall asleep. [Racism] exists now more than ever.

“We can’t be partisan players,” continues Reed. “We have to be nonpartisan players. If Republicans are going to sit with us at the table and address some of the critical issues, we will be at the table. If Democrats want to, we are going to be at the table. We are going to hold [elected officials] accountable to do the right thing for our community.”

Among the current concerns the NAACP hopes to work on in the next year or two is education, says Reed. “The number-one objective of our existence to me is raising educational standards and closing the White-Black gap.”

Ensuring safer neighborhoods is also a priority objective, which includes “a higher degree of accountability in our law enforcement – we need to be able to trust them. I think another aspect of a safer, healthy community is that we need our housing stock reevaluated relative to foreclosures, and we need jobs.”

The NAACP also strongly supports an accurate U.S. Census count especially in such states as Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. “We are at [risk] of losing one [U.S.] congressional seat [in Minnesota],” notes Reed.

“The NAACP has and always will continue to be nonprofit, nonpartisan, and always will be all volunteer,” concludes Reed. “I’m hoping that in two years, I can bridge the gap between old and young as we bridge our organization into the next decade.”

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-re cord