Interview: NAACP's New Chair, Roslyn Brock

Group's youngest leader yet talks new direction and CBCF drama.

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For those who were actively involved in the civil rights movement, it's probably the [challenge] of letting go, and the handoff....I'm so honored that both that current chairman of the board, Julian Bond, and the former chair emeritus Myrlie Evers-Williams, and former executive director Benjamin Lawson Hooks, have all endorsed my candidacy....They have tutored me, they have invested in me, and have mentored me to a place where they have passed the baton. In this moment I believe they are holding onto it, [all] of us together, until I get a firm grip on it and they are then willing to let go.... They've done that just 18 months ago in the hiring of a 35-year-old CEO, Ben Jealous, and now potentially at the cusp of a 44-year-old woman, a post-Baby Boomer, to lead the organization.

I think he's doing a great job. He's getting his feet underneath him, navigating through understanding board politics and understanding the culture of the NAACP, but also trying to be timely and relevant and address needs. So much is happening now with the home foreclosures and the education system, and then also with rising hate crimes in our nation....I think he's doing a pretty good job considering the backdrop of all he's having to juggle.

It's interesting to me how our traditional organizations are under assault for their relevancy, but it makes organizations more tough, and more politically savvy when they're under fire....We will continue to stand with our sister organizations, the Urban League, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and others, as they try to advance our common agenda.

We all know that the CBCF weekend in September is a highlight of the black social season, but would you ever say to the CBCF, "We've got to do better if we're spending more on catering than on scholarships?"

The CBCF Awards Dinner brings a phenomenal array of black and white leadership. A melting pot of America is sitting in that room....It is the culmination of a 4-day weekend, with brain trusts, about any issue that touches American society....We're talking to our legislators. On that evening we have the ability to hear a speech by the sitting executive in the White House or some senior person in the administration, to inspire us and talk about issues of the day. I don't see anything wrong with that....Just to single out a catering bill is disingenuous. It's really unfair, because you don't add up all the monies for what they do throughout the year.

What more can the Obama administration do to address social justice and the problems facing black people?

I would hope that our leaders in Washington would really do more listening to the people on the street...I'm passionate about health care reform, and I am just sickened about how our legislators have put stakes in the ground and said, I won't move, because that one is a Democrat or a Republican issue, instead of saying, What is good for the American populace?...We're the only industrialized nation that doesn't offer minimum, basic health care for our citizenry. It really begs the question, Am I my brother and my sister's keeper? We're making a judgment call about whose quality of life is better.

What more should we know about you?

My adage in life is, "Care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, believe more than others think is possible and expect more than others think is practical." It allows you to think outside the box, and say that the glass is half full, and it's not half empty, and [ask] what do I do every day to put something in that glass to move it a little higher?

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