07/18/2010 01:12 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Open Letter to Benjamin Jealous

Dear Ben:

You've got to school me on the point of your 101st Convention's latest resolution. Perhaps, over cups of frappuccino in this oppressive summer heat, you can fill me in on your game plan. You've always struck me as a forward-thinking brother, a combination of visionary and risk-taker.

Maybe it's out of your hands. It's the convention delegates. You can't control every arm and leg within the organization. You're getting pressure from all sides: old school elites won't let go of the past; new school cats stuck on old themes; and, in between, visionaries who want to go next level, but have resigned to infighting and lack of direction. My guess -- my hope -- is that you didn't see the purpose of your resolution condemning racist elements within the Tea Party. But, you got the call from one of the elders who caught eye of a news photo or probably walked past a Tea Party rally or may have received one of those calls from Democratic strategists needing to take wind out of Republican sails. Let's keep it real for a moment: just like NRA meets regularly with the GOP hacks, NAACP is only a Batphone call away from the DNC.

I shook my head on this one, Ben. It doesn't appear all that fresh. It doesn't stand out as a major "game changer." It gets you a little attention, sure. But, can you really do anything about changing speech and images at Tea Party rallies? Don't get me wrong -- I'm not feeling the bigoted rants and picket signs, either. But if it's not bothering the President, why is it urgent for us? Sure, we've been subjected to a violent history of "racist" symbols. It makes us nervous. We haven't completely flushed the DNA of slavery, Jim Crow and police brutality out of our system. But, I'm just not sure that's a priority at the moment.

Here's my suggestion for the next round. Why not a resolution on things resulting in tangible outcome? Why not condemn this recession's destruction of a quarter of the Black middle-class? Considering the Black middle-class folks who run the NAACP, you'd think some urgency would be placed on that. But after attending a few modern NAACP conventions in my time, you get the feeling that most attendees aren't trying to hear the sob stories. Many are convinced of their arrival -- hold on to it with Kung Fu grip -- hence the rejection of lost accessories and professional status. For some reason, I just feel like NAACP conventions shouldn't be conventions. They should be working sessions. If you're in a major city, go into the neighborhoods and stage massive reconstruction efforts. Conduct a massive Habitat for Humanity-like project. Something really dramatic like a major week-long mentoring program for troubled youth in that area; or something radical like, rather than spending money on a convention, choose a city and conduct one big, grassroots, activity-based workshop where you actually see stuff getting done. You won't have to wear your best suit or church hat for this one.

Why not a resolution condemning the Senate's failure to pass the unemployment benefits extension? That would get some folks charged up. Maybe a resolution condemning failing schools and prison-like educational systems? No? Yeah -- that might brush up against a teacher union or two. But, couldn't you push a resolution forcing the White House to fix its colossal failure of a foreclosure mitigation program? You know, a few resolutions like the ones above could actually gain you some Tea Party friends. Keep it simple: why not take a look at the BP oil spill model and create a large fund or bank for eligible folks looking for temporary assistance or grants to stave off financial disaster? And, why not wholesale condemnation of banks that are hoarding money while simultaneously raising an array of burdensome fees?

I'm just thinking it's time to focus on pulling resources together like we used to do when all we had was us to rely on.

Am I being unrealistic? Let me know. Hit me back.

(originally published in