Historically black organizations are oft criticized for their lack of succession planning. In short, when the torch is passed in the black community it is usually because its been ripped out of someone's cold dead hands. When there is no leadership pipeline, organizations are often thrown into a tailspin as their new leader learns the ropes and gets comfortable at the helm.
It is with this in mind that I have been thoroughly impressed by NAACP's Leadership 500 conference, held in Naples, Fla., and led by NAACP Chairwoman Rosalyn Brock. The primary goal of Leadership 500 is to encourage emerging leaders to bring their organizing skills to NAACP. Doing so not only strengthens NAACP, but also guarantees there is always a fresh, talented crop of committed leaders willing to take action when called.
There is no shortage of work to be done on the civil rights front. Following the largest voter suppression effort in history, local NAACP chapters mobilized registering hundreds of thousands of voters and then doing their due diligence to get those same folks to the polls.
"Leadership isn't a title, it's an action," says Chairwoman Brock. "It is not something you are given; it is something you earn and something you learn." To that end, the Leadership 500 weekend is filled with panels and discussions meant to help leaders elevate their skills. It has also been an incredible moment to meet other leaders committed to NAACP's ethos of political, educational, social, and economic equality while eliminating racial hatred and racial discrimination.
Attendees range from those who are highly active in the NAACP to those who really had no idea what NAACP stood for or did. Thankfully there are a plethora of thought leaders within NAACP who have stories and scars from waging the civil rights battles of our day and age. Their presence at Leadership 500 has been critical to creating understanding around the mission, the needs of the community and carrying out Chairman Brock's goal of empowering a new generation to head to the frontlines.