Activists disappointed with Cleveland NAACP

Cuyahoga Politics Today

Social Justice concerns fuel startup of new county NAACP 

A core of civic activists is working to create a second National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter in Northeast Ohio. Their goal is to create a Cuyahoga Branch of the NAACP that would co-exist and hopefully collaborate with the long-established Cleveland branch.
About 35 people, including several with notable community activism resumes, met last night at the county library’s South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch on Green Road to discuss formation of a county-based NAACP chapter.
After an introductory summary of the NAACP’s storied local history, Dick Peery voiced the type of non-partisan support the activists want to build upon. “I am not here representing the Cleveland branch. I am only here as an individual,” said Dick Peery, noted former Plain Dealer reporter and political activist. “Any time people want to do the right work, and especially younger people, I want to do whatever I can to encourage it.”
Peery is a current executive committee member of the Cleveland NAACP.
Leading the new effort is Cassandra McDonald, a recent law school graduate who says she is currently pursuing a doctorate in law at Walden University. She explained the rationale for an NAACP local reboot during last night’s meeting.  “Some of you might get a little uncomfortable about the things I might say, but I believe the truth shall set us free,” she said.
“I sat back and waited and watched, then waited and watched again while all our children — my children — were dying. They were dying not just dying because of gun violence and murder, but because of racism, hatred, ignorance, and a lack of love and support, and souls that were lost.  I watched and waited for consistent advocacy against gentrification, against the school-to-prison pipeline, against mass incarceration, against educational disparities in the urban communities, against self-serving politicians trying to interfere with our right to vote, against poor race relations, against discrimination of those who identify as LGBTQ, against gender discrimination, and I got tired of sitting and waiting. So I got up and took a stand,” McDonald said.
The Cleveland chapter, despite electing a new leadership team about two years ago and initiating an ongoing membership growth and retention campaign, has not attracted the necessary grassroots support to respond effectively in the eyes of many to the area’s most critical civil rights issues. Many citizens were dismayed at the Cleveland NAACP’s support of the Quicken Loans Arena expansion for what seemed to some a [cheap] payoff of $25,000 from Dan Gilbert, owner of the Q’s principal tenant, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Cleveland NAACP chapter president Michael Nelson is currently campaigning for election to Cleveland Municipal Court.
A panel presentation at the meeting featured East Cleveland-based telecommunications consultant Zakee Rashid, ex-offender employment advocate Louis Hawkins, Kent State University NAACP founder Dr. Richard Montgomery, anti-racism activist Robert M. Korecky, Minister Ray Greene, and Cleveland chapter Black Lives Matter member Kareem Henton. 
Each expressed gratitude for the past work of the Cleveland NAACP chapter while acknowledging widespread perceptions that dissension had set in and new blood is needed.
“We appreciate what the NAACP has done in our past and for our future,” said Hawkins, who aligned with McDonald around the still-smoldering issue of deadly force by the City of Euclid police that resulted in the death of Luke Stewart on March 13. That issue was further stoked by the recent automobile stop by Euclid police that ended in the public assault of a motorist recorded on a citizen's cell phone video.

“But what I’ve heard people say is ‘Where is the relevancy (in the Cleveland chapter)? Is there relevancy today?’,” said Rashid. He noted the need for a renewed focus toward economic empowerment. “(Minorities) cannot continue, I think, in America to just sustain by looking for jobs.  We have to start looking for ownership, primary responsibility, and general contracting as much as anybody else in this country,” he stated.  “Especially in Cuyahoga County, looking at the numbers, we should realistically be able to bid on any contract coming up, particularly in a project like the Q.  I mean, our people were not even figured into that process. So I think that by joining a new organization where there are some new ideas … we can be walking through the process from beginning all the way to the end, instead of running from the end and asking for some crumbs after everybody else has divided up the pie.”Robert Korecky, left, and Kareem Henton
Henton, of Black Lives Matter, who is also a member of the Cleveland NAACP, also offered his support for a county NAACP.  “I have a reminiscent respect for some of the pioneering organizations that really did a lot for us in the past… But we didn’t get to the place we are right now because they’ve been doing their job well.” He said that too often an advocate for a social cause on the public scene “is often a member of a particular board” whose mission undermines that same greater cause.
Near the meeting’s end, after this reporter’s departure, longtime NAACP Cleveland attorney and near-perpetual top Cleveland branch officer James Hardiman appeared. A heated debate ensued during which Hardiman reportedly questioned the authority of those assembled to form a new branch. Pre-publication attempts to reach Hardiman by phone and email for comment were unsuccessful.
Afterward, McDonald held a Q&A session. She said that questions about funding for the organization would be answered at a later time.  She also pointed out that the minimum required membership number was “very close”, but not yet achieved.
McDonald gained some local notoriety last year when she ran for the Ohio House of Representatives as a Republican. After she lost, she announced that she was a Democrat.
Membership dues for all NAACP chapters start at $30. Those wishing to join the new branch or seeking more information can reach McDonald at 216.245.2115 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
R. T. Andrews contributed to the reporting of this article.

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