In the aftermath of this 7/25 Washington Post story, “President of Fairfax County NAACP chapter calls predecessor variation of n-word,” there’s been a flurry of activity today. See below for a statement from the Fairfax County NAACP; and a resignation statement from the now-former chair (Kofi Annan) mentioned in the Washington Post story. [UPDATE: also see statement by incoming president Sean Perryman]
According to Annan, he’s resigning for two reasons: 1) because “[w]hile many NAACP members are dedicated to promoting equity, unfortunately I no longer believe the overall organizational culture of the NAACP prioritizes this goal”; and 2) “frankly to do some self-care and spend more time with my family – both of which have been significantly neglected over the past few years.”
As for the Fairfax NAACP, they specifically reference the Washington Post story, stating that “the Executive Committee denounces Mr. Annan’s use of derogatory language towards Ms. Ginwright, as well as his negative comments about Fairfax County officials.” They further “apologize to Ms. Ginwright for the disrespectful comments made by our former president,” as well as to Chairman Sharon Bulova (“Though we have had our share of disagreements, Chairman Bulova has been a friend and an ally of the NAACP”) and Fairfax Police Chief Edwin Roessler, citing his “commitment to serving all the residents of Fairfax County” and pledging “to continue working with [Roessler and the police[ to strengthen our community.”
With that, I wish incoming Fairfax NAACP President Sean Perryman the best of luck. The bottom line is that the NAACP is a vital organization, one that we all should want to see thrive and do great work. Particularly with an outright, virulent racist in the White House, as well as a rise in white supremacist activities around the country, we arguably need the NAACP today as much as we ever have.
FAIRFAX NAACP STATEMENT REGARDING KOFI ANNAN’S RESIGNATION
FAIRFAX, Va. – Kofi Annan tendered his resignation as President of the Fairfax County NAACP and it is with profound regret that the Executive Committee has accepted his resignation as of Sunday, July 28. Sean Perryman, our 1st Vice President, has taken over as president.
Mr. Annan resigned for personal reasons, but his resignation did follow a story in the Washington Post about a private dispute with former branch president, Shirley Ginwright. Despite the private nature of the dispute in the context of a personal text message conversation with Ms. Ginwright, the Executive Committee denounces Mr. Annan’s use of derogatory language towards Ms. Ginwright, as well as his negative comments about Fairfax County officials.
Our primary focus as an organization is to address the myriad of issues Fairfax County residents face on a daily basis, from education and affordable housing, to community policing. Earlier this month, the Fairfax NAACP just completed a community service project benefiting the Capital Area Food Bank. In partnership with the Fairfax County Police, we are preparing for the Cops and Kids Basketball game next month. It is unfortunate that in the midst of a busy summer, we have to be distracted by what amounts to an interpersonal matter between two individuals who have known each other for years.
On behalf of the Executive Committee, we apologize to Ms. Ginwright for the disrespectful comments made by our former president. They do not reflect the attitude or values of this Board. Ms. Ginwright is always welcome to attend our events and share her perspectives.
The Executive Committee apologizes to Chairman Sharon Bulova. Though we have had our share of disagreements, Chairman Bulova has been a friend and an ally of the NAACP. She was especially critical in establishing more civilian oversight of the Fairfax County Police Department through the Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Committee and the Police Civilian Review Panel. As Chairman Bulova is stepping down after this term, we plan to continue this excellent relationship with the Board of Supervisors, and the new Chairman.
The Executive Committee would also like to apologize to Fairfax County Police’s Chief Edwin Roessler. We appreciate Chief Roessler and the FCPD’s commitment to serving all the residents of Fairfax County, and intend to continue working with them to strengthen our community.
It is with regret that I submit my resignation as president of the Fairfax County NAACP. Serving the Fairfax community in this capacity has truly been one of the most humbling and rewarding experiences of my life. Over the past few years we’ve transformed this branch into one of the most influential and effective forces for equity, not only in Fairfax County but in the state of Virginia, and indeed the country. I believe that in the process we’ve created a blueprint that other branches will hopefully see fit to follow.
Nevertheless, my reasons for stepping down are two-fold. While many NAACP members are dedicated to promoting equity, unfortunately I no longer believe the overall organizational culture of the NAACP prioritizes this goal. Instead, much of the organization has punted on its responsibility to conduct true independent advocacy, and chosen to focus on partisan get-out-the-vote efforts, or content to rubber-stamp policies along partisan lines – even when these efforts undermine the NAACP’s mission. I’ve grown increasingly frustrated and disillusioned by this over time which has made it difficult for me to carry on. And yes my recent confrontation with the former branch president is linked with this. I plan to continue to serve the community, find ways to promote racial equity and empower the African American base, however I no longer wish to use the NAACP platform to do so.
My second reason for stepping aside is frankly to do some self-care and spend more time with my family – both of which have been significantly neglected over the past few years.
I’m very sorry to leave in the middle of my term, as I’m well aware that I’m leaving behind several dedicated Executive Committee members that joined at my request, and tons of unfinished work. But the reality is that the work will never be done in our lifetimes. The inequities we face today are result of centuries of racism, and likewise the solutions will take generations as well.
To that point, my biggest regret is that we were unable to have more success growing the Youth Council and Young Adult Committee, as I believe grooming the next generation of civil rights activists is absolutely critical. However, I’m confident that Tara, Alina, and Marlon will have more success.
I’ve always led by the motto that the best leaders surround themselves with even better people. Therefore, I always give credit to the hard working team I’ve had the pleasure of serving alongside. You constantly made me look smarter than I am, and compensated for my many shortcomings and mistakes. I’m going to get in trouble because I can’t list everyone, but I hope you know you’re all appreciated.
To the former Excomm members, particularly Iris, Evelyn, George, Mike and Karen, you laid the foundation for what our branch became. Karen, you provided a much needed balance during my first term, and your ability to find ingenious compromise solutions probably kept me out of trouble a lot of times.
In every organization there’s that one person who is capable of doing a little bit of everything. That person for us is Michelle. Thank you for your support, advice and hard lessons. You not only helped me grow as a leader but also as a person. Niki, you’re equally passionate as you are unpredictable and transparent, which always made me nervous. But I love you for it. You brought an edge and realness to the NAACP that is often lacking. Continue to be the voice of the people. Sean, you’re incredibly talented and have great political instincts. You were always there when I needed you, and likewise I’m just a phone call away. I’m certain that under your leadership the branch will reach even greater heights. Teresa, in the short time you’ve been with us, you’ve demonstrated incredible proficiency. But most importantly you became one of my close confidants, and always had words of inspiration to pick me up when I was down. Mary, you’re one of Fairfax County’s true gems. The work you did on Affordable Housing completely transformed the 2019 primary, reshaped the 2020 budget, and set the stage for affordable housing being one of the area’s top priorities going forward. Donald, you’re not only a tireless worker but easily the sharpest dressed Excomm member. But seriously thank you for sharing your experience and time with us.
Nothing we achieved was accomplished without the help of dozens of volunteers and community partners. I cannot list them all, but must call out the ladies of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Coalition of 100 Black Women, NCNW, ACLU-PP, and SURJ NOVA. I also want to shout out Kevin and Sean of Unique Reflections Barber Shop. It meant everything to me to hear you guys say I made the barbershop proud the other day. At the end of the day your opinion mattered more than anyone else because you were my window to our community. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the personal support of Pastor Walton, and organizational support of First Baptist Church of Vienna. In a time when many African American churches shy away from civil rights topics, you recognize that the battle is far from over and consequently chosen to make your church the hub for the new civil rights movement in Fairfax.
David, Julie, Tierra, Emily, Charlotte, Kenny and the rest of the VCET/VAPLP family, your tutelage and support expanded my horizons, and ongoing support continues to play a major role in our branch’s growth.
Chairwoman Bulova, Supervisor Foust, Chairwoman Karen Corbet Sanders, Pat, and all of the elected officials, thank you for your patience and cooperation. I know I was not always easy to deal with, and I’m very aware that my approach was unlike my predecessors. Chief Roessler, I appreciate your cooperation as well. While we rarely saw eye to eye, I hope you and your officers understand that I value their role, and appreciate their service to our community.
Last but not least, to my amazing wife Shareem, words cannot describe how much I love you and appreciate you. You’ve sacrificed a great deal to support our family and community while I darted back and forth from one end of the county to another almost every night for the last three years…in addition to serving on multiple NAACP committees yourself. Your a true rockstar and I’d be nowhere without you.
As many of you may have heard by now, I’m assuming the Presidency of the Fairfax County NAACP. I’m both excited and humbled by the opportunity to represent an organization with a legacy as rich and important as the NAACP.
In an organization founded by legendary intellectuals and titans of civil and human rights like Ida B. Wells and W.E.B. Du Bois, it’s daunting to compare yourself to leaders of past. The work remains though, and must continue. I realize, however, that every branch is only as good as the people who volunteer. Thankfully, in Fairfax, we have some of the most talented and passionate individuals in any branch in the country. I hope to lead in a way that honors their service and dedication. I also hope to lead in a way that does justice to the work already started by Kofi Annan.
I remember when I attended my first meeting not sure what to expect. Kofi brought me into the fold. He gave me real responsibility. He let me ascend to leadership quickly and listened to the advice I gave. I’m incredibly proud of the work I accomplished with him and I’ll never forget the opportunity he gave me.
The outpouring of love for Kofi Annan following the announcement of his resignation is a testament to the impact of his work and the lives he’s touched. I’m wise enough to understand that you don’t replace someone like Kofi but can only try to further the work with the amazing team they left you. I hope he continues to stay involved and we can partner in whatever he does next.
I cannot and will not seek to be like previous leaders for I fear I could only be a bad imitation. I will instead try carve out my own brand of leadership focused on equity, policy, and elevating the status of this branch. I will not try to recreate myself but continue to lead with honesty, humor, occasional snark, and a lot of passion. The branch will shift somewhat but our resolve and mission will remain the same.
My motivation—my daughter Ava and every child like her—remain the same. Because as a nation, we must realize that no one is coming to save us. We must create the communities we seek until eventually the world becomes something we are proud to hand our children and children’s children.
As I look forward to the future, I am eager to continue my work with leaders throughout Fairfax County and hope to meet with leaders from the Virginia state delegation, county board, and school board soon.
I appreciate all of you as I prepare for this task of leading this amazing organization.