New leaders say their mission includes no time for negativity
By Isaac Peterson
The Minneapolis NAACP meeting, held on February 22, was the first membership meeting following the organization’s election of new officers in December. The sparsely attended meeting was a strange mix of business as usual, along with a bit of the unusual.
Reverend Jerry McAfee, the NAACP’s newly elected president, started off the meeting by introducing new NAACP officers and committee heads to the membership. Of special note were Farhio Khalif, assistant secretary, who hails from Somalia, and Wintana Melekin, treasurer and chair of communications committee, also from Somalia. Each is the first from her country to hold a Minneapolis NAACP leadership position.
“In today’s NAACP, if we’re going to truly be about a national association for the advancement of colored people, if you will, then we have to include them as well,” McAfee explained.
Also worthy of note was Gwen Gunter, head of the new Community Action, chair in charge of LGBT community issues. McAfee said the position had been created because “I think it’s a need in our community because we cannot deny the fact that we have LGBT African Americans, and perhaps even Africans, and so we wanted their voice at the table as well.”
McAfee announced that the NAACP would be participating in the African American and African Lobby at the State Capitol this week, sponsored by the Council on Black Minnesotans. When asked whether lobbying would be any part of what the NAACP would be doing going forward, McAfee responded, “Oh, definitely.”
Another announcement from McAfee was that the new officers would be officially sworn in at a ceremony the next day, Sunday, February 23. All was business as usual until McAfee noted the absence of Second Vice President Don Allen. McAfee explained that Allen had been ejected from a previous leadership meeting for being disruptive and divisive, and said he would tolerate disagreement but not “foolishness.”
At that leadership meeting, McAfee said Allen had been “insubordinate, insulting, and just lying,” and maintained that, “You come to our meetings, you will conduct yourself as a lady or a gentleman.” McAfee explained that, contrary to Allen’s
public allegations made on social media and on his Internet radio program, Allen had not actually been suspended from the organization.
McAfee did say, however, that he himself would be presenting a petition to members seeking to formally suspend Allen from his position as second vice president. “I will be moving to have him suspended and totally kicked out — period. Make no mistake about it,” said McAfee. There were no objections voiced from the membership to McAfee’s proposed action.
McAfee then also took the unusual step of apologizing to the membership for Allen being elected in the first place, for which McAfee claimed responsibility. “If it wasn’t for my people, he wouldn’t have got in,” McAfee explained. McAfee said he had lobbied his supporters to support Allen’s candidacy and lined up votes for Allen.
Allen, immediately after being elected, had apparently begun a course of action that has been described as both disruptive and negative, making charges against fellow officers of theft of funds among other improprieties. “You can’t do that if you’re an officer of the NAACP. You can’t attack other officers,” McAfee explained.
“Don didn’t just start acting up; he’s been acting up,” McAfee said. “And we were hoping he would do some things in a different way, and he made a conscious decision not to.”
When a member mentioned that she had received a message falsely notifying her that that very meeting had been canceled, McAfee’s suspicion fell on Allen: “That’s another one of the dirty deeds that he’s always done,” McAfee told the MSR.
Lisa Clemons, first vice president, said of the whole matter, and the organization’s commitment to moving ahead in a positive manner, “I just want to say that we’re on a whole different mission here. We have total respect for those who came before us, and what their efforts were.
“We’re on a whole different mission here, and we don’t have time for the negativity. We are going to move away from that. You can’t be part of something if you’re trying to tear it down.” Allen was not present at February 23rd swearing in ceremony.
McAfee added, “Where I’m at is, I want to see the NAACP get back to what it was: taking leadership in our civil rights and human rights issues, especially in a state where we’ve been left so far behind in every category.
“I go back maybe eight to 15 years where a list of states showed the state where people of color were treated the worst was Mississippi. In the last studies I’ve seen, it’s now Minnesota.
“We don’t need to prove [anything]; we just need to get busy. And we need to make a fair plan for us getting our fair share of everything Minnesota has to offer. The NAACP can and will lead on that.”
Isaac Peterson welcomes reader responses to [email protected].