Marylander of the Year: Benjamin Todd Jealous [Editorial]

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-12-30 02:56Z by Steven

Marylander of the Year: Benjamin Todd Jealous [Editorial]

The Baltimore Sun

Our view: Jealous leaves the NAACP a revitalized and relevant institution that is at the forefront of the social justice struggles of our time

In the spring of 2008, as the prospect that America would elect its first black president became more and more likely, the organization that did as much as any to make that watershed possible had fallen on hard times. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, America’s oldest and best known civil rights group, was in disarray. It’s last president and CEO had abruptly quit, and it had laid off half of its staff to balance the books. Its membership and relevance in what many were heralding as a post-racial America seemed destined to wane, and one of the defining institutions of the 20th century had no sure place in the 21st.

The answer to that challenge was an unlikely one: Benjamin Todd Jealous, a 35-year-old, bi-racial foundation president from California who was born a decade after the civil rights movement’s greatest triumphs. To call his selection controversial would be an understatement. Some saw it not just as risky but as a repudiation of a century of sacrifice by the NAACP’s members.

Five years later, he is leaving the NAACP a changed institution. Its finances are stabilized, its membership is up, its social media presence is robust and its role in American public life is clear and forceful. Mr. Jealous brought energy, vision and focus to an organization in need of all three and showed a new generation that the pursuit of social justice remains a vital cause in these and any times. And if we may be parochial for a moment, he kept its headquarters in Baltimore. We are proud to name him The Baltimore Sun’s 2013 Marylander of the Year…

Read the entire editorial here.

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Opinion: Why Future Politicians Must Embrace Our Composite Nation

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2013-04-03 20:47Z by Steven

Opinion: Why Future Politicians Must Embrace Our Composite Nation

The Next America: How Demography Shapes the National Agenda
National Journal

Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

America is becoming browner—and the ability to harness the changing electorate has become the gold standard for any aspiring politician.

As Republican nominee Mitt Romney thanked his supporters last week in the early hours of Wednesday morning, he was speaking to a mostly white nationwide audience–nearly nine out of 10, according to exit polling from Edison Research. Over in Chicago, President Obama was preparing to give his victory speech to a multiracial coalition that offered a glimpse of what America may look like in the coming years: 56 percent white, 24 percent black, 14 percent Latino, 4 percent Asian, and 2 percent other races.

This election confirmed a trend that many have suspected but some have chosen to ignore at their peril. Obama won a second term because he maintained or increased his share of racial and ethnic minority votes in swing states, particularly the black vote. The NAACP recently commissioned a swing-state poll of black voters that shows how both parties can connect with this rising electorate…

…In an 1869 speech called “Our Composite Nationality,” Frederick Douglass wrote that America’s unique geography and government destined us to be “the perfect national illustration of the unity and dignity of the human family that the world has ever seen.” Since then, our great national experiment has thrived when we chose to embrace our diverse talents and perspectives, and it has failed when we chose to build walls between each other…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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Who’s Black, Who’s Not, and Who Cares?

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-03-16 18:08Z by Steven

Who’s Black, Who’s Not, and Who Cares?

Uptown Magazine

Yaba Blay, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies
Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“What are you?” It’s a question I have never been asked. I am Black. Period. The color of my skin is reflective of my Ghanaian ancestry and by its dark tone, everyone I encounter knows exactly what I am. Although I have lived most of my life acutely aware of the disadvantages assigned my complexion, it is not until recently, when I began to encounter people who identify as Black but don’t necessarily “look Black,” that I began to realize some of the privileges my dark skin carries; the most profound of which is its ability to unambiguously communicate my identity, not only to other people, but to other Black people. They know I am Black. I can rest assured that when someone in the room is talking about Black people, they realize that they are talking about my people. I also know that if I say “we” when talking about Black people, no one looks at me like I’m crazy, no one laughs at me as if I am somehow confused about my identity, and no one takes offense because they suspect I am somehow perpetrating a fraud. My Black is that Black that everyone knows is Black for a fact…

…On the one hand, we may reject our lighter skinned sisters and brothers because of their multiracial-ness, whether actual – “You’re mixed, you’re not Black” – or assumed – “You’re so light, you must be mixed.” But then on the other hand, most of us would concede that the large majority of Black people, particularly African Americans, are of mixed heritage. So, which one is it?

How did we get here? When did we abandon our cultural and political understandings of Blackness for more phenotypical ones? And do such narrow constructions of Blackness ultimately benefit us as community? Where would we be as a community if we had relied on skin color to determine Blackness a hundred years ago? No W.E.B. DuBois. No Mary Church Terrell. No Malcolm X. No Lena Horne. No Arturo Schomburg. And let’s understand the implications if we continue to use skin color as a gauge of racial identity – in essence, Herman Cain would be more Black than Ben Jealous….

Read the entire article here.

Dr Blay’s latest project “(1)ne Drop: Conversations on Skin Color, Race and Identity seeks to challenge narrow, yet popular perceptions of what “Blackness” is and what “Blackness” looks like. To learn more about the project, visit

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New NAACP Leader Looks Ahead

Posted in Articles, Audio, Media Archive, Passing, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2011-01-16 21:22Z by Steven

New NAACP Leader Looks Ahead

National Public Radio
Tell Me More

Michel Martin, Host

Benjamin Jealous is the new president of the NAACP. Jealous, a former news executive and lifelong human rights activist, discusses his new post and the ever-changing role of the NAACP in the civil rights movement.


I’m Michel Martin, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. In a moment, the Mocha Moms on going green as a family. They’ll talk about ways to get started. And things never to say to Asian-American colleagues. We start our series on how to be mindful of the sensibilities of others in our increasingly diverse workplaces.

But first, one of the country’s oldest civil rights organizations gets a new leader. The NAACP chose a new president on Saturday, 35-year-old human rights activists Benjamin Todd Jealous. He will be the youngest president ever in the history of the 99-year-old civil rights organization. His election comes after the organization tries to recover from a period of internal strife to engage a new generation of members and to refocus its mission. Ben Jealous joins us now to talk about his new post and hopefully a little bit about himself. Welcome to the program. Congratulations.

Mr. BEN JEALOUS (President, NAACP): Thank you. Thank you. It’s great to be here.

MARTIN: You’ve had a couple of days to take it all in. Can you describe what it means to lead this historic organization founded by giants like W. E. B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells Barnett.

Mr. JEALOUS: Those two are a big deal to me. I come out of the black press, that’s how I learned how to do what I did for Amnesty [International], and so it’s extremely humbling. You know, at the same time, as a parent of a 2-and-a-half-year-old girl, I’m extremely impatient and want to focus on the now, you know, want to focus on the schoolhouse-to-jailhouse pipeline and on making sure that this great association is as important in the 21st century as it was in the last century…

…MARTIN: Your profile is a bit different from past leaders in a number of respects—I mean, the fact that you are not a minister or a politician. One other interesting thing about you is that you are also biracial, as is Barak Obama, as is the lieutenant Governor [Anthony G. Brown] of Maryland, as is the mayor [Adrian Fenty] of Washington.

Mr. JEALOUS: Can I, can I make a small correction there?

MARTIN: Of course.

Mr. JEALOUS: I’m black. You know, the only thing that we have, you know, the only definition that’s out there on the books, if you will, are state laws, and my family is from Virginia. When I was born it said, the law said that you had to be 1/32nd, excuse me, if you were at least 1/32nd of African descent, you were black, end of story. White was an exclusive definition, black was an inclusive definition. I do have biracial parentage but quite frankly…

MARTIN: You don’t consider yourself biracial.

Mr. JEALOUS: No, I mean, I don’t understand it, I mean the… my grandmother’s much fairer than I am, has straight hair. You know, the reality is that, you know, our family, like most families were sort of created in the Jeffersonian model. You know, we were raped on Virginia plantations, and you know, all of those kids were black.

MARTIN: But your parents weren’t? I mean, that’s not your parents.

Mr. JEALOUS: Yeah, right but what I’m saying is that…

MARTIN: What I’m curious about though is that, is there something, is there an important cultural moment here, or not?

Mr. JEALOUS: No, I mean you know, yeah it is significant, I think the most significant thing about my parents is that you know, a year after their marriage was illegal, it was made legal because of the work of the NAACP and the Legal Defense Fund.

You know, my parents—when they were married in Washington, D.C., in 1966, they had to be married there because they couldn’t get married where they lived in Baltimore. When they drove back for the party in Baltimore, people pulled off the side of the road, took off their hat because they thought it was a funeral procession passing, because there was a Cadillac in front of a bunch of cars with their lights on.

So, you know, and my father was disowned not by his two brothers or his mom, but by the entire rest of his family. And his family was in Salem in 1636, and they’re a big family. And they disowned him, not because they didn’t believe that he loved my mom. You know, his great uncle, I mean my great uncle drove out, sat down with them, said we believe that you love this woman, but you know I’m a man, I know a man can love many women, and you need to fall out of love quick or you’re going to be out of this family.

So, you know, the notion biracial I just think is blunt and crude and ahistorical, and to say biracial parentage, of course. I completely, you know, I’ve done more research on my father’s history, I think, on all the white cousins that I’m in touch with, and the ones who didn’t disown us were much in touch with, I love very much, if you know somebody named Jealous it’s probably one of them…

Read the entire transcript here.  Listen to the episode here (00:17:13).

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Questions for Benjamin Todd Jealous: Race Matters

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2010-04-05 20:05Z by Steven

Questions for Benjamin Todd Jealous: Race Matters

The New York Times

Deborah Solomon

As the new head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, can you tell us how your organization plans to respond to the case of Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard professor who was recently arrested for disorderly conduct at his own home — charges that have since been dropped — after he reportedly chewed out a cop who suspected him of burglary?
Our local volunteers are already engaged with the Cambridge Police Department, as we are with police departments across this country. The next step is passing the End Racial Profiling Act in Congress. Racial profiling is a constant drumbeat in this country. It’s a form of humiliation that strikes like lightning on a daily basis, and that is part of what Professor Gates was responding to. It’s hard to be in your house, told you’re a burglary suspect and then when you are no longer a suspect, told you are the problem…

…As the son of a white father and a black mother, do you refer to yourself as black?
Yes, without qualification…

Read the entire article here.

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