Is the NAACP trying to fix an election? Something stinks in Milwaukee and it isn't coming from a brewery.
This Saturday the Milwaukee chapter of the NAACP will be holding an election to determine the leadership for their local branch. Current President Jerry Ann Hamilton will be stepping down after ten years at the helm, and has been lobbying for her current First Vice President Wendell J. Harris Jr. to succeed her. The election is already mired in controversy and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that eight key members of the Milwaukee chapter have been suspended recently for speaking out against Hamilton's administration.
The eight who were suspended are part of a reform committee led by veteran civil rights attorney James H. Hall Jr., who said he is running for president to "restore, reform and revitalize" the local chapter, which he says has become "idle and dysfunctional."
Members who are under suspension will not be allowed to vote in the upcoming election. Interestingly enough all eight of the members who have been suspended by the national office of the NAACP belong to the reform group's nominating committee. Among the complaints brought by the reform committee have been allegations of mismanagement and financial improprieties which are supported by the fact that the Milwaukee branch has not conducted a financial audit during President Hamilton's ten years in office.
National NAACP President Benjamin Jealous stated in a letter sent to six of the members that they had suspended because they had "chosen to intentionally violate NAACP policies and rules," adding that the action was necessary "to protect the NAACP from the danger of irreparable harm."
The six who received letters of suspension are Lauri Wynn, an activist and former president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the public teacher's union; Elmer Anderson, a member of the executive committee of the Community Brainstorming Conference; Wallace White, the former vice chairman of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Commission; George Hooper; Rita Johnson, a member of the executive committee; and Mary Glass, a community activist.
Betty Loving, who served on the executive committee, and Dorothy Coleman were notified previously that their membership had been suspended for talking to the media.
In response to her suspension Lauri Wynn claimed that the NAACP was trying to "tear up the election" and that they were attempting to "muzzle" her and take away her first amendment rights.
Anderson said, "I think this is a concerted effort to discredit those supporting Hall and a last gasp attempt to make sure Wendell Harris is elected. We were under the naive supposition that the election would be conducted equitably, but now I'm convinced there's no intention of having a fair election."
It would seem as though the NAACP is far more interested in maintaining control of the Milwaukee chapter than in dealing with allegations of internal corruption and managerial incompetence. Maybe this will be a wakeup call for Milwaukee's African-American community and maybe, just maybe they will take a long hard look at those who claim to be working on their behalf.