As one talented African American man makes history in winning the Democratic nomination, so does another in the realm of African American activism.
On Saturday, June 7th, 2008, 35-year-old Benjamin Todd Jealous became the youngest person elected president of the 99-year old activist organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also referred to as the NAACP. Jealous is one of the few elected to this high-ranking position without the having a professional background in politics or the ministry.
Having started his activism at the age of 14 with his participation in a voter registration drive, Jealous, a California native, earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a master’s in social policy from Oxford University. Professionally, Jealous continued to support black activism through his role as a community organizer for the NAACP, and an executive director for the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which boasts to be the country’s largest community of black newspapers. Most recently, Jealous was president of the Rosenberg Foundation, an institution in the private sector supporting human rights and civil rights advocacy.
As the NAACP nears its centennial, it chose a new direction to regain its fading financial support. It is their hope that Jealous is the answer to many young black critics who accuse the organization of not recognizing the current challenges of young black supporters. With this new appointment, many hope the new leadership will address issues facing younger African Americans that emerged since desegregation.
Just like Obama’s presidential nomination suggests a promise of new hope and fresh ideas, so does the appointment of Benjamin Todd Jealous as President of the NAACP. Both men have a lot to live up to but they each possess the passion and the intelligence to make it happen.