HOUSTON - All day Thursday, members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Houston Chapter cast their ballots to decide who will lead the 100-year-old organization for the next year.
It’s no secret the election process has been heated as a group of relatively new members to the local chapter looks to take the seats of longtime officers.
Now, the challenging members are claiming fraud. They have appealed to the national chapter.
Outside the NACCP Houston headquarters gates on Wheeler Avenue, Lloyd Ford II, Ciara Suesberry and Eddison Titus greeted voters with handshakes and pamphlets in a last ditch effort to convince members of all ages to vote for them.
“I’ve been a member for over two years and what we really seen is a lot of complacency in the black community and when we bring different ideas, when we try to make sure we improve the community, they were just not being received,” said Ford, who is running for president of the local chapter.
He and the others, who are all younger than 40, decided to run because they felt like it was time for new leadership.
Ford and his running mates have been very vocal about their dissatisfaction with the current officers and said they don’t believe the current leadership is in touch with black communities.
“We feel like the one thing they’re not doing is engaging the public as far as the youth, economic development and as far as aiding our black communities in the things that we do,” Ford said.
He doesn’t believe the current leadership is open to new ideas and claims they don’t want to take them under their wings. The group challenging the current leaders allege that the there’s also been mishandling of finances in the chapter.
“We do have evidence and we will be releasing it soon, we didn’t want to lead with that, we definitely wanted to show people how we could work together,” Ford said.
“Those claiming corruption, there’s no evidence to support it, so you can trust the Houston NAACP, it’s here for you and it’s making a difference,” said Bishop James Dixon, a member of the executive board who is up for re-election.
Dixon has held his current position since 2016 but has been a part of the NAACP for the past 35 years and has been on the board at different times.
He said he’s disheartened with the tension that has developed during the election process.
On Wednesday, young members who support the current membership held a news conference to combat the claims and support the current leaders. When the members running against the current executive board attempted to enter the headquarters to watch, a video recording showed a staff member shut the front door on them and then locked it.
“I cannot say that we’ve ever seen this kind of turmoil,” Dixon said.
He disputes the allegations and said the Houston branch is in touch with the community and has many young people who are involved.
“There’s an active group of millennials working within the organization, and millennials are not the only ones seeking change,” Dixon said. “It’s amazing to me when we’re always speaking about change we think about 25-year-olds or 30-year-olds; I just made 56, but I am still actively engaged in innovative ideas and methodology of making things happen.”
“I was 25 once and I thought at times that others did not want me at the table, but what I learned was, it’s how you approach the table and then once you get a seat and you learn, earn and trust, you’re able to make impact from the inside that you never make from the outside,” Dixon said.
Thursday morning, Dixon also defended the board and said they’ve spent time working on multiple initiatives in the community.
“But the reality is, opposite of what the perception is by some, this has been a very active, very visible branch
fighting for bail reform, fighting for economic justice and parity,” Dixon said. “But what we understand is, we’re healthier through meaningful and respectful dialogue and communication and then we move forward together because the agenda always remains the same. That’s what this organization stood for and I hope that beyond this election, we can harness the same energy and same passion that we see coming from our younger people to say, ‘Look let me get involved, roll up my sleeves and go to work.'”
Ford said he was surprised the process of trying to run for office to lead the NACCP has taken the turn it has.
“Some people, it may put a bad taste in their mouth, but for so many people who know this place is supposed to be for change and know it hasn’t been happening, guess what, they’re already reaching out to us and thinking about ways on how they can come out because they can see the new blood and the new leadership,” he said.
Dixon said despite the negativity, he has faith everything will ultimately be fine.
“Hopeful, however, that beyond today things can get back to normal and the NAACP can continue what it does, fight for the oppressed and make sure justice is served to all people,” Dixon said. “I would say to anyone, the NAACP Houston Branch is 100 years old and the track record of the NACACP is unquestionably powerful. And has enough been done? I don’t think anywhere in America you can say enough has been done that’s why we continue to fight.”
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