By Ken Epstein
Several lifelong NAACP members, including Black Business Round Table host Doug Blacksher and civil rights attorney Walter Riley, held a press conference this week criticizing the conduct of the Oakland NAACP chapter for its attacks on criminal justice reform and on reformer Black DA Pamela Price, the repetition of false narratives about crime and criminal justice, and the use of historic fear-mongering that props up the system of mass incarceration.
The speakers also said the Oakland NAACP has acted in alliance with Republican anti-Black and anti-democratic forces and served as a vehicle for the self-interest actions of failed candidates in opposition to the national NAACP’s promulgated policy and positions.
Oakland “NAACP leadership is reverting to lies, fear-mongering, and the ‘tough-on-crime’ rhetoric that has targeted African Americans throughout our entire history in this country, evoking stereotypical narratives of Black criminality that maintains the United States incarcerating more Black people than there were enslaved Africans,” said Blacksher, in a media release.
“We call upon the national NAACP to reign in the Oakland Chapter and demand that Branch 1051 align itself with the mandate of the national NAACP such as addressing policies that unfairly target or penalize Black people in the criminal justice system,” Blacksher said.
Speakers at the press conference, held Tuesday at the Dr. Huey P. Newton Center for Research & Action at 1427 Broadway in Oakland were: Blacksher and Riley, as well as Chaney Turner, Oakland-born entrepreneur and organizer; Desmond Jeffries, Oakland activist; and Cathy Leonard, longtime police accountability activist.
“Interestingly, when previous district attorneys were overcharging African Americans with excessive sentences and previous councils presided over unprecedented Black displacement and homelessness, the (Oakland) NAACP was silent. Now, they are taking positions and aligning themselves with those who wish a return to the unjust status quo,” said Leonard, an Oakland native.
Riley said the Oakland NAACP chapter is working against policies and positions that the national NAACP supports. “We seek to be in alignment with the national NAACP on topics of education, public safety, housing and economic justice, but our chapter constantly contradicts this aspiration,” he said.
In a letter to national NAACP President Derrick Johnson, the press conference organizers accused current Oakland NAACP leaders of advocating conservative positions that align with the Republican Party, such as “singular support of charter school (Board of Education) candidates, efforts to recall the first Black female District Attorney in our county’s history, support (for) legislation that defunds public education in favor of tax breaks for the powerful real estate lobby over renters, and taking payouts from big tobacco and big pharmaceutical corporations.”
Letter signers included press conference speakers Blacksher, Riley, and Leonard, as well as Millie Cleveland, retired SEIU 1021 Field Representative; Ben “Coach” Tapscott, public education advocate; and Sheryl Walton, community activist and Oakland native.
The letter signers said that as NAACP members, they support formal positions taken by the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club and the Alameda County Democratic Party denouncing the hateful accusations and homophobic statements made by Oakland NAACP leader Seneca Scott.
According to the letter, Oakland NAACP leaders are utilizing Republican talking points to attack “women of color who are currently serving in Oakland, creating stark divisions in the public discourse,” and seeking to “agitate people around a divisive, yet organizable conservative agenda.”
The letter said local NAACP leaders are seeking to misdirect people on the sources of crime and disorder in Oakland, instead blaming ‘wokeness,’ progressive policies, ‘liberal Democrats,’ and debunked claims that ‘defund the police’ are the sources of everything wrong in the city.”
Proposals for reform of the Oakland chapter include:
- “Cease the spread of false information. Factcheck first.”
- Remove any member, officer, or former elected official …who seeks to weaponize Oakland NAACP for personal gain.
- Disentangle the Oakland NAACP from the political agenda of the Alameda County Republican Party.
- “Reject all connections with Sam Singer,” a corporate public relations operative.
- “Provide transparency on all financial contributions.”
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